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Belize - Politics

The political history of Belize has been dominated by the two party system with voters chosing between the two major political parties, the Peoples United Party or the United Democratic Party. It can be argued that Belizeans have always voted out the incumbent party after becoming so disappointed with them . never for the alternative.

In the first post-independence elections in 1984, the center-right United Democratic Party (UDP), led by Manuel Esquivel, defeated the centre-left People's United Party (PUP), which under George Price had dominated national politics for nearly 30 years. Price was returned to power at the 1989 elections, but lost again in 1993 to the UDP. At the 1998 general election the PUP, led by Said Musa, achieved a landslide victory. The new government's agenda was strongly pro-poor and expansionary.

The PUP, after first losing power in 1984 to the UDP, returned to power in 1989, lost power again in 1993 to the UDP, and then won consecutive general elections in 1998 and 2003. But, since 2003 the PUP has not won any kind of election in Belize, and the UDP has won an unprecedented three consecutive terms in government 2008, 2012, and 2015 [ both elections called long before the 5-year term allowed in this parliamentary democracy].

At the 2003 general election, the incumbent PUP government was re-elected for a second consecutive term.It was a second landslide victory for the PUP, winning 22 of the seats in the House of Representatives compared to the UDP's 7, and 53% of the popular vote compared to the UDP's 45%. It was also historic: this was the first time a government had been re-elected since independence in 1981.

In national elections on February 7, 2008, the United Democratic Party (UDP) prevailed over the incumbent People's United Party (PUP). The UDP won 25 of the 31 seats in the House of Representatives, while the PUP won the other six seats. UDP leader Dean Barrow replaced PUP leader Said Musa as Prime Minister.

The PUP governed Belize from 1998-2008; the UDP from 1993-98; the PUP from 1989-1993; and the UDP from 1984-89. Before 1984, the PUP had dominated the electoral scene for more than 30 years and was the party in power when Belize became independent in 1981. Third-party alternatives to the two-party system have arisen in the recent years, but these parties garnered less than 2% of the vote in the February 2008 elections.

The UDP is responding to concerns of an unsustainable foreign debt, high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, high crime rates, and increasing incidents of HIV/AIDS through a four-pillar approach: social investment through poverty alleviation; job creation through public sector investment; improving access to credit; and combating crime and violence. As of March 2011, Belizes total national debt (both external and domestic) was U.S. $1.0156 billion, an amount equivalent to approximately 75.3% of GDP. On January 31, 2007 the Government of Belize officially announced that the holders of Belize's public external commercial debt had agreed to exchange their existing claims against the country for new bonds to be issued by Belize, maturing in 2029.

Belize traditionally maintains a deep interest in the environment and sustainable development. In August 2001, the governments of the U.S. and Belize, in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy, announced a debt-for-nature swap under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act. The $5.5 million in appropriated funds were combined with $1.3 million in private funds raised by The Nature Conservancy to reduce Belizes official debt to the U.S. by half. Under the agreement, the Government of Belize issued obligations to generate approximately $9 million in local currency payments to help a consortium of four local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) administer conservation activities in protected areas.

On other fronts, the government is working to improve its law enforcement capabilities. Belize has traditionally enjoyed one of the most stable political environments in the region, having held relatively peaceful and transparent democratic elections since it attained independence on September 21, 1981.

Allegations of government corruption, economic mismanagement, and labor issues have led to occasional strikes and demonstrations. In 2009, a strike in the northern part of the country against the Belize Sugar Industry by sugar cane farmers concerning sugarcane prices resulted in one death and several injuries.

In 2010, as a result of growing crime rates, two countrywide business shut-downs, and peaceful protests were held. In 2011, there was a transit strike that involved nonviolent public demonstrations and brief traffic stoppages. In 2012, the teachers unions held a peaceful demonstration in front of the National Assembly. In late 2013 and early 2014, the Teachers Union pledged that it would create awareness for issues of national interest and advocate against corruption in Belize.

In November 2014, the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) and American Sugar Refineries (ASR) failed to reach a contract agreement before the harvesting season. While the dispute was eventually resolved, there were some reports of fields being burned and farmers being threatened (for breaking ranks with BSCFA).

In October 2015 in the run up to National Elections, protesters gathered in the Western district to demand that authorities act on reports of passports found in the possession of a known party affiliate. Speculations abound of government corruption since most of the passports were not Belizean passports. Also in separate instances in October 2015, staff members of the University of Belize and the Belize Social Security Board held peaceful demonstrations relating to their respective salary compensation packages.





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