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GOB Taken to Court Over Re-Districting

GOB Taken to Court Over Re-Districting
December 07
15:01 2019

GOB Taken to Court Over Re-Districting

On-Tuesday, 03 December 2019

The Government has less than a year within which it is expected to call general elections, but two political organizations want the Elections and Boundaries Department to hold a boundary redistricting exercise before polling day. To get the government to adhere to Section 90 of the Constitution of Belize, they have retained the services of attorney Arthur Saldivar to get the Supreme Court’s intervention to force the government to carry out the exercise before Election Day, 2020.

The Belize Peace Movement and Vision Inspired by the People (VIP) feel that it is long past time for Belize to have electoral divisions or constituencies that are more equally spread out in the number of voters in each area than what they currently look like. For instance, there are over 7,000 voters in Stann Creek West, as opposed to fewer than half that number in the Mesopotamia area in Belize City – a huge disparity in numbers. Hence, what the parties are seeking, through the intervention of the Courts, is to have the Elections and Boundaries Department redefine the boundaries of each constituency with a view to making each similar in number of voters to the rest.

Saldivar told the Reporter on Monday that “the Constitution calls for equality – equal access, equal protection and equal representation; and insofar as you have a minority have its way over the majority who have no say, what we effectively have…is a system of political apartheid….we’ve already gone through a re-registration exercise and given that that exercise is now complete, the distribution of the electorate is disproportionate in more than 70 percent of the constituencies,” Saldivar indicated.

The attorney, who is also a former People’s United Party (PUP) Standard Bearer, explained that conducting a redistricting exercise will not cost any exorbitant amount of money, because most of the technical work was already done with the recent re-registration, the result of which he says shows – by the very numbers in the various constituencies – that there are hugely disproportionate constituencies in Belize.

Saldivar went on to point out that politicians in Belize City in particular, have been able to benefit from having the smallest constituencies while those with larger constituencies have a bigger challenge trying to meet the needs of their voters with the same amount of community vote allotted.

The applicants took their case on Monday morning before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin and that application will be heard next Monday to determine whether the Court will allow for a full hearing on the matter. But when they meet again on Monday in Court, it might not be before Chief Justice Benjamin, who disclosed that he is on a Board with one of the litigants in the matter. He left the parties to decide whether they want another judge to preside over the matter, so as to eliminate the appearance of bias.

A redistricting can have two end results: it can either lead to having smaller constituencies merging as one, and the political parties losing their Standard Bearers in the areas that are eliminated, or it can mean that the larger constituencies are divided into smaller areas, creating more constituencies in which the parties can field additional candidates.

The last time a redistricting was conducted, it took the number of constituencies from 29 to 31, with the creation of the Cayo North East and the Belmopan constituencies.

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