Where is the political will for Electoral Reform to stop/curtail “ship-jumping?”


By Julio Romney, Political Analyst

Seemingly our (the St. Maarten) political leadership has absolutely no political will for meaning Electoral Reform that will stop or curtail the political phenomena of “ship-jumping.”

This is evident by the much talk and no action of the political leadership. Or irrespective of the Prime Minister forming an Electoral Reform Committee, which came up with a proposal to amend the Constitution to stop ship-jumping and other passionate calls as to “still fighting for electoral reform” by announcing to “table a proposal in Parliament for electoral reform extending to the Rules of Order of Parliament” or proposing changes to the Rules of Order of Parliament to “stem” ship-jumping.

By reading the Editorial of The Daily Herald “Time is up” and the article titled “Parliament still awaits electoral reform laws,” both of August 16, 2016, it is obvious that the political leadership of St. Maarten has no desire to curtail ship-jumping. As they are doubling down on a proposed amendment of the Constitution that they know or should know has no chance in hell in becoming law and proposed changes to the Rules of Order of Parliament, which equally makes absolutely no sense and the further political development bleeding of St. Maarten.

Respectfully, the Prime Minister’s proposed amendment to the Constitution to stop ship-jumping calls for amending the Constitution to say “Parliamentarians who leave their party and go independent would not be able to help to form a new government,” which has been totally rejected by the Kingdom as raising too many “legal questions,” in essence unconstitutional.

Notwithstanding that this proposal is about amending Article 33 of the Constitution, which deals with the appointment and dismissal of Ministers, which has absolutely nothing to do with Parliament. The Article that deals specifically with Parliament is Article 47, Chapter 4 of the Constitution.

The bigger problem here is, why would the Prime Minister and the Chair of Parliament want this proposed amendment to be sent and discuss in Parliament fully knowing that if it passes in Parliament, which doubtful it would get the 2/3 majority vote needed of the serving Members of Parliament and the express consent of the Kingdom before becoming law (Article 129 of the Constitution). And also will be subjected to investigation by the Ombudsman as to its constitutionality (and could end up in in the Constitutional Court). Is this not a waste of taxpayers’ money and Parliamentarians time?

The proposal to make changes to the Rules of Parliament is also a waste of taxpayers’ money and Parliamentarians time. Please understand the Rules of Order of Parliament essentially establishes the rules or order for conducting the business of Parliament/parliamentary procedures.

The issue of ship-jumping has to do with the composition or the political party make up of Parliament. Obviously, this idea of extending the Rules of Order of Parliament has not been fully thought through.

Fellow St. Maarteners, the solution to stop or curtail “ship-jumping” lies within Article 47.1 of the Constitution (of St. Maarten), which calls for the composition of Parliament and the Members of Parliament to be elected by proportional representation (within the limits of be laid down by national ordinance. Where proportional representation is operationally defined as “an electoral system in which each party is represented in parliament by proportional representation where each party has representation in proportion to total votes received.” Thus if 25% of the electorate vote for a particular political party, then 25% of the seats in Parliament should be occupied by that party.

Not only is a “ship-jumper” not a political party, but without getting the required votes assumes the position in Parliament as an elected party. Historically, “ship-jumpers have received on the average less than 3% of the electorate vote,” which proportionally represents zero seats in the Parliament and any such action could be deemed as “unconstitutional.”

Since 2014, I have formulated, drafted and presented before Parliament a draft electoral reform ordinance that assures the composition and the maintaining of proportional representation in Parliament, as required by the Constitution. Providing for the effective upholding the Constitution and stopping or curtailing ship-jumping. (See Election Ordinance Amendment Legislation – drafted and submitted to the Parliament of St. Maarten by Julio R. Romney, November 2015.)

Critics against my draft Election Ordinance contends that that it is in conflict with Article 61.1 of the Constitution, which reads “Members of Parliament shall not be bound by a mandate or instructions when casting their vote.” It is obvious, an understanding and taking in perspective the draft Ordinance neither bound and/or imply that Members of Parliament are to be bound by a mandate or instructions when casting their vote.

Notable, I have been approached on many occasions and asked why is it that when the topic of Electoral Reform comes up your draft Election Ordinance Amendment Legislation is never mentioned by the political leadership and/or the press. Equally, despite your academic background in Government and Politics/Public Policy Formulation and Evaluation you were never contacted and/or invited by the Prime Minister to be part of the Electoral Reform Committee and/or the Electoral reform Committee seeking your professional input.

Further raising the question as to “if you were from Timbuktu” would they have sought your input, but as a local they want no part of you. Irrespective they (the political leadership) are always saying they are for encouraging the “best” and “brightest” St. Maarten academics to come home and get involved.

My humble response has always been and will continue to be “It is what it is.” I have no dog in this political fight and neither do I wish to have one. I am simply a companionate patriotic St. Maartener. A scholar of Comparative Government freely trying to give back of my doctoral/academic training. With a caution that without real electoral reform, adhering to the composition of Parliament by proportional representation as specified in the Constitution, which neither of the political leadership has shown the political will to do other than giving serious lip service. St. Maarten brace yourself for more “ship-jumping” and political turmoil.

Be mindful that the present government came into governance as a result of ship-jumping. With possible 9 political parties contesting the upcoming Parliamentary election, there is all likelihood a coalition government will emerge and the political anomaly of ship-jumping will begin.

I humbly submit, voters of St. Maarten on September 26 you can make a difference or Oh Sweet St. Maarten Land will continue to bleed.