Opinion: Political rumors

POSTED: 12/3/13 12:30 PM

The 2014 elections may seem far away to some, but others are already jockeying for position. Asking questions about these developments is usually a futile exercise, because answers mostly resemble – if they are forthcoming at all – a blank wall.

What do we know so far? The most interesting, and rather persistent rumor is about Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams. She is said to leave the Democratic Party to become the number 2 on the list of Theo Heyliger’s United People’s party. That would leave the DP-faction members Leroy de Weever and Roy Marlin out in the cold. Without their vote getting party leader, who won 1,368 votes in the 2010 elections, they will be lost. De Weever has 178 votes to his name, and Marlin just 128. The popularity of both politicians has gone down dramatically since the 2007 elections; the same is true for Wescot-Williams whose 2010 election result represent a 37.5 percent decline in voter support compared to 2007.

If Wescot-Williams indeed teams up with Heyliger and becomes his number 2, we will see a reversal of roles compared to the time when Heyliger was the number 2 on the DP-list. Based on the 2010 elections, Heyliger and Wescot-Williams represent a massive 4,280 votes. In St. Maarten, that’s a powerhouse.

We know from his own statements that Independent MP Romain Laville will not return after his term expires. Less certain is the future of Patrick Illidge (good for 593 votes on the National Alliance list in 2010); his potential legal troubles over the Bada Bing bribery scandal are not likely to affect his political career – unless the case turns into an indictment and a conviction. Compare this to Louie Laveist; he has a conviction for bribery to his name, but he has kept his seat in parliament as a member of the National Alliance.

What about Frans Richardson then? The once solid number 2 of the National Alliance went Independent after the elections, announced recently that he will start his own political party, and is also rumored to have started his own radio station – a nice way to talk directly to “the people” without interference from nosy independent journalists.

Richardson won 695 votes in 2010, not enough to win a seat on his own strength, but we do not know at this moment whom he will bring on board for his new to this moment nameless party.

There will also be a couple of newcomers in the next elections – like Lenny Priest and Jacinto Mock. Anybody’s guess what these parties will do.

This changing political landscape makes once again clear that ideology is a thing for other countries, for other democracies. In St. Maarten it is all about power. Parties are neither left or right, socialist, communist, green or liberal. They play everything by ear and party-hopping before the elections is as popular as going independent after a seat has been won.

Remember, a seat in parliament and an even a coveted seat in the next government, brings home a nice salary – anywhere between $125,000 and $140,000 a year plus perks. For that kind of money – which is in our opinion way out of whack for a country the size of St. Maarten – some people are prepared to sell their soul.

That parties do not have an ideology is something everybody has known for a long, long time. The question is: does that matter? In a way it does, because voters are not able to hold politicians to account based on the principles they stand for, or based on the program they have used during their campaign. So voters will never know what their candidate is going to do next.

Okay, he may give his voters say $300 for his support, but once the vote is in all bets are off. Voters are forgotten the moment they leave the polling station. The more voters realize this is so, the more critical they will become of candidates for political office.

Of course, politics in St. Maarten is at the core not much different from politics anywhere. Politicians make promises they know they are unable to keep, a bit like a second hand car salesman who swears on the grave of his dead grandmother that the wreck you are about to buy was only used by an 80-year-old lady for her weekly shopping trips.

But hear now, Sarah and Theo back together again, wouldn’t that be something?

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