General elections were held in Belize on 7 February 2008 for all 31 seats in the House of Representatives using a first-past-the-post system.
On 7 January 2008 Prime Minister Said Musa asked Governor-General Sir Colville Young to dissolve the parliament paving the way for the elections to the House of Representatives to be held on 7 February. They were held at the same time as the first-ever referendum in the country on whether the members of the Senate currently appointed by the Governor-General should be directly elected.
In the previous elections held in March 2003 Prime Minister Musa's People's United Party (PUP) had won 22 of the 29 seats at stake becoming the first party ever to win a second consecutive term in office since the country gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1981. The opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) had taken the remainder.
However Prime Minister Musa's second term was marred by several incidents. In 2005 the introduction of higher taxes intended to repay the country's US$ 3 billion foreign debt triggered riots. The UDP also alleged that Prime Minister Musa had distributed US$ 10 million received as aid from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to PUP supporters.
Political Parties & Candidates
In all 93 candidates including three women contested the elections. Although three other political parties - the National Reform Party (NRP) the Vision Inspired by the People (VIP) and the National Belizean Alliance (NBA) - also ran the elections saw once again a duel between the PUP and the UDP each of which fielded candidates for all the 31 parliamentary seats. The NPR and the NBA had 11 candidates each while the VIP had four. In addition there were five independent candidates.
In mid-January the PUP presented its manifesto entitled "Blueprint - Believe in Belize". It promised to cut income tax create new jobs fight crime and provide a laptop PC for every school child. It also presented a detailed proposal for a new 14-member Senate that would be elected using the proportional representation system starting from 2009.
The UDP leader Mr. Dean Oliver Barrow firmly opposed the idea of an elected Senate and called for a boycott of the referendum. He nevertheless agreed on the need to reform the Senate insisting that one additional non-partisan senator should be appointed so as to give a combined majority to the members appointed on the advice of the opposition and non-partisan members.
The UDP's "21 pledges" focused on lowering the cost of living through various measures including lower sales tax and electricity and telephone rates. It accused the PUP of corruption and mismanagement.
The final results gave 25 seats to the UDP with over 56 per cent of the valid votes. Although the PUP won over 40 per cent of the valid votes it obtained only six seats. None of the other parties secured more than eight per cent of the votes. No women were elected.
Voter turnout was 72.68%.
On 8 February Barrow was sworn in as the new Prime Minister.
On 15 February he appointed Emil Arguelles an attorney-at-law as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives.
On 14 March the newly elected members of the House of Representatives were sworn in alongside the appointed senators who included the new Senate President Andrea Gill.