~ Drafts response on electoral reform ~
PHILIPSBURG–Government has drafted a response to the Kingdom Council of Ministers (COM) and the Advisory Council regarding their position on St. Maarten’s electoral reform proposal to tackle ship-jumping.
Prime Minister William Marlin told reporters on Wednesday that the Advisory Council and Kingdom COM had concerns about the “free mandate” of Members of Parliament (MPs) being affected and were of the view that MPs should not be “obstructed” in the execution of their responsibilities.
In its response to St. Maarten’s proposal the Advisory Council suggested other possibilities of addressing ship-jumping, but Marlin said, “Just like the Kingdom Council of Ministers, they have held sacred the free mandate.”
Marlin said it was “a pity” that the advisory bodies and the Kingdom COM were “holding on to principles that go back to the founding of the Kingdom,” which have developed over the past 60 to 70 years. “You cannot go out and tell the world that we are four countries in a Kingdom, but maintain one country when it is convenient,” he said.
He stressed that St. Maarten’s issues had to be resolved with measures that are applicable to St. Maarten. “Holland also has ship-jumping and members who leave Parliament, but they leave for reasons other than what [MPs – Ed.] do in St. Maarten,” he noted.
St. Maarten’s proposal is to change to the electoral regulations to put Parliamentary seats in the hands of the political parties, instead of having the seats allocated to individual MPs. Political parties have all the responsibility in the lead-up to an election, but this all changes once MPs are elected. The seats earned will then be allocated to the MPs on the list.
The Constitution currently says the Prime Minister and other Ministers are appointed by national decree. The proposal is to add to this that the Prime Minister and other Ministers should have the support of one or more parties that represent a majority in Parliament.
Marlin said also that the Governor also recognises political parties and not individual MPs, because after an election the Governor calls only party leaders for the formation process, not all 15 MPs. This consultation results in the appointment of a formateur. The Main Voting Bureau also speaks of political parties, not candidates.
St. Maarten changed its system in 2010 to one in which only parties are recognised by the system. “One cannot participate in an election if that person is not part of a party. No party can be in an election if it is not vetted and accepted and registered by the Electoral Council. … The importance is placed on political parties,” Marlin said.
However, after a person takes the oath the person can become an independent MP based on the free mandate. “The individuals cannot become a party unless they are registered with the Electoral Bureau. That’s why [it is recommended – Ed.] that a person has to be supported by one or more parties. The difference will now be any person who chooses to leave their party is no longer part of a party,” Marlin said.
An MP who decides to leave his or her party still has the right to vote, table motions and support initiatives of Ministers, as this remains their responsibility. “I can be a member of a party and vote against [things – Ed.], but if I take a stance and leave the party, the formation of a government is now null and void,” Marlin said.
He argued that if the Kingdom COM wanted to maintain that St. Maarten’s proposal could trample on the rights of MPs, then the process should change and possibly declare all 15 MPs as independents and have everyone be a party by him- or herself.
Another proposal Marlin said had been circulating is the interpretation that seats are won by political parties and therefore no one can become independent after an election. This means that an MP who wants to sever ties with his/her party has to resign from the party and leave the seat.
“You won’t be able to pick up what belongs to a party and walk away with it. This is even worse for those who believe in the free mandate,” he said.
Marlin said changing the system might not eliminate ship-jumping, but the proposal would certainly “remove the incentive” to do so.
Source: Daily Herald
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