The first round of village council elections were held on Sunday, June 23 in Belize. In Caye Caulker, four slates contested the elections for Chairman and councilors, along with a few independent candidates. The campaign leading up to Election Day was vigorous with accusations of negative campaigning by one slate, replete with fake social media profiles and personal attacks on the candidates.
Election Day was hot, muggy, and started with the nomination of candidates and opening of the polls which opened a bit late at about 10:25a.m. and was supposed to close at 5:00p.m. There were long lines of people waiting to cast their votes. People waiting were a mixture of jovial and cranky, some complaining about the wait and the heat.
The elections progressed along seemingly smoothly until around 4:30p.m. when an estimated 50 construction employees of Blue Zen on North Island, Caye Caulker, owned by Social Security Board Chair Doug Singh showed up en masse to vote. Chaos ensued as the other three slates united to oppose the workers access to vote, however they were personally escorted in by Mr. Singh , aided by the Police and allowed to vote.
Reports say when asked and challenged on residency, they replied “Doug Singh”. Another incident occurred earlier when an independent candidate for councilor charged that Doug Singh assaulted her. Mr. Singh claims it never happened. Once the polls closed and administrative issues were out of the way, the counting began.
Results were finally announced around 2:30a.m. and Mrs. Seleny Villanueva Pott was announced as the winner for the Chairperson position. It seemed that the elections were behind the residents of Caye Caulker, with a winner for chairperson declared and six counsellors elected.
On Monday, June 24, a teacher at the RC School claims to have found a bunch of ballots in the classroom used as a polling place. The teacher apparently called one of the losing candidates to come to the school to take custody of the ballots. At some point, the ballots were given to the Caye Caulker Police and transported to the Police Station. A group began to gather in front of the CC Police Station, where the ballots were in custody. The debate was about what to do about these “found” ballots, and supporters of the various campaigns gathered outside the Police station to voice support for their candidates.
The ballots were moved to the Village Council offices where the Elections Supervisor announced that they would conduct a reconciliation count of the ballots cast. The ballot reconciliation was completed and Mrs. Seleny Villanueva Pott was reaffirmed as the winner of the Caye Caulker Village Council elections on Monday, June 24, at about 2:05p.m. Crowds dispersed from in front of the council offices and once again, the election was officially declared decided and over.
– contributed by Desi Rosado