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PEACE Movement and UDP Reject Redistricting Proposal

The Belize PEACE Movement (BPM) and the Opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) are calling for the government’s draft of the Representation of the People Bill of 2024 to be voted down in the National Assembly.

The Public Service House Committee convened in Belmopan this week to deliberate on the controversial bill. The BPM attended the session to voice significant concerns with the bill in its current form. BPM representative Robert “Bobby” Lopez articulated the group's longstanding concerns, emphasizing that the value of each vote in Belize has significantly deteriorated over the past two decades. "We are now at a point where many do not realize what every vote means in an election," Lopez stated, highlighting the urgency of addressing these issues.

Lopez presented seven critical points to the committee, underscoring the constitutional obligations of the government and the necessity of an urgent redistricting exercise. One of the most pressing issues he raised was the inadequacy of the current redistricting draft. He argued that it failed to ensure equal representation, with some divisions remaining significantly unequal in terms of registered voters.

The BPM's objections are rooted in the belief that the bill would normalize extreme malapportionment, undermining democratic governance in Belize. According to the BPM, "This bill, if implemented, would maintain and effectively normalize extreme malapportionment, which is antithetical to democratic governance and violates our fundamental right to vote in free and fair elections. In short, it is ethically unjustifiable."

The movement further highlighted the broader implications of malapportionment, including the inequitable distribution of wealth, resources, and opportunities for Belizeans. They referenced international norms, citing the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, Article 21-3, which asserts that the will of the people shall form the basis of government authority, expressed through universal, equal, and secret suffrage.

UDP Party Leader Moses “Shyne” Barrow echoed the BPM's sentiments in a letter of objection submitted to the committee. Barrow said that the draft version of the bill contained various irregularities and instances of gerrymandering. He criticized the redistricting task force's recommendation to allow constituencies to deviate by up to 25 percent above or below the average size, deviating from the global best practice norm of a 15 percent deviation. He called for the bill to be promptly rejected to prevent constitutional violations and ensure fair representation.

Like the BPM, Barrow is calling for the bill to go through its stages in the House as quickly as possible so it can be voted down. The BPM has pledged to continue court action if the government does not produce a draft that aligns with the Constitution of Belize and international standards.

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