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The St. Maarten Parliamentary Election of August 29, 2014

julioromney20112014The parliamentary election in St. Maarten on 29th of August marked a turbulent beginning to the new constituent state's political history. The substantial loss of electorate support for the more seasoned (political) party leaders to second tier/ number two party members, the failure of only but two contesting candidates to receive the necessary electoral quota to secure a seat in parliament outright. The eleventh hour of the appointed formateur to realize the formation of a prospective coalition government, with the subsequent appointment of two informateurs to facilitate a renewed attempt to garner political parties that are willing to come together and form a new prospective coalition government are but a few of the unanticipated consequences of the election. Added to these and more startling was the Royal Decree issued (October 21, 2014) by the de facto Head of State i.e., the Kingdom Government/ the Kingdom Council of Ministers instructing the Governor of St. Maarten to employ a more stringent screening process of ministerial candidates to include the prime minister before appointment. Resulting in the swearing in of Parliament and the stalemating of the appointment of new ministers and a prime minster.


With continuing news reports of alleged corruption/ integrity violations and the lack of good governance within Government, the General Audit Chamber of St. Maarten decided to conduct a base line study on the integrity within Government.
Subsequent to this, the Governor (of St. Maarten) began his own independent integrity, as instructed by the Kingdom Council of Ministers – via Royal Decree with two other integrity related inquiries being carried out by the Wit-Samson Integrity Committee and Transparency International on behalf of the Government of St. Maarten.
As such, 5 of the six political parties that contested the 2014 St. Maarten Parliamentary election signed a "code of ethics" declaration presented by the Sint Maarten Christian Council, St. Maarten United Ministerial Foundation and the Seventh Day Adventist church, pledging to "bring back and uphold high moral standings and integrity within government" once elected.

The Campaign

On July 11th 2014 six political parties (The United St. Maarten Party (USP), National Alliance (NA), United People's Party (UPP), Democratic Party (DP), Social Reform Party (SRP) and the One St. Maarten People Party (OSPP) officially declared their participation in the 2014 Parliamentary election, with a total of 90 candidates competing for 21,439 eligible votes in 20 voting districts/stations. The original date for the election was set at September 5th but was changed to August 29th due to inclement weather concerns.
With the 6 political parties participating in the election, with a total of 90 contesting candidates, the probability of any one political party winning an outright majority in the 15 seat Parliament and equally any one of the 90 candidate receiving the necessary quota of votes to elect him or herself was slim at best.
Seemingly, in the months leading up to the election there were much posturing between political parties as seasoned political vote getters were lured from one party to another - all to ensure the party garner the optimum number of votes and win an outright majority in Parliament. Equally seasoned candidates also explored optimum positioning on (different) party list and in instances formed a new party - again all in an effort to ensure they are on the winning party list and garner enough votes to get elected to Parliament.

