Government of Belize Completes Redistricting Report Amid Controversy
After a week of leaked pages of the Redistricting Report by the Elections and Boundaries Commission, the Government of Belize confirmed today that the report has been completed and will be handed over to the National Assembly with the intent of having it tabled at the next Sitting of the House of Representatives on July 30, 2023. According to a release from the government, the report calls for nothing less than 28 electoral divisions with an equal share of elected voters across the country. Amid the allegations and assumptions that there is political influence and interference in the redistricting process, Prime Minister John Briceno clarified that he has no input or say in the report or the proposed changes.
Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “The committee hands it to the Elections and Bounties Commission they review it and if they accept the recommendations or make any changes then that will be tabled to the national assembly. I’m not sure if the prime minister tables it or is it going to be the minister responsible for the Elections and Bounties Commission but the process is from the committee, Elections and Bounties Commission and then it goes on to the national executive, I’m sorry, to the national assembly for debate and to be able to either accept or not. What has happened is that one member decided to hand it over to their political party. That should have stayed within them. But the thing is that we live in a vibrant democracy and you could never please 100%. So you only require one person to say I’m not happy and to be wanting to take out a court or to challenge it in the courts. What is important and I have mentioned it to the Minister responsible for Elections and Boundaries Commission, which is Minister Henry Charles Usher, is that it is important that whatever comes to the house that it could withstand the scrutiny of the courts.”
The redistricting process is one that third parties have been lobbying for in recent years. It had gotten to the point of litigation when the Belize Peace Movement (BPM) filed an application in the court in an attempt to face the government to conduct the redistricting prior to the 2020 elections. With the report now completed, our newsroom sought comment from Paul Morgan of the BPM, who noted that under the order from the High Court of Belize, the litigants must see a copy of the report by or before July 17.
Paul Morgan, Belize Peace Movement: “The only thing that matters to us now is what was in the consent order, what the Elections and Boundaries has agreed in front of the court that they would do, which is that on the 17th of July, that is coming up, 17th of July, or earlier, whichever, or earlier meaning when they lay the proposals before the National Assembly that they should share a copy of those proposals in writing and along with a report that explains the reasoning behind what they are doing. That will be very interesting for us either before, when they lead on before the National Assembly or by the 17th of July. That is all we care about and the most important thing that we are looking for is that the constituencies are near equal as the Constitution demands. That’s why we went to court. That’s what we expect. Our case is live in court. The consent order says that if there’s any problem that we see, we’re not satisfied with, we think needs litigation to continue we will be right there. And you could guarantee that if there’s any problems we’ll see that the numbers are not near equal you could guarantee that we’ll be in the court to deal with it.”
One interesting part of the release from the government was the order to silence the media, by noting, quote, “In the interim period, the media and any other person are informed that publication and/or dissemination of the report, prior to the Report being laid on the Table of the House of the Representatives, is a violation of the privileges and Standing Order of the House of the Representatives.” End of quote.