Election returns in Belize show Prime Minister Dean Barrow appears headed to another victory in the Central American nation.

Preliminary vote tallies published Thursday have his United Democratic Party winning in about two-thirds of the 31 districts at stake.

It would make Barrow the first leader to win three consecutive terms in Belize since it gained independence from Britain in 1981. The 64-year-old lawyer has been in office since 2008.

Wednesday's election marked a setback for the opposition People's United Party, which ran on a platform of free education and national health insurance.

The vote drew about 68 percent of the 196,587 registered voters.

Belize is home to about 350,000 people on the Caribbean coast southeast of Mexico.