The results

The turnout of the election was 69.2 percent, with USP garnering 2 seats, NA garnering 4 seats, UPP garnering 7 seats, DP garnering 2 seats, with SRP and OSPP having insufficient support to receive any parliamentary seats. In only 2 of the 15 Parliamentary seats did candidates beat the odds and were outright elected to parliament.
In the early morning of August 30th after the results of the election were made public, and given that no party won an outright majority of the attainable seats in Parliament, the National Alliance, Democratic Party, and the United St. Maarten Party moved swiftly to announce the formation of a "Red, White and Blue" coalition government. The National Alliance with 4 seats, the Democratic Party and the United St. Maarten Party with 2 seats each.
At the eleventh hour as the prospective "Red, White and Blue" coalition was about to formerly present its governing documents to the Governor, the United People's Party was able to lure at first one and then both of the MP elects from the Democratic Party, and one from the United People's Party, thus forming a new prospective UPP/DP/Marlin-Romeo coalition government.
But all has not been smooth sailing with the affirmation of the UPP/DP/Marlin-Romeo prospective coalition government. The Kingdom government abruptly issued instructions to the Governor to suspend any and all ministerial appointments, including that of the Prime Minister by the UPP/DP/Marlin-Romeo prospective coalition government pending a more in-depth and vigorous vetting process. Under the cloud of the lack of integrity within (the present) Government alluded to in four independent integrity investigations and talk of alleged chronic vote buying and other corrupt practices, bringing the formation of a new government to a halt.
Subsequent to this, the 15 member Parliament was sworn in with no corresponding Council of Ministers or Prime Minister but not without a peaceful protest march in the streets of Philipsburg contending the issued instruction to be unconstitutional. Soon thereafter, the latter DP Member of Parliament withdrew support from the UPP/DP/Marlin-Romeo coalition thus reverting to a UPP/DeWeever/Marlin-Romeo coalition.
This election, in principle the first for St. Maarten as a constituent state of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, failed make inroads for the further sustainable socio-political development the people of St. Maarten so desire. As in the aftermath of the election and before a government could be formed there were déjà vu with the dissention within the ranks of political parties. The separation of MPs elect from their respective political party or MP elects (principally non-elected, elect Members of Parliament/ elected Members of Parliament who have not received the necessary quota of votes to outright elect him/herself to Parliament) breaking ties with their party affiliation, declaring themselves as "independent" and joining forces with another party of form government. Which has presented itself as the major descending factor in the formation of Government after the last election and the successive demise of Government twice within a three year period.
This anomaly (non-elected, elect Members of Parliament declaring themselves as independent) continues to materialize over the electoral process and warrants the strong need for serious electoral reform. Reform that would abate non-elected, elect Members of Parliament from declaring themselves as independent and joining forces with another party of form government, while providing a pragmatic solution that would further ensure and maintain political party proportionality in Parliament as voted for by the electorate. The draft "Electoral Reconciliation Ordinance" presented before the Justice Committee of Parliament (January 20, 2014) by this author addresses and readdresses this problem of among other electoral concerns. In the absent of any such legislation could result in the continued chronic instability in Government.
As things stand with the "instruction" issued by the Kingdom amid the likelihood of ethical concerns within Government as reportedly revealed by the integrity investigation studies, with consequences for good governance. It would be quite within the authority of the Kingdom Government to impose instruction, which would be in accordance with Article 43 of the Statutory Charter of the Kingdom of the Netherlands/ Constitutional order. Which warrants "the safeguarding of such rights . . . and good governance shall be a Kingdom affair" to which is affixed the signature of St. Maarten as a constituent state of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and adopted October 2010.
Of greater concern should be the expressed mindset of Dr. Oberon Nauta, a senior researcher at the Amsterdam DSP Group and an advisor on Dutch post-colonial relations on good governance. Advocating the "guaranteeing of good governance in the West" or the Caribbean parts of the Dutch Kingdom "can only be achieved through having the Governor play a more active role in governing procedures with the formal authority to nullify ministerial decisions." "According to Dr. Nauta, the Dutch Caribbean countries cannot be expected to guarantee . . . good governance on their own", because "the institutional system of the countries were not based on their own administrative, cultural context, which makes them susceptible to bad governance." "Therefore the Kingdom should be prepare to give more content to good governance through a more active role of the governor in the daily governing of the governments of the Dutch Caribbean Islands." (The Daily Herald, October 31, 2014) It's obvious that Dr. Nauta is of the opinion that the governing of the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom (which includes St. Maarten) would be best served through further imperialism (indirect political control). Interesting!
What the 2014 Parliamentary election and its aftermath teach us more than anything is the absolute need for political reform and maturity. Political reform that would facilitate the smooth democratic formation of Government after elections and ensure proportional representation in Parliament, as voted for by the electorate. The need to turn away from political self-interest and keen understanding of our parliamentary democratic monarchy form of government and its statutory documents, i.e. the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Constitution of St. Maarten. Thus placing ourselves above the fray of "instructions" and further imperialism.

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