93 candidates on six parties for elections

~ Matser not in race ~

PHILIPSBURG–Come February 26, 15 of the 93 candidates in the snap parliamentary elections will know whether they will be part of the new legislature. Of the total, 14 are existing Members of Parliament seeking re-election.

Only one MP, Sivio Matser of the United St. Maarten Party (US Party), is not running to retain his seat. This means there will be at least one new face in Parliament.
MPs seeking re-election on the NA slate are Rodolphe Samuel, Ardwell Irion, Hyacinth Richardson, George Pantophlet and Romeo Pantophlet.

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Eight MPs are contesting the elections on the slate of the newly launched United Democrats: Theo Heyliger, Sarah Wescot-Williams, Franklin Meyers, Chanel Brownbill, Claret Connor, Sidharth “Cookie” Bijlani, Tamara Leonard and Perry Geerlings.
US Party leader Frans Richardson is the lone MP on his party’s slate.
The ratio of candidates to available seats starts at one seat to some six candidates.
Candidates will have to rally support from the 22,559 eligible voters. This number is up from 22,302 in 2016. At a 100 per cent voter turnout a candidate would need at least 1,503 voters to capture a seat.

The number of candidates for the upcoming elections is 33 less than those from the 2016 snap election. The ballot is expected to be three parties lighter.
Four of the six parties with this cap in the race – United Democrats, St. Maarten Christian Party (SMCP), People’s Progressive Alliance (PPA) and St. Maarten Development Movement (SDM) – still have one hurdle to cross before they actually end up on the ballot. These parties do not have representatives in the current Parliament.
Each party has to garner at least 142 signatures, one per cent of the voters from the 2016 snap elections.

Voters can endorse their preferred list on Monday from 9:00am to 4:00pm in the old Civil Registry Department building on Pond Island. A voter can only sign for one list and must present valid identification as required.
Parties that do not receive the required number of signatures on Monday will get a second chance to do so. If the second attempt fails to meet the mark, the party will not make it to the ballot.

NA and US Party are exempted from the endorsement process. Both parties have sitting MPs. While the United Democrats has eight sitting MPs on its slate, those MPs were elected on other parties.
All six parties handed in their lists on Friday to the Central Voting Bureau in Parliament House. This is the first time the building on Wilhelmina Straat was used for Nomination Day. The A.C. Wathey Legislative Hall in the old Government Administration Building was used in the past. The move is another step in creating a physical separation of the legislative and executive powers of the country.

Slates
First in the door was SDM with its list of five candidates. Party leader Benjamin Ortega heads the slate with Arthur Bute as number two, followed by Raymond Matser, James Busby and Elvis Lewis is a newcomer to the slate of the two-year-old party.
Next in was SMCP with its slate of a dozen candidates. Retired pastor Wycliffe Smith heads the slate comprised Peter Gittens, Mulrose Toulon-Sponsper, Claude “Chaco” Peterson, Beverley Gibbs, Benjamin Bell, Francelise Mauricia-Peterson and Michael Somersall, Christian President, Richard Patrick, Marylouse Rattan-Poulo and Alberto Bute.
National Alliance (NA), headed by Education and Culture Minister Silveria Jacobs, submitted a list of 23 candidates, the maximum allowed for the elections. Joining Jacobs on the list are Public Housing and Infrastructure Minister Christophe Emmanuel, Samuel, Irion, newcomer to the slate Anna Rabess-Richardson, MPs Richardson and George Pantophlet.
Returning NA candidate Rene Violenus, newcomers Egbert Jurendy Doran and Solange Ludmilla York-Duncan rounded off the party’s top 10.

