St. Maarten elections 2014: Three-party agreement sends Heyliger to opposition benches

POSTED: 09/1/14 9:55 PM

Suspects Matser and Buncamper-Molanus in new parliament, Laveist disappears

St. Maarten – A handwritten note signed by NA-leader William Marlin, DP-leader Sarah Wescot-Williams and kingmaker Frans Richardson, leader of the US party, sealed the fate of the United People’s Party – the winner of Friday’s elections – in the early morning hours of Saturday at the Bute Hotel. The UP goes in the opposition with 7 seats, US. The NA-DP-US combination will form a new government.

This way, the National Alliance turned the tables on its political arch rival. In 2010, the NA won the elections with 7 seats, one ahead of Theo Heyliger’s UP – but the NA ended up in the opposition after the UP made a deal with the DP.

“The undersigned representatives of the National Alliance, St. Maarten United People’s Party and the Democratic Party hereby pledge their support to form the next government of St. Maarten for the governing period 2014-2018,” the note states. “Further details of the governing program and the division of responsibilities will be sorted out in the next couple of days.”

The declaration contains a remarkable mistake. It mentions the St. Maarten United People’s party, while no such party exists. Given the signature from Frans Richardson, this should have been United St. Maarten party. The late hour at which party leader signed the declaration is probably the cause of this slip of the pen that seems to be a jumble of the names of three parties: the USp, the UP, and the OSPP.

The declaration, seemingly written on a page from a school exercise book, dashed the party atmosphere at the United People’s Party. The UP went into these elections aiming for an absolute majority, but it fell one seat short. The scenario whereby the UP as the clear winner of the elections could pick and choose its coalition partner for the next four years quickly evaporated when the other three parties found each other at the Bute Hotel.

The preliminary results of the elections show that the UP won 6,157 votes (7 seats), with the National Alliance a distant second with 4,024 votes (4 seats). The Democratic Party won 2,334 votes (2 seats) and the United St. Maarten party 1,636 (2 seats).

Jacinto Mock’s Social Reform Party won just 131 votes, but his result was applauded from several corners nonetheless. Mock lead his one-candidate list against impossible odds and he beat One St. Maarten People Party leader Lenny Priest, who won 89 votes. The total for the OSPP was higher than Mock’s with 169, but the party had a slate of nine candidates. To put Mock’s result in perspective: he narrowly beat DP’s number 5 candidate Michael Ferrier, a former Commissioner in the Executive Council of the Island Territory, by 131 to 128 votes.

Newcomers did relatively well. On the DP-list, former SHTA-President Emil Lee won 285 votes, putting him third on the party’s list. Sidharth “Cookie” Bijlani did also well, with 217 votes. If party-leader Wescot-Williams remains Prime Minister and if the number 2 Cornelius de Weever keeps his post at the Public Health Ministry, Lee seems destined to become the DP faction leader in Parliament with Bijlani at his side. This would mark the first time in the country’s history that representatives from ethnic minority groups have political representation.

The results for the UP suggest that voters for this party do not care too much about integrity. Otherwise it cannot be explained how Silvio Matser – suspected of tax evasion to the tune of $3.2 million – became the party’s number 3 with 491 votes, even though he ranked as the number 23 candidate on the list. Another suspect in a criminal investigation, Maria Buncamper-Molanus (the #21 candidate) won 204 votes and that seems just enough to squeeze her into the seventh seat in parliament for the UP. However, Johan Leonard (202 votes), Jules James (199) and Claret Connor (198) are hot on her heels and a possible recount could still upset the applecart for Buncamper-Molanus who is a suspect in a money-laundering investigation.

On the other hand, National Alliance #4 candidate Louie Laveist who has a verdict for bribery to his name will not return. His 184 votes rank him in ninth place among his fellow-candidates in the NA-list.

For Parliament President Gracita Arrindell it is also game-over, because her 139 votes are not enough for a mandate.

The National Alliance will have some in-house thinking to do, now that Silveria Jacobs, the number 3 on the list, won more votes than party leader William Marlin and the number 2 candidate George Pantophlet. Jacobs is the de facto new leader of the party, but how this will play out will only become clear in the coming days or weeks.

As the results stand now, the following candidates have been elected (The names are preceded by their ranking on the party list and followed between brackets by the number of votes the candidates won).

UP: 1. Theo Heyliger (1,925), 3. Franklin Meyers (611), 23. Silvio Matser (491), 6. Maurice Lake (305), 12. Tamara Leonard (302), 4. Lloyd Richardson (275), 21. Maria Buncamper-Molanus (204).

NA: 3. Silveria Jacobs (966), 1. William Marlin (735), 2. George Pantophlet (394), 8. Christopher Emmanuel (247).

DP: 1. Sarah Wescot-Williams (695), 2. Cornelius de Weever (378).

US: 1. Frans Richardson (722), 2. Leona Marlin (245).

If the numbers one and two of the NA-list take up a post in the new cabinet, Rodolphe Samuel (#6, 243 votes) and Hyacinth Richardson (#5, 206 votes) will enter Parliament.

If the numbers one and two of the US party take up a position in government, Rueben Thompson (#4, 151 votes) and Anna Richardson (#3, 136 votes) will go to Parliament.

If the numbers one and two of the DP take up a position in the new cabinet, Emil Lee (#4, 285 votes) and Sidharth “Cookie” Bijlani (#9, 217 votes) will go to Parliament.

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