Election Are Just Around the Bend: 6 Interesting Facts about Voting in Belize

As soon as you step foot on our island, you realize that something is up.

Flags, banners, t-shirts, posters, music, rallies…elections are near.  Very near.

In fact, March 7, 2018 is our next election day in Belize.

I have witnessed a few Belizean elections in my 10+ years as a resident and many more in the USA…and while each is exciting for various reasons…

In the US, voting is a relatively solemn affair.  Campaigning is not allowed within a certain distance of the polling station.  On election day, most of the action and results are viewing on TV often in the evening into the later night.

Here in Belize, rallying, campaigning, parading…they all take place around the polling station (the High School in San Pedro) – it’s actually a pretty exciting day.

There are two main political parties in Belize – the United Democratic Party or the UDP, the red party – and Peoples’ United Party or the PUP, the blue party.

Currently, the UDP is in power in Belize and in San Pedro.  This election is for our local town council and mayor.

Here are some interesting things to me about elections in my beloved Belize.

  1.  In almost all areas, you vote by inking your finger and voting with your fingerprint. 

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.
– 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.

purple finger
Photo by JC Cuellar

I wonder if the purple is a mix of the two parties’ colors.

2.  Last minute influence is a big 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.

pup_flag

4.  The winner is in and the loser is out.  Immediately.  If the Prime Minster loses, he is out the next day.

IMG_4527

Current Prime Minister Dean Barrow is UDP.   He is also in his third (and therefore last) term.  Three is the limit by the constituation of Belize.   United Democratic Party.

udp

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.  Did you know that two US states still ban alcohol sales on Election Day?()

Here are additional official rules as reported by Channel 7 Belize :  “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.”

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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…

March 7.






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  • Billizer

    Election Day is a Nervous Day. The Seventh Rule should be: If you do not vote…Don’t complain. I am an exception to the seventh rule!!

  • peterbj7

    I voted last time, but I don’t remember who I voted for. This time I can’t distinguish between the parties and along with very many Belizeans I am not voting at all.

    • This year the distinction (to me) seems bigger than ever. But I guess it’s all personal perspective. I’m mad I didn’t apply for my citizenship 🙁

      • mysteryboy

        well, get with it Girlie! 3-4 years will be here again before you know it, as will March!

  • marysaunders

    Complaining is half the fun in life. So, next day, a little wine with the whines.

  • erictomlin

    I will vote for the party that gives me some oceanfront land! LOL!

  • FJL

    What, no hack-able electronic voting machines? Shocking! On my stay there 10 days ago I had a chance to walk with 3 smart young ladies with party t-shirts and a banner. We talked about politics and I asked if the environment was a big issue with their party. Glad to know I think they are on the right side and I’m sure we’ll be kept up to date on this blog.