Constitutional change option for electoral reform, says PM

POSTED: 12/23/13 1:57 PM

St. Maarten -  Prime Minister Wescot-Williams considers changing the constitution to bring about electoral reform that should lead to more stability in local politics. She expressed this opinion in her weekly radio program on 98.1 Pearl FM, without giving specifics about the changes she has in mind

“We had to have elections in 101010 for a new political system; a system that we never knew before; from an island council to a parliamentary system. We put everything in place to have that new constitutional system and what we have noticed is that, because of the frequent changes in the political landscape there is a need for reform in the system to put more emphasis on political stability,” said Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-williams during her weekly radio program on 98.1 Pearl FM on Friday.

“What we have seen in our young democracy is a tension of two parts; people are elected and get into parliament depending on how many seats the party gets and not necessarily with regards to the amount of votes a candidate gets. Because of that you have had frequent changes in government. The minute you have a shift in the coalition position in parliament following the composition in 10-10-10 you had a shift in the allegiance of parliament thus effecting Government,” Wescot-Williams said

The Prime Minister emphasized that her focus with regards to electoral change is to ensure that there is stability in the system and clarity for the people who have elected their representatives, doing so on the basis of a clear program and vision.

“Based on the frequent changes because of the shifting of alliances that is one of the matters in electoral reform that I have received advice on and there are various options to look at,” Wescot-Williams said. “I am now preparing a paper to submit to parliament to have a discussion, devoid of politicking but in the interest of the people. There are various options with regards to electoral reform. For example within a political party itself or ultimately, which I believe should be the ultimate option, with changes to the constitution.”

“It is also important to make the public aware of the dynamics of our politics and how important it is to elect candidates that have a clear vision and clear objective. Tied into this is the issue of campaign reform, the change in the way we conduct politics. During the budget handling Parliament passed a motion on electoral reform. The content of the motion was to not bribe, pay or accept cash, give objects or give preferential treatment to influence the vote for or against a candidate. Also not to coerce persons to nominate or not to nominate a candidate. I indicated that much of these matters are already outlined in our laws, but it does require educating and informing parliament and the people of St. Maarten,” the prime minister said, adding that the therefore gave an overview where this is already mentioned in our law.

“Matters like bribing someone to vote are outlined in the penal code, specifically in article 2.14 that states that the person who bribes someone to vote in a particular way through the giving of money or gifts or in any other way will be punished with incarceration for two years or fines as categorized by the law. The voter or a representative of a voter who allows his or herself to be bought will be punished in the same manner.”

It is the duty of all responsible parties to adhere to the law, which clearly outlines what is and what is not allowed during national elections, Wescot-Williams said. “Eventually, as our society becomes more complex and larger, you may have a situation where elections might be contested because things have not happened according to the law. The initiator of the parliamentary motion, MP Frans Richardson, may not have been aware of the law so I will be pointing this out in my reply to parliament so that the necessary discussions will take place.”


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