Published On: Tue, Jan 14th, 2020

The impressive rise of the Party for Progress

Party for Progress - 20191121

PHILIPSBURG – In 2017 a group of “dynamic and forward-thinking St. Maarteners” – as the party describes this on its Facebook-page – came together and founded the Party for Progress. On January 9 it entered the parliamentary elections under the heading PFP with a list of just eight candidates, fewer than any of its six competitors. More than 1,400 voters answered the party’s call for change, catapulting party leader Melissa Gumbs and her number four candidate Raeyhon Peterson into the new parliament.

The electoral success of the PFP is mesmerizing in more than one way. It is, in recent history, the first new political party that managed to immediately grab two seats in parliament with numbers that must have impressed even the most critical observers.

Melissa Gumbs was the second highest vote-getter among party leaders with 559 votes, behind National Alliance’s Silveria Jacobs (753 votes), though Jacobs was outvoted by her fellow party member Jurendy Doran who won 843 votes.
The eventual winners of the election, National Alliance and United People’s party both fielded lists with many more candidates. The NA and the UP both had 23 candidates, the PFP just 8.

The average score per candidate was the highest for the NA with 204 votes, but the PFP outscored the UP in this comparison with 176 versus 140 votes. With a stretch of the imagination, one could argue that the outcome of these elections would have been different if the PFP had presented a list with 23 candidates as well. Theoretically it would have outvoted the UP with 4,048 versus 3,220 votes, so who knows what the future will hold for this new party.

Melissa Gumbs and her seven brothers and sisters in arms did not opt for public meetings like the established parties – gatherings that usually offer screaming candidates and thumping music. Instead, the PFP candidates went into the districts to talk not to but with the people who came out. It resembles the strategy that resulted in the rise of the Socialist Party in the Netherlands in its glory days.

All PFP-candidates score voting results in double digits, the lowest being 31 and the highest behind Gumbs being 219.

StMaartenNews Elections 2020 - Results per 8 Jan 2020 - Top 8 Vote Getters Each Party

Comparing the top-8 vote getters of all parties the PFP was doing extremely well. The top spot in this ranking is for the National Alliance (3,613 votes), followed by the UP (2,623), but the PFP is in a tie with the United St. Maarten party (USp), trailing just one vote behind the USp’s 1409.

De election poll published by stmaartennews.com did not see the success of the PFP coming. Participants in the poll gave the party just 6 percent and zero seats, but the PFP surprised everyone with a score of 11 percent and two seats.

StMaartenNews Poll Elections 2020 - Results per 8 Jan 2020

The poll was close to the mark with its prediction for the National Alliance (33 percent, 7 seats) whereas the party scored 35 percent and 6 seats. The poll was also close with its prediction for the United People’s party (23 percent and 4 seats); the UP won 24 percent of the vote and, indeed, 4 seats.