Briceno, a seven-time representative, is only the fifth person to hold the office of prime minister in Belize since independence in 1981 and he is the first prime minister from outside of Belize City. He represents Orange Walk Central, north of Belize City. He replaces former prime minister Dean Barrow who stepped down earlier this year amid ill health, after more than 12 years in charge.
Briceno claimed victory after winning 27 of the 31 seats in Belize’s national assembly. The ruling party leader Patrick Farber conceded the election.
The vote came amid concern over the growing number of COVID-19 infections in the CARICOM member state and one of the worst economic slump in Central America. The International Monetary Fund, says the economy is expected to shrink 16% this year.
Belize had closed its borders in April to combat the spread of Covid-19, and only opened its airports to international travel a month ago. Belize is heavily reliant on tourism as a source of income. With travel severely curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic, Belize's tourism sector has been badly hit.
The Belize Elections and Boundaries Department, which conducted the general elections, reported that 81% of the registered voters cast their ballots in Wednesday’s poll, in a vote that took place amid flooding, storm damage.
The election was held in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Eta, which hit the region last week and caused severe flooding.
The Briceno administration comes to office under a “Plan Belize” manifesto which promises to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic head-on and also to stimulate the economy which has collapsed due to the pandemic.
SNAPSHOT: The Prime Minister-Elect, Hon. John Briceño lays a wreath at the grave of The Right Hon. George C. Price. Price is regarded as the Father of the nation and was the one of the founders of the People's United Party; which Briceño now leads. pic.twitter.com/aXG8JiNjR7— Belize Politics ?? (@belizedecides) November 12, 2020
“Belizeans, in impressive numbers, voted for a new beginning,” Briceno said. “This 2020 is a call for our young nation to grow up, to face the challenges of our generation and to advance our peaceful, constructive and progressive revolution.”
Briceno had pledged to crack down on corruption, revive agriculture and tourism and fast track a stimulus package through parliament. He will take over a nation of 400,000 people weighed down by one of the world’s heaviest debt loads and a tourism industry shattered by the pandemic.
Before becoming the leader of the PUP, he served as deputy prime minister and as minister of natural resources and of foreign trade.
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