MP Romeo Pantophlet is at number 11 followed by Leonard “Lenny” Priest, Jimmy Challenger, Herbert Martina, Lucrecia “Loekie” Morales, Ricardo McQuilkin, Leroy Vlaun, Robert Budike, Roberto Arrindell, Dennisen Philips, Oswald Bell, and Jelani Gumbs.
Former NA leader and prime minister William Marlin is at number 23.
Frans Richardson’s US Party has 19 candidates; it had 22 in the last election. In the number two spot is Tourism and Economic Affairs Minister Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher followed by former minister Maria Buncamper-Molanus, St. Maarten Tourist Bureau Head Rolando Brison and Department of Economic Licences Head Valya Lake-Pantophlet.
Also on the list are Lloyd Paul, Richinel Brug, Lyndon Lewis, Lisa Alexander, Wilfred Williams, Elvis Flanders, Martin Wilson, Hillary Williams, Curtis Thomas, Agnes Brooks-Mardenborough, Sergio Bryson, Early Charlemagne, Leo Lambriex and Cecil Nicholas.
PPA of former Parliament Chairwoman Gracita Arrindell has 11 candidates, three less than the last election. On the slate with Arrindell are Duncan van Heyningen, Les Brown, Roel Haakmat, Suzy Velasquez, Mirjam Wigman, Haydee Peterson, Armando Gumbs, Frits Leo Richardson, Elwaldo Arrindell and Don Hughes Jr.

United Democrats was the only other party to have a full slate of 23 candidates. Headed by Heyliger, Wescot-Williams is number two followed by Meyers, Public Health Minister Emil Lee, MPs Brownbill, Connor, Bijlani, Leonard and Geerlings.
Former MPs Jules James, Leona Romeo-Marlin and Cornelius “Connie” de Weever are seeking to recapture their seats.
Also on the list is civil servant Jorien Wuite, former minister Rhoda Arrindell, Deputy Minister Plenipotentiary Hasani Ellis, Angelique Romou, Kevin Maingrette, medical doctor Luc Mercelina, Louis Engel, May-Ling Chun, Nikhil Kukreja, and Asha Uche-Roosberg. Former minister Maurice Lake rounded off the list.

The Central Voting will now scrutinize the six slates and supporting documents. Parties with errors will be given time to correct these.
The Bureau will have another public sitting on January 19 to assign colours and numbers to the slates. The numbers determine where on the ballot each party will be placed along with the background colour of its list. The top of each list will have a photo of the number one candidate.

Ministers
Four of the six caretaker ministers are contesting the elections. Two – Jacobs and Emmanuel – are with NA, Arrindell-Doncher US Party and Lee United Democrats.
Not on any slate are caretaker Prime Minister Rafael Boasman and Finance Minister Richard Gibson Sr.

Women
Although women represent the majority of registered voters, they continue to be underrepresented in the political sphere.
Twenty-five of the 93 candidates are women. Eight women are on the United Democrats, five on the US Party and four each on NA, PPA and SMCP.
Thirty-five women were scattered over the nine slates in the 2016 election. Of those three were elected to Parliament – Jacobs, Wescot-Williams and Leonard. Jacobs’ spot was filled by a male MP when she became a minister.
Two of the six parties are headed by women – NA and PPA.
SDM is an all-male party.

Subdued
The usual fervour surrounding Nomination Day was not visible this year. There was no band, stilt- walkers or booming music. The subdued mood was due to the country heading into yet another election just 17 months after the last one on September 26, 2016.
The elections come at a time when many people are still struggling to recover from the ravages of Hurricane Irma, the worst storm in recorded Caribbean history. The hurricane slammed into the island on September 6, 2017. This was swiftly followed by political upheaval over, among other things Dutch recovery aid. This led to the fall of the NA-led government. That government opted to pen a decree to dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections.

The new coalition is made up of the eight MPs on the United Democrats, a merger of the United People’s (UP) party and the Democratic Party.
Five of the parties walked to Wilhelmina Straat, the street flanked by the Courthouse to Parliament House, to deliver their slates. US Party arrived by bus, a lucky bit of planning, because rain was just letting up when they arrived at the building.
Candidates and supporters of five parties were mostly clad in their assigned colours from past elections: SDM in grey, SMCP brown, NA white, US Party blue and PPA orange. United Democrats arrived in black T-shirts emblazoned with the party’s name in red and green. The party does not yet have an official colour.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/72492-93-candidates-on-six-parties-for-elections

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