It was a gradually intensifying political campaign inside the United Democratic party which culminated on Sunday with the election of the Party’s new First Deputy party leader. The post became vacant after a disgruntled Deputy Prime Minister and deputy party leader, Hon Gaspar Vega, out of Orange Walk announced that he was stepping down just 3 months after general elections. The race was between Belize City Collet Division Representative and Minister of Education, Hon Patrick Faber and Belmopan constituency area representative and Minister of national Security, Hon John Saldivar. Saldivar had coined the phrase “The Big Deal” as his campaign slogan; a campaign which, as his theme song highlighted, focused on VIP’s Very Important Persons such as ministers and CEO’s. In response, Faber used the slogan “The Real deal” in response and focused his campaign on the ordinary folk, in a cover theme song titled “Its all about the base”. UDP. On Sunday, some 589 delegates from across the Country gathered at the ITVET compound in Belize City to cast their vote for which one of the two men they felt could eventually lead their Party into a fourth term after PM Dean Barrow vacates the seat in 2020. Our colleagues at Krem were on the story and interviewed supporters for the two sides.
Hon. Elodio Aragon Jr, Minister of State: This is not because Hon. Patrick Faber is my Minister but it is because I love this party which is the great United Democratic party. I love this country and I want the best, that is why I ride with Patrick Faber.
Reporter: But do you fell, if Faber wins, you a be the big man da North.
Hon. Elodio Aragon Jr, Minister of State: Oh no no no. Listen to me Jules, nobody co give you anything inna this party, you have to work it and you have to earn it and at the end of the day the people will decide who they want as a leader. I am only a humble leader of the people of Orange Walk East.
Reporter: Are you at this point starting to get fatigued by this knowing you’re on your way out or is it still a process you’re fully engaged in physically, mentally, spiritually?
Hon Gasper Vega, Deputy Prime Minister: Yes. Like I mentioned to the young lady, I am committed, and my responsibility is to ensure that my division, Orange Walk North, continues to get the support, the attention that they have gotten in the last 8-9 years, for the next 4 years.
Hon. Godwin Hulse, Minister Natural Resources: I have seen many teams make a prediction and it nuh turn out the way you predict. So I won’t predict, but as I have said when the last vote is counted then we will know, but both candidates are great gentlemen and this is a great party.
They also managed to catch up with both contestants who spoke rather positively about their respective campaigns and the optimism they were experiencing. A confident Faber set up at the ITVET itself while Saldivar set up a block away at the YWCA Building.
Hon. Patrick Faber, Candidate for 1st Deputy Leader: We have gone to the homes of the delegates. We have campaigned constituency to constituency as groups as well, and in fact we have done our homework, done our ground work so we expect full victory today.
Hon. Patrick Faber, Candidate for 1st Deputy Leader: Well that is neither here nor there, in fact that person is from the Orange Walk District and you will see that three of the other four constituencies in Orange Walk are supporting my candidacy so if that person is influential, we would have seen that person being able to swing the majority of the voting in Orange Walk which he was not able to do.
Reporter: Are you satisfied with how the campaign went? There’s been talk about a lot of mudslinging on facebook it may be minimized to as what we are hearing happened on the campaign trail but at least on Facebook you saw that the other camp brought up this entire thing about battering women and they went really hard with that.
Hon. Patrick Faber, Candidate for 1st Deputy Leader: Well that I think was unfortunate indeed. The mudslinging I believe came mostly from John’s Camp, and I have tried to ignore it as much as possible.
Reporter: And as it relates to the ultimate goal here, would you as some people would say, see this as the stepping stone to actually one day becoming Prime Minister.
Hon. Patrick Faber, Candidate for 1st Deputy Leader: Absolutely I think all understand that. I think all believe that that is indeed the case. We all agree in the party that since the resignation of Mister Vega that in fact the best route now would be to elect a first deputy leader that we can groom and that the Prime Minister can groom and that can hold on to the ropes and start learning the ropes if you will so that we can be unified in 2020 without any distraction and we can be on a straight path to the future.
