Politics in Belize
Belize is a relatively stable country as Latin / Central American countries go.
Originally British Honduras, it became independent in 1981, adopting the British
parliamentary form of government. However, this new form is uniquely Belizean.
Form. Belize follows the British
parliamentary system: There is a Prime Minister and a Cabinet (whose members
are usually representatives), a parliament consisting of a House of
Representatives (elected) and a Senate (appointed) and an appointed
Judiciary. The legal system is adapted from British Common Law and guarantees
free speech, individual property, voting by all citizens, etc.
PUP vs. UDP. Although Belize has
several political parties (like the U.S.) only two parties have ever won
control. The party in power is called just "the government," the other party is called
"the opposition" The leader of the opposition is a de facto
member of Parliament. .
TERM. After an election, the winners take office
for a five year term. The head of the party becomes the Prime Minister.
Until the most recent elections in 2003, the parties had alternated for each
five year term. Not so in '03 -- the PUP won by a landslide!
PUP (Peoples United Party) The PUP has been
in power for most of the time since Belize became independent in 1981. It
lost its majority in 1993 and then came back into power in a landslide election
in 1998, on a platform entitled "Set Belize Free". Two features
dominated the campaign: Repeal of a 15% VAT tax (to be replaced by an 8% sales
tax) and a strong commitment to employ Belizeans first. Since the PUP
is "the government", the government website, www.belize.gov.bz,
is the PUP website.
UDP (United Democratic Party) During its
last five year term, the UDP instituted a drastic austerity program, as well as the
VAT. The people reacted to these unpopular measures by voting the party
out of power, although a few (three) UDP representatives were
A Candid Observation. When
a party is in power, they have immense power to do whatever they believe is
right. The opposition feels a duty to criticize everything that the
government does. The newspapers publish all
of this rhetoric.
a balanced view of politics and other current news, you should go to the newspapers.
Law. If you want to understand the
government in detail, you should visit the new website which contains all of the
laws of Belize-- www.belizelaw.org.
A navigation tip: all of the chapters have the word "act" in
them. If you ask for a listing with that as the only keyword, you will get a list of
all of the chapters.
(Email & Snail Mail) If you need to contact some
branch of the government, you can find their address here.