Opinion: Postulation Day (Some candidates with a solid history, and some with a dark history)POSTED: 07/8/14 2:56 AM
Among all the horses that will enter the race for fifteen seats in parliament on August 29, there are a couple of candidates with a solid history in terms of winning votes. There are also several dark horses – some with a history that shows they are seemingly on the way down (or out) and some with no history at all. On Friday – Postulation Day – all participating parties will present their list of candidates to the Central Voting Bureau. An overview of the contenders we know thus far, and how they performed in the 2007 and the 2010 elections.
Let’s begin with the party leaders. All eyes are on what we could call the traditional big three – DP-leader Sarah Wescot-Williams, NA-leader William Marlin and UP-leader Theo Heyliger.
Wescot-Williams, Prime Minister of all three cabinets since 10-10-10, was the winner of the 2007 elections. Her Democratic Party won handily with 6,635 votes, and Wescot-Williams was good for almost a third of them – 2,188 in all. But the governing period 2007-2010 has not been good for the DP and its leader. In the 2010 elections, the DP suffered a painful defeat and Wescot-Williams’s voter support dropped by 37.5 percent to 1,367; 820 voters went elsewhere.
National Alliance-leader William Marlin has been a steady performer. In 2007 he won 1,593 votes and in 2010 1,598. Since those last elections, a lot has happened around the NA and it remains to be seen how this will affect voter-support for its leader. Frans Richardson and Patrick Illidge left the party to become independent members of parliament. NA-MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson (478 votes in 2010) has declared himself also independent and he will be a candidate for the UP this year, probably angling for a ministers-post at the Ministry of Public Health, Social Affairs and Labor.
UP-leader Theo Heyliger was a member of the DP in 2007. As the number 4 on the DP-list (behind Roy Marlin and Louie Laveist) he won 1,841 votes, second only to Wescot-Williams. In July 2010, Heyliger – then a commissioner in the Executive Council – left the Democratic Party and continued as an independent until he established his own party to run in the 2010 elections. While his United People’s party (UP) did not win the elections, Heyliger amassed by far the most votes. His score of 2,967 was 58.2 percent higher compared to 2007. An astonishing 1,071 additional voters flocked to his side.
Will Heyliger repeat this stunt in August? His party is at the center of a vote buying scandal that will be handled by the Court in First Instance on August 4. If the court completes the hearing that day, the court ruling will probably be pronounced two weeks later – on August 18 –eleven days before Election Day. How this verdict will impact the UP’s and Heyliger’s election result is anybody’s guess.
Frans Richardson enters the race as the leader of the United St. Maarten People party. In 2007, Richardson was the second in command at the National Alliance and he won 1,071 votes. In 2010 he disappointed with just 694 votes, a decline of 35.6 percent. Richardson lost 384 voters.
A proponent of fair elections, Richardson tabled a motion in parliament in April of last year that pushed for campaign reform. That motion contained the line “not to bribe, not to pay or accept cash, not to give or accept gifts and/or other tangible or intangible assets; not to provide preferential treatment.”
However, when Richardson launched his party in December, his invitation to join the event contained the line “During the launch the MP will be giving away gifts (gift baskets, computers, cell phones, etc.) to members of the community, just in time for Christmas.”
Will this bring more or less votes to Richardson? That depends of course on how many voters are – again – going to vote with their feet. To clarify this expression: “If you vote with your feet , you leave an organization or stop supporting , using, or buying something, and change to a new organization, service, or product,” according to the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus. In this context, the You Can’t Buy My Vote campaign of the Democratic Party is interesting.
Jacinto Mock, now leader of the Social Reform Party, was in 2010 for the first time a political candidate. On the list of the National Alliance, he won just 13 votes. How he will fare under his own flag? To qualify for the elections, the party has to present around 140 signatures of voters that support its list. Mock collected so far more than 300 signatures, so it looks like he will do better with his second attempt at a political career. Will it be enough to grab a seat? That remains a huge challenge.
Jeffrey Richardson makes a second appearance in these elections as the leader of the Concordia Political Alliance. We haven’t heard much from the CPA yet, though that could still come. In 2010, the party won just 128 votes and that is obviously not enough to make a dent in the political establishment.
