Election officials in Belize say all is set for double elections in that Caribbean Community (CARICOM)-member state on March 7.
Josephine Tamai, chief elections officer, said voters will first cast ballots in the general elections before doing the same in the municipal elections.
“For those who will be voting in a double election, the voting will be happening for the general election first,” she said in a statement.
“The person will go into room; he or she will proceed to the poll clerk who will verify his or her information. Once that information has been verified by the poll clerk, then the voter will be sent to the presiding officer. The presiding officer will ask the voter to show his or her right index finger to ensure it hasn’t been marked in any way,” she added
“Once the presiding officer is satisfied, then he or she will ask the voter to dip his or her right index finger to first joint in indelible violet ink. Once that has been done, the voter will be issued a ballot paper by the presiding officer, whereby the presiding officer will then direct the voter to voting booth to mark the X for the candidate who the voter wishes to vote for,” Tamai added.
The incumbent United Democratic Party (UDP) of Prime Minister Dean Barrow is facing a challenge from the main opposition People’s United Party (PUP) in the general and municipal elections.
Tamai said 178,054 people are eligible to vote in the general elections, while 97,979 voters have been registered to vote in the municipal poll.
There are 31 constituencies at stake in the general election, with both the UDP and the PUP nominating candidates to contest all seats.
In Belize City at the municipal level, Tamai said voters will choose one mayor and 10 councillors; while in Belmopan and Towns, voters will choose one mayor and six councillors.
“We expect that counting should be completed before midnight for both elections,” she said. “What we are doing this time around, we are allowing more boxes to be counted at the same time to ensure that the results are out a little faster this time around.
“We will be having international observers, so, again, they will be allowed to visit the polling and counting stations to see how elections are conducted,” she added.
“Within the hundred yards line, the general public is aware that no campaigning can be happening within that boundary,” she added.
In the February 2008 general elections, the UDP won 25 of the 31 seats in the Legislature, with the PUP getting the remaining six.
Barrow said the UDP has “accomplished much” in the first term.
“Acting always for the people and with the support of the people, our overall record is a stellar one,” he said.
“Despite the continuing global crisis, despite the vagaries of nature, despite freak storms and hurricanes, and despite the super bond,” the Belizean leader said economic growth has been consistent.
He said Belize has an “enviable record for peaceful elections,” appealing to all political parties and candidates “to ensure that we maintain that record. “
“The public officers that will oversee the process are professionals, and will guarantee that, as always, the elections will be free and fair,” Barrow said.
“Of course, we will also be inviting international observers to come and help make sure of the integrity of our balloting,” he added.
The last double elections were held in Belize in 2003.