By William Ysaguirre
Free Lance Reporter
The United Democratic Party (UDP) won a historically unprecedented third consecutive term by securing 19 seats in the General Elections held on Wednesday, November 4.
The PUP has asked for a recount in Stann Creek West, where the newcomer UDP candidate Walter Garbutt appeared to have won over his PUP rival, Rodwell Ferguson Sr in the first count.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow wasted no time in thanking all UDP supporters whom he addressed from the second floor balcony of the UDP Headquarters on Youth for the Future Drive at 11:00 Wednesday night, after the preliminary results were in.
He recalled how he had first won in Queen Square in 1984, a seat he has won for the UDP for the past seven general elections prior to 2015.
He admitted the march of time has taken its toll on him, and this would be his last term in office. But he promised the electorate that all the manifesto promises of the past month’s campaign would be fulfilled.
On election day, Barrow left it to his electoral committee led by his younger sibling “Sister B”, to get out the voters in Queen Square; which freed him up to lend his support in other divisions, where the race against the PUP would be more hotly contested.
Barrow won handily: 2238 votes to 490 for PUP’s Anthony Sylvestre, while the Belize Progressive Party candidate Gary Matus got 67 votes. Sixty ballots were spoilt.
UDP party whip, Michael Finnegan and Education Minister Patrick Faber, increased their margins of victory; while Anthony “Boots” Martinez and embattled Foreign Minister Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington also retained their seats, though by slightly reduced margins.
Finnegan’s electoral machinery was working like clockwork; and he was re-elected for a sixth term as the member for the Mesopotamia Division, a seat he has held since 1993. He won by 1636 votes to 448 for the PUP’s Dorla Vaughn. Faber won 2056 votes to 974 for PUP Yasmin Shoman, while BPP Raymond Rivers got 77 votes.
PUP’s Gilroy Usher mounted a real challenge to Anthony Martinez in Port Loyola; and Martinez had to kick in an extra effort in the afternoon and evening to get his supporters to the polls, to win by a mere 76 votes! He won 1,418 votes to Usher’s 1342 votes, while BPP’s Nedal McClaren got 92 votes.
Elrington also saw his margin trimmed, winning 1163 votes to 1085 for PUP Dr. Francis Smith, while BPP’s Patrick Rogers got 84 votes.
Both PUP Leader Francis Fonseca and former PUP Prime Minister Said Musa retained their seats. One of the earliest results to be announced was that of the UDP candidate, former CARICOM Deputy Secretary General Carla Barnett, conceding victory to Fonseca, who won Freetown division by 1730 votes to 1312 for Barnett.
BPP’s Elizabeth Dena won 53 votes. Musa retained his seat in Fort George division by 1241 votes to 488 for UDP Roger Espejo, while BPP’s Rollin Powery got 39 votes.
Cordel Hyde won by 3124 votes to 1125 for Mark King, while BPP’s Richard McCaulay got 63 votes.
The biggest upset, which shocked even PM Barrow, was PUP Kareem Musa’s 1777 -1721 win over Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley in Caribbean Shores.
Two new female faces will grace the House; as two political neophytes, Mrs. Tracy Taegar-Panton and Beverly Ann Castillo, won their divisions.
Both Panton and PUP candidate Paul Thompson had been campaign workers for the Albert Division’s PUP representative Mark Espat in past elections, but this time Panton beat her former colleague, winning 1,234 votes to Thompson’s 892, while BPP candidate, Dr. Jose Luis Espat got 49 votes.
Beverly Castillo also scored a significant upset in Belize Rural Central, where she unseated two-term winner – PUP Dolores Balderamos-Garcia by 2560 votes to Dolores’ 2502 votes. BPP’s Javier Molina got 152 votes.
Minister of State Edmund “Clear di Land” Castro also retained his seat in Belize Rural North, winning 2174 votes to 1774 for PUP ex-BDF Major Lloyd Jones, while BPP’s Sean Nicholas got 119 votes.
Johnny Briceno retained his seat in Orange Walk Central by 2710 votes to 2087 for UDP Denny Grijalva, whom he had also beaten 3042 – 2156 votes in 2012; the BPP’s Phillip de la Fuente got 493 votes. The member for Orange Walk South, Jose Abelardo Mai also retained his seat by 2920 votes to 2858 for UDP Guadalupe Dyck Magana.
Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar “Gapi” Vega retained his seat in Orange Walk North by 351 votes to 3062 for PUP Ramon “Monchi” Cervantes, while BPP’s Onofre Vellos got 18 votes and independent candidate Samantha Carlos got 15 .
Political newcomer Elodio Aragon Jr, a former Deputy Commissioner of Police and the son of former UDP education minister Elodio Aragon Sr (1993-98), gained another seat for the UDP in Orange Walk East, winning by 3,000 votes to 2,453 for PUP Orange Walk Town councilor Josue Carballo.
Another political newcomer, Dr. Angel Campos increased the UDP majority in the north when he won Corozal South West by 2511 votes, to 2292 for PUP incumbent Ramiro Ramirez.
Health Minister Pablo Marin and Minister of State for Agriculture Hugo Patt also retained their seats; Pablo Marin winning Corozal Bay by 2506 votes to 2360 for Gregorio Garcia, with BPP’s Roy Rodriguez getting 89 votes. Pott won Corozal North by 3053 votes to 2560 for PUP David Castillo; .28 votes.
PUP Florencio Marin Jr retained his seat in Corozal South East, winning by 2,721 votes to 2,557 for UDP Evan Cowo.
The West was another battleground as PUP Deputy Leader Julius Espat retained his seat in Cayo South, winning by 3008 votes to 1892 for UDP Ralph Huang. The PUP gained a seat in Cayo North East, where former San Ignacio Mayor Orlando “Landy” Habet won by 2217 votes over 2145 votes for UDP John August Jr.
Incumbent UDP’s Erwin Contreras, Rene Montero and Omar Figueroa retained their seats; Contreras winning Cayo West by 3,290 votes to 2,006 for PUP Dr. Lesbia Guerra.Montero held on to Cayo Central by 3,299 votes, to 3,036 for former PUP area representative Daniel Silva (1998-2003); and Omar Figueroa held on to Cayo North by 2674 votes, over 2515 votes for PUP attorney Michel Chebat.
Minister of National Security John Saldivar also retained his seat in the Belmopan division, winning by 3,532 votes to 2,775 over PUP Patrick Andrews. BPP’s Charles Leslie Jr got 177 votes.
UDP Frank “Papa” Mena had just won a bye-election for Dangriga on July 8 this year, when the PUP incumbent Ivan Ramos resigned his seat in the House, and Mena retained his seat by winning 2,360 votes to 2024 for PUP career educator Anthony Sabal.
The PUP held on to both seats in the Toledo district as Toledo West incumbent PUP Michael Espat won 2,687 votes, over 2487 for UDP Peter Eden Martinez. Toledo West incumbent Ruben Oscar Requena won 3173 votes over 1567 for UDP Juan Coy.
The last tally in Stann Creek West gave the PUP’s Rodwell Ferguson Sr 3300 votes over the UDP’s Walter Garbutt, who got 3292 votes.