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Mar 8, 2018

City Goes Blue as P.U.P. Gain Ground in Municipal Elections

Following Wednesday’s momentous municipal elections, Prime Minister Dean Barrow called a press conference this afternoon that was chock full of news and analysis ahead of Friday’s budget presentation. We’ll have more on that later on. But first, while the United Democratic Party retained six of nine municipalities, the People’s United Party won three and scored the biggest upset of the night when voters sent a message in the Old Capital, Belize City. At the national level, the U.D.P. controls all five seats on the south side and a portion of north side in the Pickstock Division, but at the municipal level, the Opposition Party penetrated some of these constituencies. Voter turnout at just over fifty percent was slightly better than in 2015. But after four consecutive terms at City Hall, voters turned to Bernard Wagner and his slate, naming him as successor to Darrell Bradley. Our coverage of the P.U.P.’s hard-fought victory begins with a report from Aaron Humes.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

Whether for a veteran like Dion Leslie, or a newcomer like Bernard Wagner, Election Day is really like nothing else. After months of hard-fought campaigning and sustaining the slings and arrows of your opponents and occasionally the electorate, they left it all in the voters’ hands on Wednesday after making their final pitches.

 

Dion Leslie

Dion Leslie, U.D.P. Mayoral Candidate, Belize City

“I always say you get what you put in and we have put in a lot of work over the past eight months, basically, because when you look at it realistically we have been campaigning since June last year, before our inter-party convention, and the campaigning hasn’t really stopped. So we’ve put in a lot of work, we’ve visited a lot of people, we’ve put in the miles, so I feel very confident that come at the end, when the last ballot is counted, me and my team will be victorious.”

 

Bernard Wagner

Bernard Wagner, P.U.P. Mayoral Candidate, Belize City

“The core reason why I came into the political arena – you know I have always been a private person – but, I see the way our City is heading, in terms of the crime. I still drive my eleven-year-old son and ten-year-old daughter to school, and it would have always been easy for me to stay on the outside and not try to influence what is happening in your city. And I felt that given my experience in community service – I have always been a service-oriented individual, even at the bank; I still believe that my service there was a community service. I’ve worked in the basketball arena for many years; I’ve dealt with many youths over the years. And I felt that if I could do that in that setting, I certainly could be successful in this setting also.”

 

After the early surge of campaign workers and early voters into the polling stations, turnout slowed to a trickle through the morning into early afternoon. Most we approached for ‘exit polling’ were similarly secretive. Those who did speak off-camera confirmed that they were just as concerned about national issues like crime and corruption as they were municipal issues such as proper infrastructure. In Port Loyola we found a first-time voter who was willing to tell us about exercising her constitutional right.

 

Britney Pook

Aaron Humes

“What stood out to you in terms of what the candidates proposed and their ideas?”

 

Britney Pook, Voted in Port Loyola

“In my opinion I don’t have any issues, so I really don’t know what to say about that.”

 

Aaron Humes

“So there’s nothing that directly affects you, that you thought about?”

 

Britney Pook

“No, sir.”

 

Aaron Humes

“Can you tell us why you decided to come out and vote?”

 

Britney Pook

“Because it’s a tradition in my family and everybody in Belize City has a right to vote.”

 

Even as turnout picked up during the course of the afternoon and especially going into the early evening, voters’ motivations remained a mystery. But those who know them best – the area representatives and municipal candidates – tried their best to secure the ballots they needed for victory.

 

Candice Pitts

Dr. Candice Pitts, P.U.P. Councilor Candidate, Belize City

“I like the vibes that I’m feeling; I have been up since five-thirty. I started in my immediate community; I went and made sure that all of my neighbors came out to vote before I went over to Collet.”

 

Bernard Q. Pitts

Bernard Q. Pitts, U.D.P. Councilor Candidate, Belize City

“The people have seen our work; they know that this City Council team, this team that we’ve placed together, have been working and have done the work and have conquered what we need to conquer, in the sense that…”

 

Reporter

“You’ve been here before?”

 

Bernard Q. Pitts

“Yes, I’ve been here before, but it’s an eerie feeling to think that the vast majority of the City residents would go against the work that we’ve done.”

 

The independent and third-party candidates also fancied their chances. But in the end there could only be eleven winners. And as Lake Independence, then Freetown, then Caribbean Shores and Pickstock, Fort George and finally Port Loyola fell to the P.U.P., it was clear who those would be. The faces of U.D.P. candidates and supporters leaving the counting area prematurely told the story even before official results from returning officer Colin Griffith.

 

Colin Griffith

Colin Griffith, Returning Officer

“Bernard Wagner, ten thousand, three hundred and eighteen; Oscar Arnold, ten thousand nine hundred and sixty-seven – let me finish, please. Javier Castellanos, eleven thousand, sixty-four; Ryan Elijio, eleven thousand, nineteen; Ayesha Gentle, ten thousand, nine hundred and ninety-one; Micah Goodin, eleven thousand, one hundred and ninety-six; Delthrude Hylton, eleven thousand, eight; Michael Noralez, ten thousand, nine hundred and three; Dr. Candice Pitts, eleven thousand, one hundred and thirty-two; Allan Pollard, eleven thousand, one hundred and thirteen; Albert Vaughan, ten thousand, six hundred and forty-two.”

 

Bernard Wagner

Bernard Wagner, Mayor-elect, Belize City

“This is all new to me; when Cordel [Hyde] approached me, I told Cordel I’m ready to serve my city. I felt the direction, the way our city was going, I wanted to contribute in any way possible. And being the person I am, very humble person, I told him I’m ready to serve as a councilor. They went through the entire process and they felt I was the best candidate for the job at the end of the day – and look what that has done tonight! (Laughs) Our party needed this win – we needed a win. We’ve been out fifteen years, I believe. This win was instrumental; this win is for the party; this win shows that the party is united. Kareem Musa delivered; Francis Fonseca delivered; the Fort George division – Said Musa delivered, the team. Pickstock delivered [with] Anthony Mahler. It’s a great win for the team; it’s a great win for the city; it’s a great win for the party.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

For the United Democratic Party, Dion Leslie received nine thousand, five hundred and eighty-eight votes as mayor. Topping the U.D.P. poll was Philip Willoughby with ten thousand, four hundred and eighty votes; Hyacinth Latchman-Cuellar, ten thousand, one hundred and eighty-three votes; Dean Samuels, ten thousand, one hundred and forty-six votes; Alifa Elrington, ten thousand and ninety-four votes; Kevin Singh, ten thousand even; Bernard Pitts, nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety; Judith Enriquez, nine thousand, nine hundred and seventy-three; Jason Edwards, nine thousand, eight hundred and fifty-nine; and Noreen Martinez, nine thousand, three hundred and twenty-eight votes. Javier Molina led the third party/independent pack with nine hundred and fifty-six votes.

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