Published On: Wed, Oct 2nd, 2019

Central Voting Bureau resignation puts elections on ice

Jason Rogers Main Voting Bureau

Philipsburg – Now that all members of the Central Voting Bureau have resigned, the interim elections are in jeopardy and it is at this moment uncertain when they will be able to take place in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations.

Under the current legislation it seems a mission impossible, because stipulations in the Constitution –that the new parliament has to take office within three months after the decree to dissolve parliament has been published in the National Gazette – conflict with other requirements from the electoral law and the national ordinance registration and finances political parties.

Jason Rogers - AttorneyCentral Voting Bureau chairman Jason Rogers admits in the resignation letter to outgoing prime minister Leona Romeo-Marlin that the constitution is “of a higher hierarchical order than the electoral ordinance. “But the right to nominate oneself on a list of choice – which includes on a new list or on an existing list that has been deregistered and would now like to reregister – is also a constitutional right.”

The conflict between the different pieces of legislation cannot come as a surprise because the same issue came up in the run-up to the 2016 elections. In that case, the elections were postponed – which seems the only possible solution to the current situation. In the interim the government has not taken any steps to align the electoral ordinance and the ordinance registration and finances political parties with the constitution.

Governor Holiday has instructed formateur MP Silveria Jacobs – tasked with the formation of an interim government – to put together a team of ministers that is willing to implement electoral reform that will align the election-related legislation. The governor’s instruction mentions especially the amendment of the electoral law and the ordinance registration and finances political parties.

So what is the time line the government has to take into account with the current legislation in place? First of all, the new members of the Central Voting Bureau must be appointed 30 days before nomination day. The government could also ask the members that have now resigned to reconsider their decision with the promise that the date of the elections will be moved to a date that makes it possible to respect all stipulations in the current legislation.

In that scenario, the date for nominating candidates for the elections remains the first hurdle; registering a political party with the Electoral Council must take place at least six weeks before nomination day. This means that if the government decides to postpone the elections and it convinces the Central Voting Bureau members to stay on board, nomination day cannot be put on the agenda earlier than November 19. This requires a postponement decision before October 9.

Election date in theory

The date of November 19 would make February 7, 2020, the earliest possible date for new elections. But otherwise everything would fall in place. The voters registry can close 30 days before nomination day (October 20), the Central Voting Bureau can announce date and place for nomination day three weeks beforehand (October 29) and party colors can be decided a fortnight before nomination day (November 5).

But in that other scenario – whereby the government does not announce an adequate postponement of the elections everything will be up in the air. Then the process for recruiting new members of the Central Voting Bureau will have to be put in motion. This process involves vetting candidates, the preparation of national decrees and the ratification of these decrees by the governor. The time required to complete this process is uncertain.


Related article:
Opinion piece by Hilbert Haar: “Playing by the rules
Council of Ministers takes decision to postpone Postulation Day