Opinion: Stealing (Parliamentary) seats – one more time

POSTED: 09/11/14 7:11 AM

A Member of Parliament who leaves his faction or who is kicked out of his faction can keep his or her seat. This is the opening line in a brochure of the Dutch government entitled “Van abdicatie tot zetelroof” (From abdication to seat robbery).

The few lines this useful little publication devotes to seat robbery neatly kills the argument of Ed Gumbs that seats belong to the political party and not to the candidate who was elected on that list.

The booklet acknowledges that some consider leaving a faction and keeping the seat as seat robbery. That reasoning follows the line that the seat is the property of the party of which the candidate is a member. Others (including the Today newspaper) reason that a Member of a Parliament holds in principle an independent position. It is not for nothing that the constitution (in the Netherlands and in St. Maarten) stipulates that Members of Parliament vote without burden, also towards the party they represent or represented.

Even more important is that every individual Member of Parliament has a mandate from the electorate. For this reason, he or she can hang on to that seat in Parliament.

That most MPs (in St. Maarten) do not win enough votes to win a seat under their own steam is irrelevant. As we pointed out before, the United People’s party won 7 seats, but only two of them were won outright with the votes party leader Theo Heyliger has to his name. The other five seats were therefore won by candidates who, individually, did not hit the quota for a seat, but who, collectively, pushed the UP’s representation in Parliament almost into the stratosphere.

The notion that seats belong to individual Members of Parliament and not to political parties find further support in a ruling from the Supreme Court, dating back to 1988. That ruling states, briefly, that agreements political parties make with (candidate) faction members about giving up their seat in case of a conflict with the party or the faction, are void.

Ed Gumbs made one good point though when he wrote, and we quote, “It’s very hazardous to tread on slippery, thin ice as a non-legal mind. It would just be too easy to have a bad fall or even worse, to fall right in. In life, it would be best to avoid both situations.”

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