Prime Minister reacts to UP leader:  “No ministerial elections in our constitution”

POSTED: 08/4/14 10:15 PM

St. Maarten – “Already you hear politicians and aspiring politicians saying that vote for me and I will be Prime Minister of St. Maarten. That is not what the people of St. Maarten are voting for; they will be voting for the fifteen Members of Parliament,” Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said during a special broadcast of One on One with the Prime Minister on 98.1 this past Friday, responding to the United People’s (UP) Party leader Theo Heyliger’s public request to voters to become the next Prime Minister of St. Maarten.

The Prime Minister said she wanted to clarify matters. “There has been much confusion created amongst the population regarding exactly what citizens will be voting for during the 2014 elections. All the matters that have to do with elections have to do with the Ministry of General Affairs, which is under my portfolio as Prime Minister,” Wescot-Williams said. “This is the first time that we are having elections directly for Parliament and therefore we need to acknowledge that for all the voters on St. Maarten taken up in the voting registry they will be voting for fifteen members of Parliament and not for Minister or a Prime Minister for that matter. There are no Ministerial Elections in our constitution,” she emphasized.

“Depending on the turnout of the voters for every seat in Parliament one thousand votes are necessary. The party that gets a thousand or more votes will get one or more seats. At the end of the voting it will be determined that, if for example a party has three thousand votes that party will get three seats with the persons who get the most votes on that particular list getting the seats. Many years ago our system was one in which seats were allocated in the order of slates but that has changed: the highest vote getters are the ones that get the seats in Parliament,” the Prime Minister explained.

“When elections have taken place the majority in Parliament will talk about forming the government and who will be appointed as Ministers in the new Council of Ministers. And Ministers do not have to necessarily be running on a list in order to be appointed into a Ministerial position. That is why it is so important for people to understand this fact. The people on St. Maarten rely on their representatives in Parliament to appoint the ministers. The Prime Minister’s, or any Minister for that matter, appointment is an agreement between parties in Parliament that supports the next government. It is part of that agreement where it will be decided who will be what. And Ministers are appointed by National Decree based on parties that come together to make an agreement,” Wescot-Williams pointed out.

Wescot-Williams also explained to the electorate how parties are awarded the remaining seats in Parliament. “The question of a remaining seat, or a rest zetel in Dutch, is as follows: if a party for example received 3200 votes and another party 4500 votes, after allocating the full seats -so three seats to list one, and four seats to seat number two- then it is looked at what does every party have in terms of votes above the seats that they have. 200 votes for list one, 500 for list two and the highest amount of seats above the required seats will get the seat remaining,” she said.

Prime Minister Wescot-Williams highlighted the concept of Ministerial responsibility towards Parliament, emphasizing that Parliament nominates persons to become ministers of government; “Ministerial responsibility means that Ministers are responsible to Parliament since it is Parliament that nominates them to be a Minister. If someone who received a seat and is put forward to become a Minister, then that person will become the Minister and the next highest vote getter on the slate will get the Parliamentary seat,” Wescot-Williams said.

“It is important to realize that those who have postulated themselves on the list, no matter in which position, can end up in Parliament. Parliament cannot fire or dismiss a Minister; the dismissal of a Minister takes place as part of the National Resolution from government. Parliament cannot issue a decision on dismissing, it can issue a no-confidence and then it is up to the Minister to do the right thing; that is part of the democratic bedrock of our system. If the Minister does not there will be a political dilemma but it would be politically correct for a Minister to draw that conclusion. We have seen where St. Maarten itself has had to grapple with a Parliament deciding it has no confidence in the government resulting in stand-offs, etc. despite me as Prime Minister applying the law,” concluded Prime Minister Wescot-Williams.


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