PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Last year as parliament announced its trajectory for electoral reform, primarily via adjustments to several laws, and had prepared to outsource the work of drafting these laws, the government announced its own electoral reform trajectory, that included a survey amongst the population.
I was not overly impressed by the route taken by the government of St. Maarten, as it appeared a tad bit late and overly propagandistic, commented MP Wescot.
“There are several issues that require no rocket science to establish that changes and or reforms are a necessary part of any electoral reform. These are, amongst others, the dissolution article in the Constitution of St. Maarten and the no-confidence article, suspension of MPs etc.”.
On the level of the political and electoral ordinances, there are also changes that could contribute to a more modern way of voting and better embedding of the party political system, MP Wescot remarked.
“In the past weeks, the government has hinted at a snap parliamentary election, only to quickly nuance that position with “legal advice is needed”. In my view, it is quite clear, the only way a snap election can be called is on the basis on taking a decision to dissolve parliament.”
I have the distinct impression that the government has taken the onus away from the legality of the dissolution, which by the way should always come first, and is now looking at preferred election timing.
This thought pattern is inherently wrong, according to MP Wescot, as she queries, “No campaign during Christmas time, no campaign during summer, none during the hurricane season, none during carnival etc. etc., where will it stop?”
Based on this flawed reasoning by the government of St. Maarten, I have asked the Prime Minister to provide answers to the following questions:
- Please provide an update with regard to Government’s electoral reform trajectory. In August last year you announced to Parliament the intention to hold a symposium and town hall meetings on this topic. Did these take place? If not, why not? What were the results?.
- What is Government’s position on dissolving Parliament and calling a Parliamentary Election in 2023? Has this been discussed by the Council of Ministers?
- Are you aware of the evolution of this constitutional instrument (dissolution of the legislature) in the Netherlands, which served as the basis for the inclusion in the Constitution of St. Maarten?
- What are your thoughts on consulting Parliament on any intention to apply Article 59 of the Constitution?
- Can you provide me with Government’s view on the essentials of Article 59 of the Constitution, and specifically the historic legal rationale behind this article.
- If it is Government’s intention to dissolve Parliament prematurely and call election, are there any electoral reform items Government intends to introduce before any election is called? If so, what are these items?
And recalling 2 distinct and in my opinion achievable proposals from MPs Heyliger-Marten and Gumbs, I asked:
- Has Government taken a final position on the proposals from 2 Members of Parliament to limit potential electoral fraud?
In proposing some further election reform measures, I suggested that the council of ministers considers strengthening the party political system by
- i) every political party having to prove sufficient support for its candidates’ list (sort of a pre-election) and,
- ii) giving more content to the individual candidate’s declaration of agreement with the list on which he/she appears (Article 25, Election Ordinance), e.g. by adding a covenant that the candidate is aware and in agreement with the main views, direction and principles of the party and thereto concurs to participate as a candidate for party X or Y.
And finally I wanted to know
- What the Government has done concretely towards strengthening the stability of Government, that the Government committed itself to from the get-go.