Published On: Wed, May 22nd, 2024

New elections will be held on July 18

PHILIPSBURG — It is a done deal: Governor Baly has signed the national decree to dissolve the Parliament based on Article 59 of the Constitution. New elections will be held on July 18.

When former Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs invoked article 59 in 2015 after his government had lost its majority in Parliament there was a heated debate about his right to do so. Constitutional experts at the time, among them Professor Arjen van Rijn, had a clear answer: “If the parliament hits, the government has the right to hit back.”

Once the national decree to dissolve parliament has been submitted to the Governor there are two options. The Governor can sign off on the decree or he can send it to the Kingdom for annulment. But the Governor has no authority to refuse signing the decree on his own. In the current situation this is obviously a moot point, since Governor Baly did sign the decree. Therefore, after the elections on January 11, the people will get the opportunity to express their preferences once more on July 18.

The dissolution of Parliament is the result of MP Kevin Maingrette’s, a candidate for the NOW-party, decision to jump ship and support the opposition parties UP and NA. It is unknown what these parties promised Maingrette for his support and with new elections around the corner this will probably always remain a mystery.

The twelfth government in just fourteen years

In 2015, Van Rijn wrote in an advice to former Prime Minister Gumbs that the government has the autonomous right to dissolve the Parliament and to call for new elections. The idea behind article 59 is that it will prevent parliament from sending the government home too easily, but that concept seems to be lost on rookie politicians like Maingrette. St. Maarten is now headed towards electing its twelfth(!) government in just fourteen years. In other words: since10-10-10 the country has had a new government every fourteen months, a negative record that is not doing anyone any good.

Whether this political dilly-dallying is good or bad for the country does not seem to concern politicians. One thing is certain: parliamentarians who lose their seat on July 18 get to enjoy redundancy pay for the next two years at the expense of the tax payers, unless they have already reached retirement age.

This system also exists in the Netherlands as the so-called ‘wachtgeldregeling.’ Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) wants to abolish this system and grant ousted politicians unemployment benefits, just like any other employee in the private sector. Such a measure will be tough to implement in St. Maarten since the system of unemployment benefits does not exist here.

The question on the minds of quite some people is now whether politicians will ever learn and understand the (financial) consequences of their actions. Former Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs was not optimistic about this back in 2015: “I appeal to everyone to read the law and live accordingly.” Elsewhere, Gumbs noted that “people in St. Maarten don’t read.” If that observation is correct it will be hard to debate the intricacies of the constitution in a meaningful way.

Recommended reading: Former PM William Marlin says Interim Cabinet can submit decree to call off elections


Related news:
National decree ‘Snap Elections’ published May 22, 2024
Governor on “current political developments”
Kevin Maingrette leaves 2×4 coalition
Governor Baly swears-in new MPs
Political Analysis: Article 59 Part II in the Context of Sint Maarten’s Political Climate
Michael Ferrier sharply criticizes Maingrette’s move
Opinion: “(In)stability”