After 12 years in opposition, the PUP party wins back power in a landslide victory in the 2020 Belize election.
Would they squeak through by the skin of their teeth, winning the minimum 16 seats they needed in the House of Representatives? Or would it be a historic landslide like 1998, when they crushed the UPD by winning 26 of the (then) total of 29 seats?
— CentralAmericaLiving (@VidaAmerica) November 11, 2020
Turns out yesterday was closer to historic landslide than squeaking through.
The PUP won 26 seats, the same as back in 1998, leaving the UPD with only five seats. Since 1998, the House of Representatives has increased in size from 29 to 31 seats.
You could call it a blowout. Turnout was high, too, at 81.37%. The highest since that historic 1998 election. Many expected a low turnout because of the COVID pandemic.
Belize, general election:
2020: 81.37% (preliminary)
Source: Caribbean Elections#Веlіzе
— America Elects (@AmericaElige) November 12, 2020
Before the election, PUP activist Christian Riveroll spoke to the Brent’s Two Cents podcast, predicting a big win for the opposition party.
He told the podcast that Belizeans either vote you out because they’re upset with the party, or they look to see if their lives are better or worse than before.
This time round, it appears Belize is both sick and tired of the UDP and their lives lives are worse than before. It wasn’t a one or other thing this time, it was both.
— Brent’s Two Cents Podcast (@TwoCentsBelize) November 10, 2020
But even so, Riveroll never predicted a 26-seat win.
He was cautiously optimistic about the PUP taking power with some 19 seats. Those extra seven seats are gravy.
In the end, it’s a combination of corruption scandals and the cratering COVID that did for the UDP.
Plus the fact, in a country independent for only 39 years, 12 years in power is a long time. That works out about 30% of Belize’s entire existence as an independent country. Change needed to happen. It was inevitable.
John Briceño sworn in as Belize’s PM after record victory https://t.co/76wFPhQzlP
— Breaking Belize News (@belizemedia) November 12, 2020
New Prime Minister Johnny Briceño has one heck of a job on his hands as he takes charge of Belize today.
He takes over a country in its worst economic crisis since independence, in the wake of a devastating tropical storm, and during an ongoing health crisis. Oh, and distrust of government has never been higher in Belize.
It’s not so much that Briceño and the PUP won the hearts and minds of Belizeans. It’s much more that Belizeans could no longer stand a moment more of the other lot.
I am humbled and grateful to our supporters to have reached this milestone of 10,000 Facebook followers! Continue to follow me and our team as we make our final push to Take Back Belize! The peaceful, constructive movement continues! 🙌🙏
— Johnny Briceño (@JohnBricenoPUP) November 2, 2020
One interesting story emerges from the ashes of the UDP in this election, however. Especially for hip hop fans.
The rapper Shyne was one of the five UDP politicians to win a seat in the House of Representatives yesterday. He was active in the late 90s and early 2000, recording with the likes of Sean Combs and the Notorious B.I.G.
Hip hop fans might remember how Shyne ended up in jail after that famous New York nightclub shooting involving Sean “Puffy” Combs and then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez.
He did nine years, and while inside signed a deal with Def Jam and recorded an album. Upon release from jail in 2009, he was deported back to Belize.
Since then, he converted to Judaism and turned his life around.
— Deborah Bonello (@mexicoreporter) November 11, 2020
But what many people outside Belize don’t know is that Shyne’s last name is Barrow. And that’s important.
Shyne, you see, is the son of Dean Barrow, the former UDP prime minister who left office today. He comes from political royalty in Belize.
In the House of Representatives, he won’t be the only Barrow. Of the five remaining UDP representatives left, another one is his aunt, Denise “Sista D” Barrow. She took over prime minister Barrow’s seat.
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Belize has a long way to go after it’s worst year since independence.
Is Johnny Briceño and his massive majority up to the task of rebuilding the country? Can Belize entice tourists back and kickstart the economy? Will the new government face as many corruption scandals as the last one?
One thing’s for sure. If Briceño has any kind of honeymoon period at all, it’s going to be brief. Belizeans want – need – results now.
James Dyde is the editor of centralamerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.