Published On: Tue, Oct 1st, 2019

The thing with article 59

StMaartenNews EditorialIs there a cure for the seemingly never-ending battle between an obstinate parliament – that sends the government home – and an evenly stubborn Council of Ministers that reacts by invoking Article 59 of the Constitution and thereby dissolving the parliament and calling for new elections? The topic certainly has the attention of at least some citizens.

Antonio Aventurin for instance, opened this can of worms on his Facebook-page by suggesting two changes to Article 59.

Currently, this article says: 1. The parliament can be dissolved by national decree. 2. The decision to dissolve includes the obligation for a new election for the dissolved parliament and for the convening of the new parliament within three months. 3. The dissolution takes effect on the day the new parliament convenes.

Aventurin proposes a new sub 1 to article 59. It reads as follows: 1. The parliament can be dissolved under the following circumstances: a. At least three months before the end of the maximum legislative period as described in article 46.1; b. In case there is for a period longer than thirty days no majority of parliamentarians expressing their support for the government.

Aventurin’s post triggered so far – at the time of this writing – 45 reactions. Among them was a statement by Ed Gumbs who considers article 59 an adequate instrument. “I do not believe that it needs to be amended; it is more that the politicians need to be amended. And guess what: that is exactly what elections do.”

Oscar Moreno is of a different opinion” “If a majority in parliament is what determines the governing body, then the very last resort ought to be snap elections. The amendment in question is relevant and regulatory.”

Duncan van Heyningen also supports changing article 59. “It definitely needs to be changed. This constant dissolving of parliament as a go-to move by these prime ministers that have not been elected by the people (with the exception of William Marlin) is ridiculous, especially given the fact that a new majority already submitted their documents to the governor. The electorate isn’t helping much either by putting the same people in office every single election.”

Van Heyningen adds that he’ll be watching the elections from the sidelines. “Snap elections have not provided us with much of a clear alternative and stable broad based government in the past so I am not getting my hopes up high for that to happen this time around. The political immaturity and big egos have prevented the possibility of a 13-seat majority from the onset of the new status.”

Sjaoel Shooz Richardson notes that the article is not the problem: the jurisprudence is. “We want to (partially) take over a system and not its precedence. All these laws are open to interpretation and can be (ab)used at will. The two most significant causes for our issues are not following the (juris)prudence and precedence that are the basis of the Dutch constitution and the lack of clear party philosophies to which voters and politicians can align to or distance themselves from. Any other type of (over)regulation will limit the democratic principle of freedom of speech.”

Arthur Bute wonders why people keep saying that the prime minister was not elected by the people. “The MPs have to be elected; the ministers are appointed by approval of the majority of parliament. In our system most of the time the party leader becomes prime minister, just like in other parts of the kingdom. With us party leaders and others cannot pass the screening. What do you expect? You have to pick John and Jane Doe.”

Louis Brown suggests a further going alternative. “Maybe we should consider a true trias politicas and not just refer to it out of convenience. Elect parliament and elect government.”

Don Liburd: “We changed a few things in the island council and screw up the constitution big time. We try to do it again.”

Outgoing Minister Plenipotentiary Jorien Wuite notes that critical subjects ask for an “active, open and public debate” with expert speakers and panelists. “Non-partisan debates contribute to more involvement of our society which in turn helps to shape and redesign our democratic foundation and principles.”

To which Antonio Aventurin replied: “Let’s hope that such a debate will start soon and result in meaningful change.”

“Organize it?” Wuite asked.

Aventurin: “Let me think about it.”

This led stmaartennews.com publisher Terrance Rey to add his input: “You all organize it; I will promote it.”