PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — I have taken note just before the Christmas holiday of a statement attributed to the government of Sint Maarten, where it was announced that the next parliamentary election on Sint Maarten will be in November 2023, MP wescot said in a statement, issued on Monday.
I consider this statement by the government remarkable, considering that constitutionally the parliament of St. Maarten sits for 4 years, the MP continued in her release.
“While the dates for the nomination of candidates and of the election itself are established by national decrees, issued by the government of Sint Maarten, these dates are bound by the Election Ordinance and are tied to the constitutional 4-year term of a sitting parliament”.
Obviously, Sint Maarten also has had experiences with the exception to that rule of 4-year terms, based on the power of the Council of Ministers to dissolve parliament by national decree, as per the often contested article 59 of the constitution, MP Wescot further explained.
“As I have so often said, this article, like every other article in our constitution has its own history and in nearly all cases, our constitutional history is derived from the former Netherlands Antilles and/or that of the Netherlands. We are only now building our own history on our 10-10-10 constitution, and should therefore not take these matters lightly.”
“Sometimes this article is explained by pundits as one of “you hit and I hit back”, suggesting some balance and leverage in the ministerial responsibility and accountability of ministers to parliament.”
But in the opinion of the MP, if one studies the history of this article and the line St. Maarten has followed in this regard, it should be concluded that the emphasis of the so-called dissolution article in our constitution is and should be on a conflict WITHIN the government, in other words a cabinet crisis, or a prolonged standoff between government and parliament, obstructing effective governance of the country.
“Article 59 of our constitution is not an open-ended mandate to the government to change parliamentary election dates and terms at their whim.”
I outlined the foregoing in an attempt to understand where the government wants to go with the announcement that “Sint Maarten will go to the polls in November 2023”, the MP explained.
In accordance with the constitutional 4-year term of parliament, Sint Maarten should be going to the polls in January 2024.
Unless of course, the government has an early election in mind and then the question would be why?
Is there something brewing in the council of ministers that will soon come to a head?
Is there a lack of majority support for the sitting government, making effective governance of the country impossible?
Or is this a preemptive strike to still any potential shakeup?
Are we in a political quagmire?, MP Wescot queries.
“In my view, whatever the reason might be, at the very least, the government should inform parliament of its intentions to dissolve the legislative body of St. Maarten.
“If the government has misspoken and actually the candidates’ nomination date is in November, which is logical, I expect that correction to be made posthaste by the government.”
I hope that the government realizes that the rumored reasons for shortening the constitutional term of parliament, such as a campaign during the Christmas period etc., not favoring an increase in parliamentary seats, do not hold water.
This could have been the case, had the government chosen to regulate that early elections can have a longer or shorter term than the constitutionally mandated term of 4 years.
This is not the case for Sint Maarten, leaving the government with no other options than to stick to the regular election timetable or present a well motivated case for an “early” election.
The government will not get away with its usual shenanigans when it comes to decreeing early elections, stated MP Wescot, with an obvious reference to the many times the government failed to properly decree early elections in accordance with the constitution.
These are the type of general decisions that should be challengeable in a court of law, because they undermine the rule of law, concluded MP Wescot.