Studies, informal studies, by observation and conversations with elected officials, from all organizations, whether Village Councils, Town Councils, Cooperatives, Associations and National Elected Representatives have shown that elected political burnout occurs at the one year mark. Real burnout seems to occur at the 18 month mark and after that, an elected representative of any body is basically going through the exhausted motions after that.
Due to the benefits at the national level of paid salaries, travel perks, cars and that sort of thing, the decision at the national level to go to a shorter more effective elected cycle is going to meet with tough resistance.
The UDP failed miserably at this three years ago and even after repeated demonstrations in District Towns for political reform were unable to shake themselves of the corruption of self interest and Power. It cost them the election.
At the national level we need to go to a three year, or two year term of office for elected representatives. The five years is too long. There has not been any democratic type debate in the parliament since beginning from the self government years and after independence. It is a long time to await participatory and consensual democracy. In fact, new legislation should be passed amending the Constitution during the first three months of this year, making for instance a three year elected term for national representatives, the law. This would mean, one third of those now elected representatives would and should be standing for election in October in 1999. Who,could be decided by lottery? I have no objection to the Cabinet clique from the port leaving their own reelection to the third year, but POWER CORRUPTS AND ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY! This is no joke and very real in Belize.
To make such democratic changes, the PUP party are going to have a very serious and strong internal debate and the results will all be about selfishness, or the national interest. One will often be disguised as the other. For people who are opportunists who ran for office expecting to get the benefits of a steady income for five years, this will come as something they could give lip service too, when they were running, but quite different now they are in the drivers seat. No one, is going to want to jepordize their salaries and perks. Yet, the good of the nation a democratic form of government and a change in the growth patterns of economics dictate we go to consensual methods. This means a real opportunity for debate at the parliamentary level, not this rubber stamp mafia mockery we have had, since we have been a-borning.
Studies of this political burnout problem show that all the elected representative ideas and good will are gone by the end of the second year and a malaise sets in and corruption. The country suffers for three years of the five year term, with lackadaisical reaction type government, rather than an energetic flow of new ideas and enthusiasm. These studies show, that even with a staggered three year term of office, with one third running again in October 1999, many of the same crowd will through personal attributes get elected again and again. The others will change with the times.
The PUP Party will be facing, or are facing this decision and debate. And if they don't do it by March, it will never get done in this five year term of office, because a person's hold on that cash flow and the power of ministery positions and perks will warp and corrupt the judgement. It remains to see how patriotic the PUP party as a group are going to be. The rest of the country have no real say in this. This is going to have to be leadership of the highest order and it is solely in the hands of the PUP party. The UDP party failed this test of patriotism. What will the PUP do?
On the next order of legislation important to political restructuring at the national level. Legislation will have to be made and passed this year also for the SENATE. It will have to become an elected body, representing equally all six districts and with the power to refuse legislation, or veto it, or send it back for line item vetos and amendments to the legislature. This is an important part of building a nation and finding checks and balances to the political process.
The PUP party basically have until March. About three months to make these basic democratic reforms, or fail the test of patriotism and be labeled with greed and selfish corruption of self interest over the needs of the economy and the nation's growth.
It will be interesting to watch the participation of the media in the port town, the articles and pronouncements, both for and against from the debate within the PUP party who are charged this term of office with bringing democracy and political reform to the restructuring of how Belize is governed. Will they lead? Will they reform? Or will they fail the test?