St. Maarten – The Council of Ministers will submit tomorrow, or Monday the latest, an amendment on the national decree to dissolve the parliament to Governor Holiday, Prime Minister William Marlin said yesterday at the first press briefing of his cabinet. In essence, the amendment aims to postpone elections until electoral reform is in place. If the governor signs the amendment, the February 9 elections are off the books. Marlin could not say yesterday how much time is needed to put all electoral reform measures in place.
“Our first priority was to look at the national decree of October 28, that was amended and then resubmitted on October 29,” Marlin said, noting that the decree only goes into effect on December 15.
“The new government with the support of the majority in parliament is exploring options to prepare a new decree,” Marlin said. The government looked in particular at the main reason behind the decree the Gumbs-cabinet submitted to the governor – to stop ship jumping.
“It is our firm belief,” Marlin said, “That if we hold elections now without fixing the electoral laws, we won’t fix ship jumping. The elections would just create a new set of ship jumpers.”
Marlin noted that all ship jumpers so far in the history of country St. Maarten were first-timers in parliament. The most recent examples are Leona Marlin-Romeo and Cornelius de Weever.
“The decree of the previous government was aimed at punishing the ship jumpers, but it does not repair ship jumping,” Marlin said. “If we are serious about these issues then we have to fix them – and elections just won’t do it.”
The prime minister referred to the advice from constitutional law expert Ernst Hirsch Ballin. “He clearly stated that the Council of Ministers was wrong. The decision to dissolve the parliament should not have been taken.”
Marlin furthermore referred to the situation in Curacao where the government lost majority support but where the governor gave the government the time to find a new majority.
“We have a majority in parliament, we have a governing accord and we have a governing program,” the prime minister said. “We respect the decision, but for elections to be effective we first have to address constitutional change and approve the different decrees.”
Marlin said that there is a need for a public discussion about electoral reform. “Prior to elections there is a heavy focus on the party,” he noted. “After the elections the focus is on those who have been elected.”
The prime minister does not see much in a ban on ship jumping, because it may keep parliamentarians within their faction, but they could then vote consistently against the government.
Marlin said that he has always opposed the Lynch-law, that allocates seats to the parties based on the votes they won and then to the candidates within the party who won the most votes.
“In the 2010 elections, 8 of the ten top vote getters were on the list of the National Alliance. Silveria Jacobs was in the top ten but she was not elected to parliament that year.”
To change the system, Marlin said, “you have to convince the parliament and there are people in there who have benefited from the Lynch-law.”
Source: Today SXM PM Marlin: “First electoral reform” No elections in February