Monday afternoon’s continuation of the Parliament meeting on vote-buying became all the more relevant after the Prosecution in Curaçao announced that it would be alert to voting fraud for the September 30 elections (see Saturday paper). The public warning obviously also regards St. Maarten where citizens go to the polls four days earlier, as the policy comes from the Attorney-General’s Office in Willemstad that serves both countries.
This should not surprise anyone, as a vote-buying trial took place locally and there is an ongoing investigation involving a current parliamentarian. Moreover, another elected representative is on the record for claiming an attempt was made to buy his seat in the legislature.
Discussion on what politicians are allowed or not allowed to do for their supporters dominated Monday’s debate. Concerns also were expressed about people making false allegations and the possible consequences of such.
Proving vote-buying is not always easy, but law enforcement officials are of the opinion that what some refer to as a tradition of helping out people during election campaigns had gotten out of hand. In the end, common sense will have to be applied by authorities to distinguish between something as innocent as handing out T-shirts and, for example, paying people’s utility bills, because the law does not specify and in principle forbids any kind of material or immaterial gift, favour, promise, etc.
Whether these are accompanied by an explicit request to vote for a party or candidate is also an important point. If this cannot be established, what amounts to bribery is often not evident.
One aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked is the practice of voters taking pictures of their filled-in ballots to be used as invoices for rewards from whomever they voted for. The use of cell phones and other gadgets in the voting booth was therefore forbidden, but active control turned out to be a thorny issue.
Another setback had been a court decision in the Netherlands stating that making so-called “selfies” with filled-in ballots and even posting them on social media was not illegal, be it undesirable. It’s still not clear whether the prohibition against electronic devices on the two Dutch Caribbean islands goes against this ruling.
In Curaçao the dark curtains covering the voting booths have been removed meanwhile, in favour of carton side-panels, so that voters now can be observed from directly behind while exercising their democratic right with back turned towards the main hall of the polling station. So far St. Maarten has not yet followed suit, even though it was first proposed locally back in February, 2014.
Source: Daily Herald
Behind the curtain?