Hon. John Saldivar, Candidate for 1st Deputy Leader: About five hundred or so have already come out to vote, so we have another eighty-nine to vote. I feel very good about the returns that we are getting. I feel very good about those that showed up at our command center at the Y earlier today, and from those numbers I feel very comfortable. The leaders of the constituencies that were supporting me, they have given a tremendous help, they have shown that their delegates, their base is still with them and today that showed up.
Reporter: Now I have to ask you towards the end of the campaign, it got a little heated, I’ll use the word heated, do you see that, regardless of who wins today, do you see that as a problem going forward because both of you will still have to sit in cabinet.
Hon. John Saldivar, Candidate for 1st Deputy Leader: First of all, we have to recognize that the heat didn’t come from me, and second of all I do believe that after this contest is over it’s going to be easy for myself and Patrick who from the beginning have been friends and continue to be friends to unite the party once again. The task is always difficult to bring the followers along but the leaders are certainly committed, I am certainly committed and I am sure that Patrick Faber is committed to uniting the party after this Convention.
Reporter: Do you think that unity might be affected by the dynamic which exists now in that now whoever wins this campaign or perhaps both persons in this campaign will be going for leadership of the party when the Prime Minister steps down?
Hon. John Saldivar, Candidate for 1st Deputy Leader: Well competition is always healthy and whosoever wins today or whosoever lose, whatever the outcome, I believe that moving forward for 2020 will be in much the same way as Unity and friendship and comradely. In spite of the spirited nature of this campaign, we’re all friends and we’re one party and we’re going to stay united.
Reporter: Do you think it’s a shoe in for who wins today to assume the leadership position?
Hon. John Saldivar, Candidate for 1st Deputy Leader: I would say that whosoever wins this has a very large step in front of whosoever would eventually challenge that person so indeed I do think that this is not a shoe in but certainly a large step forward
According to the official Count 589 delegates were on the voting list and 585 delegates came out to vote. Only one ballot was rejected and when the count was over Patrick Faber emerged as the undisputed winner with 336 votes beating John Saldivar who received 248 votes or 46% of the votes. A convincing gap of 88 votes has placed Hon Patrick Faber as the first Deputy of the United Democratic party. A victorious Faber spoke publicly following the announcement and thanked his supporters saying he would also move quickly to unite his Party.
Hon. Patrick Faber, Candidate for 1st Deputy Leader: There are so many people who contributed to this victory but firstly I want to thank the base of the United Democratic Party, the delegates of the other constituencies and the other elected officials and other officials of the party for believing in me, for believing in the kind of leadership that I offered that of course put the people of this party before the ministers of this party. I will tell you this, I believe in Unity and you can expect nothing else from me but full and complete collaboration with all of my colleagues as quickly as possible to put back things in order, to make sure that we are fully cognizant of who the enemy is in politics, the People’s United Party. The Hon. John Saldivar, fought a great a campaign, and as I have said before and I will say it again, he is my friend, he is my colleague, and we will not be responsible for any factions, any breaking up of any United Democratic Party. I have the support of the people, you know I’ve been in their homes, I’ve had the support of their communities. They told me the pressures that they were feeling in some instances from their representatives. I’ll be honest. In the moments when you saw them in the opponents T shirts, you did wonder whether or not they would really support you and in fact the tactic employed by my colleague to corral them so to speak at the Y, you don’t know what is being said to them in that time period. you know that sometimes there can be that type of pressure but always believe deep down inside. You know I said to people who ask me what if you lose, and I said really and truly that I did my best in this campaign the same way I did my best in the last campaign that I ran for deputy, and I said to them that if my best wasn’t good enough that I would accept that. That in fact that if I didn’t win today it would have meant that God had a different design or a different plan for me, and I would happily accept that.