At a special meeting of its National Party Council, the United Democratic Party (UDP) set Sunday, May 29th, as the date for a convention to elect the first deputy party leader, who would replace the retiring Gaspar Vega. The convention will take place at the ITVET Grounds in Belize City. The party’s application process is now formally open and closes on April 22nd at 5:00 p.m. Ministers Patrick Faber and John Saldivar are the only confirmed candidates at present, despite suggestions that the party leadership may back a surprise third candidate. Surrounded by his cheering constituents after the meeting concluded, Faber spoke to us of his opponents’ plans to change the delegate list that was generated for the party’s March 20th National Convention – plans which were defeated by special ballot:
Patrick Faber, Candidate for UDP Deputy Party Leader: Well from the campaigning so far I do believe so, I think that my colleagues who were supporting John really were feeling the pinch. They understood clearly that those delegates in fact were leaning towards me in many of their constituencies and so what really was afoot was really to try and move those delegates so that they don’t get to support me. But you remember that these were the same delegates that went to Dangriga on March 20th and in fact has put in place the highest officers of the party, the leader of the, the second deputy, the chairman and vice chairman and of course pass some very important resolutions. And our position in the meeting as that we simply need to keep these people empowered because for a fact they were registered for that convention and those delegates were in fact then registered for a period of time, and you can’t just change them three weeks later. And the NPC in its wisdom today supported that. It was clear after the vote that that was the case and so now we’ve set the date. We’ve put a date forward for the applications. My application I can tell you will be in First thing Monday morning, and we go now to full campaign mode. What you saw before was just previews of coming attractions. I believe that we will garner even more support.
Saldivar has obtained a wide range of endorsementAs. However, Faber says those do not matter as much as the delegates’ choice.
Patrick Faber, Candidate for UDP Deputy Party Leader: Well I think when you watch the lineup, although when you check with my opponent he will tell you otherwise, it is an almost neck to neck race, a dead heat. I would want to give him the benefit of the doubt, even though I don’t think it would be accurate, give him 16 and give me 15, but you see those who commit to him who as I’ve indicated their delegates are not with them. When I tell you I have 15, I have those committees with the delegates locked in. And in fact over the course of the next few weeks as we move into that convention, we will continue to lock in even more. My support is not shaky. In fact next week when we start rolling out the footage and the commercials and so on, you will see full delegations offering their support for the candidacy of Patrick Faber, not just like the leader of the constituency because that race is pretty much over we know where most people lie now.
We heard from a Faber supporter, Mesopotamia representative Hon. Michael Finnegan, about the importance of regular delegates as opposed to “super delegates” such as himself:
Hon. Michael Finnegan, Minister Housing/Urban Development: You see if a candidate is supporting you, that is good for you, but that is not where it stops, the delegates are what are important. So I can be supporting Faber, but can I get my whole 15 delegates to support Faber? Most likely not. So how many candidates deh behind you and how much representative you have behind you, that is nada, it nuh mean nothing. What is important are the delegates, and you have got to visit the delegates and talk to the delegates because if I am supporting a particular candidate, it doesn’t mean that all the 15 delegates from Mesopotamia who will vote at the convention will vote for Faber. I will try my best of course to have all of them vote for Faber, but those delegates must be free to vote for whosoever they want, and the representative must not muscle his way in.
On the matter of campaign financing, Faber says he has accepted funding from certain friends, business owners and other donors; however, he says that those persons should not expect they will receive any favors. He has also put up some of his own money. According to Faber, he and Saldivar remain close friends and as he has stated before, those who wish the UDP will fall apart due to any internal fighting are engaging in wishful thinking. Neither Party leader and Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow nor Gaspar Vega, have indicated a public preference as to Vega’s successor, though Vega is privately suggested to be in favor of Saldivar. Faber says he is not necessarily counting on that support, though he has made overtures:
Patrick Faber, Candidate for UDP Deputy Party Leader: Let me say this that I’ve tried to make an outreach to my colleague the deputy prime minister until these conventions are completed and we have had many cordial relations, although when I did make the outreach to speak to him, that would not materialize. I really have not counted on his support, and in fact if you look at the Orange Walk district where there are four seats, his seat and three others, the three others standard bearers and their committees are fully supporting Patrick Faber so you can be the judge to whether or not that support is needed based on what I said there.
In the party leader’s case he has vowed to be neutral in the race, which he sees as a preview of the race to succeed him at the end of his current term.