The United Democratic Party won in convincing fashion at the Cayo North by-election on Monday, January 5th, taking the PUP stronghold and beating its candidate two to one at the polls.
When the final ballot was counted and recorded around 9:30 Monday night, it became clear that the UDP’s Omar Figueroa had received 2664 votes, while PUP’s Richard Harrison had received 1348 votes.
Fifty-one ballots were spoilt.
Political analysts claim that the UDP’s victory was widely expected because of the energy and resources put into the campaign by the ruling party. In the four weeks following the announcement of the by-election, the UDP launched an intensive, well-funded campaign with an army of campaigners armed with flags, banners, shirts, placards and posters on every utility pole and tree within view.
The PUP, on the other hand, ran an under-stated campaign which spoke to a serious lack of resources, especially when those resources would be needed for countrywide municipal elections just two months away.
On January 5th the difference in style and energy became clear. The UDP brought out their numbers early and steadily throughout the day.
All UDP Ministers were present and accounted for at polling stations in Bullet Tree and San Ignacio; UDP Senators, CEO’s and political functionaries as well. They clearly controlled the ground at the Sacred Heart Primary School polling area where numbers, visibility and energy overwhelmed the opposition.
UDP Leader, Dean Barrow was also present on the ground making his rounds, using a cane to help his bad back.
The PUP simply did not have the numbers on the ground. While Party Leader, Francis Fonseca and other PUP representatives were visible at both polling areas, they did not bring in the massive support as did the UDP.
UDP Candidate, Omar Figueroa claimed victory from around midday, telling reporters that after seeing what was happening on the ground, he was confident that it wasn’t about who would win, but about the margin of victory.
PUP Candidate, Richard Harrison, more subdued, also expressed confidence, pointing out that his election machinery was working and voters were being brought out.
But by midday, only about 27 percent of the 6598 voters registered in Cayo North had voted, and predictions were that the turnout would be a record low for the area.
At 5:00 in the afternoon, voter turnout was a little above 50 percent, and again there was talk of a record low voter turnout. But a spurt of activity between 5:00 and 6:00pm brought in an additional 500 voters, pushing total voter turnout to the close of polls to 61.58 percent.
Just around 9:00 pm at the ITVET counting station in San Ignacio, PUP Secretary-General Henry Charles Usher conceded, and at 10:00 pm, surrounded by hundreds of supporters and flanked by Prime Minister Dean Barrow and family members, Omar Figueroa gave his victory interview, thanking voters for their confidence and also thanking the UDP for its support in the campaign.
PUP candidate, Richard Harrison was not on hand for the counting, and neither was PUP Leader, Francis Fonseca.
This was the fifth election in Cayo North since 1998. The People’s United Party has won three of them. But with the Figueroa victory, the UDP says it has now reclaimed “the red hills of Cayo.”