The small Central American nation of Belize headed to the polls yesterday for national elections, but unlike the nearby United States of America and its presidential poll last week, it didn't take long to pronounce a winner.
Election officials declared opposition leader, John Briceño, of the center-left People's United Party (PUP) as the victor late in the evening on November 11. He'll be only the fifth person to serve as prime minister since the country's independence in 1981. Briceño will replace the conservative government of Dean Barrow and the United Democratic Party (UDP).
Barrow might be on his way out, but some family members fared better.
His son Moses "Shyne" Barrow - a former rapper who served nearly nine years in a U.S. prison for his part in a nightclub shooting involving Diddy - won the Mesopotamia seat in Belize City. During his campaign, he argued that his life experiences made him "tailor-made” for the complexities of the rough-and-tumble Southside neighborhood in which he won a seat.
And Dean Barrow’s sister, Denise "Sista B" Barrow, won the Queen's Square constituency, also in Southside.
Along with the country's leadership, the election also included the thirty-one seats in the House of Representatives which the PUP won a resounding twenty-six seats.
The PUP's top order of business now that they control the House will be the struggling economy for the nation of roughly 400,000 that is in dire straits after the coronavirus pandemic decimated Belize's important tourism industry. One of the PUP's central proposals if victorious was "Plan Belize", which includes fast-tracking an $80 million economic stimulus package, and increasing funds to the health system to improve its pandemic response during the crisis.
“(Belize) is a society that has been battered by the pandemic, corruption, mismanagement and now we have a stagnated economy that’s rapidly disintegrating before our very eyes,” said Glenn Tillett, a Belizean political analyst.
“In Belize, we have a saying right, we say anything is better than nothing, I think Belizeans collectively feel for the most part that we had nothing so anything is better than what we had.”
Outgoing Prime Minister Barrow, the country's first Afro Caribbean prime minister, took power in 2008. He announced in the middle of his third term that he intended to retire from politics when it ended in 2020 and was succeeded as party leader by Patrick Faber, a longtime UDP member.
Although Faber lost the prime ministry, he did win his race for a seat in the House of Representatives in Belize City and will remain a prominent opposition voice in the country as the PUP takes the reins.
While the coronavirus pandemic and struggling economy certainly played an important role in the UDP's loss, the final year of Dean Barrow's administration saw several allegations of corruption involving the alleged theft and misappropriation of public funds, although no charges have been filed.
Tillett said he wouldn’t describe the response to the election results from Belizeans as “euphoric”, but rather “a sense of relief.”
“We know that the road ahead regardless of who has the authority to manage our public affairs is going to be hard, uphill, and even dicey,” said Tillett.
“There’s no reason for celebration, but there’s hope.”