UPDATE: November 25 election ‘infringement of Electoral Ordinance and Constitution’ | THE DAILY HERALD

~ Says Central Voting Bureau Chairman ~


PHILIPSBURG–Having a parliamentary election on November 25, 2019, can be considered an infringement of the Electoral Ordinance and the Constitution, says Central Voting Bureau Chairman Jason Rogers in a Wednesday, September 25, letter to Minister of General Affairs Leona Marlin-Romeo and Chairman of Parliament William Marlin.

  Rogers arrives at this conclusion because the Central Voting Bureau, “being a guardian of the entire democratic/electoral process, will be prevented and/or unable to properly execute its duties in an honourable manner and as per the oath taken by all members at their appointment,” he stated, adding that his letter is not to imply that no election should be held.

  National Decree #2019/1482 of Monday, September 23, 2019, which was published in the National Gazette of September 24, 2019, announced that the current Parliament of St. Maarten will be dissolved effective December 23, 2019, and a new election for Members of Parliament will take place on November 25, 2019. As per the decree, nomination of candidates will take place next week Wednesday, October 2.

  Although the Central Voting Bureau has not yet been formally informed, it said it deemed it necessary to “proactively” outline its concerns pertaining to the date of the election.

  The Bureau is most of all concerned about the legal timeframes it has to take into consideration, as well as the rights of possible new political parties that may want to run in the election.

  As per Article 22, Paragraph Four, of the Electoral Ordinance, three weeks prior to Nomination Day the Central Voting Bureau Chairman needs to announce the possibility for candidates to be nominated.

  “I am unable to meet this requirement, as the three weeks prior to Nomination Day lie in the past,” Rogers says in his letter.

  Only eligible voters are allowed to cast their votes in an election. The voters’ registry is closed 30 days prior to Nomination Day. Given that Nomination Day is on October 2, the process of closing the voters’ registry has not been followed, according to the Central Voting Bureau.

  Also, the decree indicating the colours that can be used for the lists of political parties participating in an election must be issued 14 days prior to the date of nomination. As there are only nine days between the date of the National Decree #2019/1482 and Nomination Day, the requirement as per Article 36, Paragraph Two of the Electoral Ordinance cannot be met.

  As new and de-registered political parties need to be registered at least six weeks prior to Nomination Day it would not be possible for certain new and existing parties to participate in the November 25, 2019, parliamentary election, the Central Voting Bureau said.

  With the recent resignation of one member and one extraordinary member of the Central Voting Bureau, the Bureau would be shorthanded during the November election, as under the Electoral Ordinance the appointment of members and extraordinary members should take place at least 30 days prior to Nomination Day, Rogers stated in outlining another point of concern pertaining to the November 2019 election.

  “The Central Voting Bureau deems the foregoing very worrisome, as it would not be conducive to the democratic process of the country. Moreover, this can be deemed as said persons – that were possibly intending to contend in parliamentary election – being deprived of their right to [nominate – Ed.] themselves, which can be argued is a violation of their constitutional right to [nominate] themselves. This is an internationally established right of a person,” the letter read. 

  Rogers said the Bureau is cognisant that Article 59 of the constitution demands that the decision to dissolve parliament also entail the obligation to hold new parliamentary elections and that the first meeting of the newly elected MPs be convened three months after the decision to dissolve parliament.

  “We are also cognisant of the fact that the constitution, is a higher hierarchal order than the electoral ordinance. However, the right to [nominate] oneself on a list of choice – which includes on a new list or on an existing list that has been de-registered and would now like to reregister, is a constitutional right,” the letter read.

  “In addition, the electoral ordinance is of a higher hierarchal order than the national decree. It should be noted that in the execution of its task as well as in the decision-making, the Central Voting Bureau indiscriminately applies the electoral ordinance as well as all other applicable legislation.’

  Rogers said that should election proceed at this juncture, the country would be placed in a situation whereby its authoritative decision-making might be questioned.

  He stressed in the letter that these concerns were also brought forward to the governor when parliament was dissolved in 2017 and were taken into consideration in the determination of the date of election in 2018.

  “There are no grounds mentioned in the national decree which justify not meeting the above-mentioned legal requirements in this case. These concerns are only from the Central Voting Bureau. However, it is yet to be determined whether the Civil Registry, which plays a central role in the election process (distribution of voting cards in a timely manner, etc.) is able to fulfil its part.

  “Given all the above, we deemed it important to inform you that having elections on November 25, 2019, can be considered an infringement on the electoral ordinance and constitution. The Central Voting Bureau, being a guardian of the entire democratic electoral process, will be prevented and/or unable to properly execute its duties in an honourable manner and [according to] the oath taken by all members at their appointment,” the letter read.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/91307-update-november-25-election-infringement-of-electoral-ordinance-and-constitution