Today was election day for the Dangriga Constituency as voters headed to the polls to choose their new area representative. This bi-election came about as a result of Ivan Ramos, PUP member of the House of Representatives, stepping down and resigning as Area representative. To replace Ramos, the People’s United Party offered Anthony Sabal as their new candidate while the United Democratic Party placed Frank “Papa” Mena as its man. There was also an independent candidate, Llewellyn Lucas. At 5 pm today, voter turnout was at 54%, that’s 3,401 voters out of 6,275. Polls closed at 6 pm and preparation for counting are on the way at our news time. Recent election trends have been overwhelmingly in favor of the United Democratic Party and the turnout of supporters in red t-shirts today would seem to indicate a continuation of that trend. But the Prime Minister was rather modest in his prediction of today’s bi-elections.
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister – “A win is a win is a win. But indeed, my friend, the good Minister Boots Martinez like to say, ‘Boss, the flag di reach di top ah di flag pole, you know. Once ih get deh, ih only got one way fu go and that da down.’ He says this, in terms of urging me not to wait too long to call the elections, but it is a point that I think applies to this scenario. We’ve done so phenomenally well in Cayo North, we’ve done so phenomenally well in the municipal elections, that you would think it’s going to be hard to maintain that for the next 6 to 8 months. I would expect some degree of slippage but I don’t think that it will be significant enough to cause us any really sleepless nights.”
The Honourable Boots Martinez was on the ground in Dangriga Town all day today. He gave us his prediction on the turn out of the voters.
Reporter – “Now you told me, three to one in the last constituency there was an overwhelming land slide. What does it look like? Because the impression I am getting is that Dangriga, it’s hard to read. What does it look like to you?”
Hon. Boots Martinez – UDP Representative, Port Loyola – “I think it’s about two and a half to one. I’ll be honest with you, it’s about two and a half to one. Because, you see, one thing I learned about politics, politics is about numbers and once you calculate the numbers, I nuh worry bout percentage, I worry bout numbers. And so, our democracy, I even listen to the media sometimes debate percentages and so. Until we deal with percentage in terms ah fu we democracy, it’s about numbers – arithmetic. Our democracy is about arithmetic. Three people come out, I get two you get one – I win, you lose. Simple and easy. The main objective is to get out your people. I’da wish all di PUP stay home you know, sir.”
There were clearly more reds than blues out at today’s bi-elections as people from all across the country convened in Dangriga to lend their support to their party. But this time around, there was a modest amount of PUP supporters, certainly more than there were during the last bi-elections. Leader of the Opposition Francis Fonseca says there is a stark contrast between this bi-election and the one in Cayo North earlier this year; a contrast that is in their favor.
Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition – “Night and day, quite frankly. Certainly the energy and I think the spirit of unity in the party is at a much higher level than it was in January and I think, as I said earlier, it all has to do with our candidate, Mr. Sabal has been very open to accepting everyone’s assistance and support coming in. So he is well liked, well respected within the party and all of the standard bearers and representatives have been very enthusiastic about supporting his candidacy. We believe in him. So, that has helped quite a bit. And also, of course, our level of organization, obviously you learn from every defeat, you learn from every election that you participate in, so we learnt some important lessons in the bi-election. We learnt some more lessons in the municipal elections, that we believe have helped us to do better in terms of our machinery in this election.”
And while the UDP and the PUP are the two main parties on the political battle field, one man stood against all odds and put his name on the ballot. Pastor Llewellyn Lucas spoke to us about his race.
LLewellyn Lucas, Independent Candidate – “Nobody runs a race to lose. Maybe Paul Morgan did say on the TV that he didn’t want to win but Pastor Lue come in as a winning man. Jesus is number one in God and number one in everything. And as his servant, I want to be number one. If not today, tomorrow but the machinery is in place that change and betterment has come whether Belizeans, Dangrigans want it or want it not. Let me tell you something, man. You see all this right now, man? This woulda mih neva happen had Pastor Lue neva stepped out. The blue party, the blue seat says, ‘you know what, we won’t even contest cause we’ll waste money.’ But Pastor Lue stepped out, then blue came back then all the others came back. Let me tell you something, you see all this money spent, Mr. Dean Barrow said for nomination day he spent $900,000.00. For nomination day and wa spend 2 million dollars fi election. That alone, man, da victory fu Pastor Lue. So, thank you all for being here and spend some money da Dangriga, man!”
There are a total of 6275 registered voters in Dangriga including the villages of Hope Creek and Sarawee. In the last vote for Dangriga in 2012, voter turnout was 65% while the highest voter turnout in the past 30 years was recorded in 1998 at 84%.