Opinion: Something’s brewing

POSTED: 10/9/15 4:29 PM

We know since last night that Governor Holiday sent a letter to Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs. We do not know the content of this letter, but there is no doubt that this will come out some time today.

The past couple of days, two political parties have come out with press conferences where they made their positions clear. The National Alliance nor the Democratic Party fear elections, they say.

Do they really want elections? Not really. They prefer that the new majority gets the opportunity to form a government and ride it all the way to 2018.
Is this going to happen? Logic tells us that it won’t. There are too many heavyweight opinions of constitutional experts that confirm, one after the other, that the cabinet had the right to dissolve the parliament and that the governor has only two options: sign the decree or mail it to The Hague for nullification.

What the governor is going to do – or has already done – we do not know at the moment of this writing. The logical thing to do is to sign the decree, but in politics, unlike the more business-like private sector, logic is often not more than an afterthought.

The Democratic Party has already thrown out a plan B, just in case the governor does what he has to do according to the experts and sign the decree to dissolve the parliament.

In that case, the DP wants to annul this decree – go figure – install an interim cabinet and hold elections a year from now.

We understand why this would be ideal for the DP and for most other contestants in an upcoming election. The United People’s party is financially most likely the most powerful. That will give the UP a huge advantage over poorer politicians: bigger billboards, larger parties, more chicken wings, and what have you.

On the other hand, the UP is obviously in disarray, after two of its faction members unceremoniously jumped ship to let their own captain drown.

The DP has nobody to fight with, given its lone seat in parliament, and the National Alliance seems to be rock solid right now – no arguments there, because everybody is following the white line.

The DP thinks that it would benefit from snap elections, but one may wonder what that confidence is based on. Its iconic once-chairman Michael Ferrier has left the party, and party leader Sarah Wescot-Williams will have to build a whole new team. Her policy advisor Emil Lee is of course a strong card – destined to become the next minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor if there are no elections, but for the rest the red party will have to start looking around for other candidates of the Lee-caliber.

Money could be a problem not only for the DP, but also for Frans Richardson’s United St. Maarten party that is likely to team up with ex-UP MP Silvio Matser and possibly with Maurice Lake.

Sponsors are probably not too eager to dive into their reserves for yet another election without any certainty that they won’t have to do the same again a year or so from now.

From this perspective, elections will become a bare bones event, dominated by the fractured UP.

The elections will obviously not solve the problems of our weak political system. Ship jumping will remain popular, as long as candidates, once they have obtained a seat, are able to use their position for leverage to further personal agendas.

The idea from the DP is not at all that bad – an interim cabinet, elections a year from now and in the meantime push through electoral reform.

There is one problem though: once the governor signs the decree to dissolve the parliament, there is no turning back. In that case elections must be held and a new parliament must be installed within three months,

It is in our opinion not possible to first dissolve the parliament, and then reverse the process.

No, the way to go would then be to keep the parliament in one piece, commit the new majority to electoral reform, and install an interim cabinet with the task to dissolve the parliament as soon as it has approved the electoral reform the DP has in mind.

That something fundamentally has to change is clear, but the question is whether MPs are really prepared to do that. We need more rigid rules for ourselves, Wescot-Williams said yesterday. That indicates that electoral reform would limit the maneuvering space for Members of Parliament. They would lose their leverage and with that, a part of their power.

But who knows? Maybe the time is right for these changes. The group of eight will then have to prove that it means business. Before they are able to do that, they must one way or the other get the green light from the governor’s cabinet. That moment could very well arrive today.

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