Today is National Election Day – from the Prime Minister on down. And the only elections that I had ever witnesses were those in the US (we are in the midst of the long Presidential process right now) – so Belizean elections are exciting to me each time. And different in many ways what I was used to…more fanfare and rallying. More people on the streets…
Here are some interesting things to me about elections in my beloved Belize.
- You vote by inking your finger and voting with your fingerprint. AMEND: I have been alerted that this is NOT THE CASE AT ALL. Thanks JC.
The process is:
– enter voting room. give your id card for your name to be called and found on their list that you are to vote in that area.
– once verified,, then go to the next person who will ask you to dip your right index finger up to the first joint into the ink
– once done, you then get your ballot paper
– that paper has the signature of the one supervising the voting.. forgot the technical name of that person.
– so you go, then put your “X” with the pencil next to the name.
– fold the paper with the signature of the one that provided it showing.
– show them that it is folded and the signature is visible, then put in ballot box.
2. Last minute influence is a huge part of it. The parties set up booths, flags, snacks, organizers, influencers, blasting music as close to the polling area as they can.
In San Pedro, it all happens at the High School. They even set up giant ballots to make sure you KNOW who they want you to vote for.
3. Like the British system, the National elections must be called – town and city elections are scheduled for the first Wed in March of every third year.
National Elections – the National Assembly is dissolved under the advice of the Prime Minister and elections must take place within 3 months.
So timing is carefully strategized. Does the other party seem disorganized? Has there just been a huge scandal on their side? Has your party done something popular? Might be a good time to call elections.
The Opposition party is PUP – People’s United Party.
4. The winner is in and the loser is out. Immediately. If the Prime Minster loses, he is out the next day.
Current Prime Minister Dean Barrow is UDP. United Democratic Party.
5. To vote, you must be a citizen of Belize. For an American in Belize – that requires 5 years living in the country – and then you can apply for your dual citizenship. BUT if you are a resident of a commonwealth country (from Canada to South Africa to Ghana to India) and in Belize for 12 months or more, you can register to vote.
6. No alcohol is served or sold on election day. So say someone is to come into a little extra cash on election day – it can’t be used “officially” used to buy alcohol. At least until the votes are counted.
Oh…and no guns at the polling stations? WTF!
Here are the official rules as reported by Channel 7 Belize yesterday: “For members of the public, the importance of ensuring that when you go to the polling station or polling stations, if you are the holder of a license firearm, firearms are prohibited within the polling station. If anyone goes to the polling station with a firearm, if it is license, you will not be allowed to enter the polling station with the firearm. So, our advice is to ensure that these firearms are left at home in a safe and secure location.
Secondly, as it relates to the consumption of alcohol, again the law prohibits the sale of alcohol on Election Day until the close of polling stations. After polling stations are closed, yes the stores can open to sell alcohol. But the intoxicating liquor licensing act still applies. In the sense that public drinking is still an offence and it will be enforced. So anyone who is caught public drinking on that day, again they will be dealt with.”
If you want to take part in the rallying and partying and hoopla – head on down by the San Pedro High School just north of town. As a non-voter, you are only allowed so close…but it’s a very interesting process. And worth stopping by…