Wednesday, July 17, 2024

UDP wins Municipal Elections in San Pedro Town; PUP questions results


Daniel Guerrero and his six United Democratic Party (UDP) Councillors have been declared winners of the 2018 Municipal Elections held on Wednesday, March 7th. However, that victory is being questioned, with allegations of discrepancies in the election’s official results. The People’s United Party (PUP) and its supporters are disputing the results based on the total number of voters recorded, which, according to them, do not match the total number of ballots counted. The PUP has since sought legal advice in an effort to find a fair solution and perhaps even a recounting of the votes. However, the idea of a recount was never confirmed by Returning Officer of the Elections and Boundaries Department, Catherine Cumberbatch, during a meeting the PUP and UDP representatives had on Thursday, March 8th in downtown San Pedro. At press time, the declared victors were the full UDP slate, consisting of 3-term Mayor Daniel Guerrero and his councillors Hector Alamilla, Flora Ancona, Ruben Gonzalez, Gary Greif, Gabriel Nuñez, and Severo Guerrero Jr,.
At a closed door meeting held the following day at the office of Elections and Boundaries in San Pedro Town, the main issue of discussion was the discrepancy of 162 votes. Representative from both parties engaged in a discussion with the Returning Officer, but nothing conclusive was reached. The PUP say they will continue to look at legal options to press their issue, as they are doubtful of the dubious figures from the election. Cumberbatch has declined speaking to the media, while it has been said that the official figures of the voters’ turnout is yet to be updated with the final counts. Elections and Boundaries did not indicate when they would produce the updated figures, but The San Pedro Sun was assured that there are no discrepancies in the final figures.
The concerns raised in relation to the municipal elections in San Pedro Town captured the attention of Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who held a press conference on Thursday, March 8th. Shortly after the conference, a release was sent out reiterating that official results for San Pedro have not yet been released by the Elections and Boundaries Department. “The information will only be released upon receipt of the official forms from the Returning Officer and after all figures have been checked and verified for accuracy,” stated the release. “This information shared with the public to keep them updated on the number of persons who have voted within an hour is in no way to be interpreted as the official number of persons who vote in the election. This is due to the fact that at time of receiving the information, it is likely that persons are still waiting in line to cast their vote.” The government note ends by asking the public to check the Elections and Boundaries website for the official results, which will be available to the public once received, reviewed and verified for accuracy.
The 2018 Municipal Elections was one of the tightest political battles islanders have witnessed, only ending near the break of dawn on Thursday. The PUP was led by Andre Perez and his six Councillor candidates Ian Pou, Ruben Navidad, Dianeli Aranda, Undina Graniel, Marina Kay, and Johnnia Duarte, and they gave Guerrero and his candidates a challenging race that proved to be very close.
Both parties began their activities as early as 5AM at the Polling Station #37 located at the San Pedro High School. Candidates and supporters from the both parties had their machinery out locating and taking supporters to vote. The turnout seemed slow, and in the first hour between 7AM and 8AM, only 128 of the 8,955 registered electors on the island had cast their vote.
The polling station saw the voting lines divided in the following manner: A(638), B(572), Ca(600), Ce-Cu(635), D-F(565) Gab-Gom(321) Gon-Guz(456), H-J(538), K-L(510), M-Mc(358),Me-My(418) N-O(427) P-Q(578), R(627), S(587), T-U(446), and V-Z(679). The election process went with no reported incidents, as both the San Pedro Police Department and Returning Officer Cumberbatch maintained the strict 100-yard regulation. A steady flow of voters was observed throughout the morning by both the UDP and PUP, and by 2PM 2,975 of an eligible 8,955 electorates had cast their vote. Both parties were busily and efficiently mobilizing their voters, with designated drivers visiting different areas on the island and even the airport and water taxi terminals where they picked up more supporters.
As the afternoon matured, the flow of supporters began increasing gradually, especially as the clock ticked closer to closing time at 6PM. Both Mayoral Candidates were in high spirits, confident of a win, sharing with The San Pedro Sun that they had their machinery in place and knew the race was theirs. Guerrero’s supporter, UDP Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation Manuel Heredia Jr. also spoke confidently about the election process. “I believe that between morning and this afternoon we continue widening the gap, and I believe that as it goes by, things will be looking much better for us,” said Heredia.
By the time the polls were about to close, a total of 4,633 votes had been cast, showing a 52% voter turnout. After the last voters made it just in time, the police closed the gate at 6PM sharp, and no more electorates were accepted. In contrast to the 65% turnout during the Municipal Elections in 2015, a total of 5,690 or 63% cast their vote during the 2018 elections.
As the counting started, police ensured that no one was observed lingering near the gates of the high school or surrounding areas. When results started to come in, indications were that the PUP was doing well in the first counted ballots. The atmosphere became tense as the UDP began getting ballots on their favour and then the PUP. The race was tight, with both parties seeing a good turnout. Hours and hours passed and staunch supporters continued waiting for the official results outside the polling station. The mood was celebratory, with loud cheers filling the air. The wait continued well past midnight and into the early hours of Thursday. Municipalities around the country had already turned in their official results hours ago, while San Pedro still seemed far from delivering the names of the winning candidates. The crowd waited another hour and then after the final boxes were recounted it was announced that San Pedro stayed red and Guerrero and all his six UDP Councillors were declared winners.
Perez and his team proudly walked out of the polling station waving to their supporters. Perez told the media that he was grateful for all the hard work his supporters had done during the campaign. He also acknowledged his six Councillors and commended them for the great work they had all done as well. Perez also confirmed that after finding out the conclusive results of the election, he had conceded.
The following are the final tallies of each UDP and PUP which show a very narrow margin between both parties. UDP: Daniel Guerrero- 2,667, Hector ‘Tito’ Alamilla- 2,818, Flora Ancona- 2,904, Ruben ‘Rux’ Gonzalez- 2,904, Gary Grief -2,980, Severo “Severito” Guerrero- 2,789 and Gabriel “Gaby” Nuñez- 2,809.
PUP candidates tallies were as follows:
Andre Perez- 2,629, Dianeli Aranda- 2,605, Johnnia Duarte- 2,554, Marina Kay- 2,624,Undina Graniel- 2,543, Ruben Navidad- 2,475 and Ian Pou- 2,529.

After final announcement remarks from by Cumberbatch declaring the UDP as the winners of the 2018 Municipal Elections, Guerrero and his team raised their hands in victory. Guerrero indicated that he stayed confident throughout the elections process, but was not surprised that the counting would take so long, as he knew the race was going to be a close one. Afterwards, the UDP team joined their supporters on a parade through the streets of downtown San Pedro.
Overall across the country over 50% of Belizeans exercised their democratic right and came out to cast their vote. UDP won most of the municipalities with the exception of Belize City, Corozal and Orange Walk Town – whose PUP town council was re-elected for a third term in office.
The San Pedro Sun congratulates all Belizeans that exercised their vote in these elections and congratulates the UDP 7 for their victory on Ambergris Caye.

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