Lord Michael Ashcroft is now legally dubbed one of the claimants in the redistricting case that was originally brought about by the Belize Peace Movement (BPM). The Chief Justice ruled on the application this afternoon in Belize City. Representing Ashcroft was Attorney Andrew Marshalleck.
Andrew Marshalleck, Attorney for Lord Michael Ashcroft: “The judge has ruled in our favor, he has given leave for Lord Ashcroft to be joined in the proceedings. He will be allowed to make submissions in support of the claim and also provide evidence in support of the claim; but more importantly we’ve been given permission to apply for leave to produce expert evidence in support of the claim which is what I think is important. This type of claim is not new or unique to Belize it’s happened elsewhere in fact it’s ongoing in other parts of the world and they’ve been a particular way of dealing with it. One, the expert studies the distribution just as the Election and Boundaries Commission should and determine whether or not the districts as drawn meet the constitutional requirements. Once that analysis is done then the next step is what needs to be done in order to bring it into compliance and normally there’s a range of possibilities so it’s about presenting all of that so that everybody fully appreciates just how malapportioned the divisions are and just what steps can be taken to correct it. The constitution fixes the number of constituencies, it’s fixed at thirty one and it can’t go below twenty eight without constitutional amendment. The redistricting is about making sure the divisions are drawn within those parameters to ensure that the effect of each vote is nearly as possible equal. It’s about redrawing the borders so that the constituencies are evenly distributed, right now your largest constituency I don’t know what the latest numbers show but the last ones I looked at Stann Creek West is six-seven thousand and the smallest Fort George and Queen Square sixteen hundred- seventeen hundred; that’s a wide discrepancy. It should be more or less equal.”
The BPM is seeking to have the Government of Belize conduct a redistricting exercise before the next general election is called. Ashcroft supports the call for the exercise and as such had asked to be included as a claimant. The BPM’s attorney, Arthur Saldivar, spoke on the way forward following this ruling and how a redistricting exercise could affect voters and where they are currently registered.
The Belize Peace Movement was founded in August 2017 and has stressed that they are not a political party but rather a a duly registered Civil Society Organisation (CSO).