Lenny Priest’s participation with his One St. Maarten People’s Party (OSPP) marks a return to politics after an absence of fifteen years. Given his political history, it is thought that Priest will take a bite out of the National Alliance’s support base but whether this is wishful thinking or a realistic possibility will obviously only become clear on August 29.
In the April 1991 elections, Priest featured on the SPA-list, spearheaded by the late Vance James Jr. and William Marlin; he won a mere 122 votes that year – 3.5 percent of the party’s total. Four years later Priest won 330 votes on the same list, or 7.9 percent of the party’s total. In 1999, the popularity of the SPA dropped (compared to 1995 it lost 31.5 percent of its electoral support) and Priest’s support also tanked. He won 208 votes, still a respectable 7.2 percent of the party’s total.
Last but not least is environmentalist Rueben Thompson, leader of Citizens for Positive Change. It is a first venture into politics for the outspoken Thompson so it is hard to get a handle on expectations. Over the past weeks, CPC has published quite some statements that make clear where the party stands. The ideas are solid and well-researched. Will these ideas and the candidate appeal to the electorate? That is the 125,000-dollar question.
The DP-list will have familiar names like Roy Marlin (424 votes in 2007, 127 in 2010) and Petrus Leroy de Weever (333 in 2007, 173 in 2010) and what is thought to be a high-profile newcomer – former SHTA-President Emil Lee. The DP-list will also feature Perry Geerlings, director of the cabinet of Minister Plenipotentiary Mathias Voges in The Hague. In 2010, Geerlings won 87 votes.
The NA-list will have the stalwarts George Pantophlet (506 in 2007, 427 in 2010) and Rodolphe Samuel (381 in 2007, 266 in 2010). One may wonder how the controversial NA-candidate Louie Laveist will do – the only MP with a criminal conviction to his name. In 2007, as a member of the DP, Laveist was good for 683 votes, but in 2010, after the controversy surrounding his bribery trial, his support dropped to 358 – a loss of 48.6 percent. Hyacinth Richardson (379 in 2007, 332 in 2010) seems a steady factor on the list as is former Education Minister Silveria Jacobs (329 votes in 2010). Also on the list is Kendall Dupersoy (116 votes in 2007, 81 in 2010).
The UP-list is the second one with a controversial candidate: Maria Buncamper-Molanus. Haunted by the Sky is the Limit Foundation scandal from 2008 (whereby the foundation received a $25,000 donation from the TelEm Group where her husband Claudius was at the time a member of the supervisory board of directors) Buncamper-Molanus saw her voter-support on the DP-list drop from 494 in 2007 to a measly 136 in 2010.
A return to politics with the DP was impossible for Buncamper-Molanus, because newcomer Emil Lee made his candidacy dependent on the absence on the list of candidates with integrity-issues. Buncamper-Molanus falls definitely in that category. Not only does she have the Sky is the Limit scandal to her name, she also stumbled over speculation with lease land in 2010, when – together with her husband – she sold the economic ownership of a piece of lease land on Pond Island for $3 million to the bogus company Eco Green NV. Buncamper-Molanus was forced to step down as Minister of Public Health, Social Affairs and Labor on December 23, 2010 – a few months after she had taken office.
Gracita Arindell will run with the UP again. The former PPA-leader, in 2007 still good for 533 votes, paid for her switch to the UP in 2010, when she won 336 votes, a distant second only to UP-leader Heyliger. Terry Peterson has left the National Alliance (118 votes in 2007, 151 in 2010) and will now make an appearance on the UP-list.
We will not see Romain Laville back these elections. The former faction-leader of the UP and now independent MP, instrumental to the fall of two successive governments, has gone through a tumultuous four years that included death threats against UP-MP Jules James. Already in September of last year, he announced that he would not seek office for another four years in the 2014 elections.
The future of Patrick Illidge is currently unclear. A suspect in the Bada Bing bribery investigation, his political reputation is severely damaged, though – as the Buncamper-Molanus example shows – this is not necessarily a reason for all doors to slam shut in his face. In 2007, Illidge won 342 votes as a candidate for the National Alliance. In 2010, he did even better with 593 votes. Given the criminal allegations – the prosecutor’s office accuses Illidge of taking $150,000 in bribes from Bada Bing owner Jaap van den Heuvel – it seems at least doubtful that Illidge, if he managed to find a party prepared to take him in, would perform as strong as he did four years ago.