Published On: Thu, Oct 3rd, 2019

Governor signs amendment decree to dissolve Parliament and call early elections 2020

Philipsburg - Capital of Dutch St. Maarten

Harbour View – On October 3, 2019, His Excellency the Governor of Sint Maarten, drs. E.B. Holiday, received a draft national decree from the Council of Ministers regulating the amendment of the decree of September 23, 2019, to dissolve Parliament and call early elections.

This is the result of the decision of the members of the Central Voting Bureau, given their concerns raised, to make their positions available by letter of October 1, 2019. Within the Kingdom of the Netherlands there is a basic democratic principle that once elections are called it cannot be revoked. A decree calling for elections and dissolving parliament within the constitutionally prescribed 3 months can therefore only be amended under exceptional circumstances. With the resignation of the Central Voting Bureau, making it impossible to organize elections within the time frame of the decree of September 23, 2019, such an exceptional circumstance has occurred.

Governor signs amended national decree

The Governor, after evaluation of the amended draft national decree and taking the new circumstances into account, signed the national decree which calls for postulation on Thursday, November 21, 2019, early elections on Thursday, January 9, 2020, and the dissolution of Parliament on Monday, February 10, 2020. The amended decree enters into force immediately.

According to an earlier report, the Council of Ministers had been preparing a third national decree that invokes article 59 of the Constitution, thus dissolving Parliament and calling for elections. This new decree contained dates that respect articles laid down in the constitution, the electoral law and the national ordinance registration and finances political parties.

What exactly had happened?

Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin said at the Council of Ministers press briefing on Wednesday that the first (draft) national decree to invoke article 59 had been put together after consultation with the Electoral Council and the Central Voting Bureau.

This draft decree set the date for dissolving parliament at February 18, 2020, for nomination day at November 26 and for the elections at Monday, January 13, 2020.

The Council of Ministers submitted this draft decree to Governor Drs. Eugène Holiday on September 23.

“The governor took the decree into consideration and advised the Council of Ministers,” Romeo-Marlin said. On the same day, a new decree was submitted, taking into account the governor’s counsel. This is the decree the governor refers to in his press release.”

On September 25 the Council of Ministers sent the decree to the Central Voting Bureau which immediately raised objections against the dates on the same day. This is because the second decree set the date for dissolving the parliament at December 23, nomination day at October 2 and the date for the elections at November 25. The governor signed this decree, together with vice Prime Minister Wycliffe Smith. The Central Voting Bureau concluded that these dates made it impossible to follow the law; all members resigned.

The Council of Ministers also received a letter from Melissa Gumbs’ Party for Progress, complaining that the dates laid down in the dissolution decree made it impossible for her to register her party for the November-elections. Gumbs wrote that this comes down to a violation of the European convention on human rights.

Central Voting Bureau members reconsider

Romeo-Marlin had said that the third decree will address all issues and added that the new dates will be made public as soon as possible. Based on that report, the members of the Central Voting Bureau have reconsidered their positions now that a new date for elections would be set. In a statement to StMaartenNews.com chairman Jason Rogers wrote: “We were asked if we would reconsider if the new dates would be in accordance with the law. We said our ground for resigning was due to infringement of the law and if those infringements are removed, then we would reconsider.”

Conclusion: electoral reform a national priority

The decision of Government to amend the national decree of September 23, 2019, follows considerable debate and disagreement within the community. Having reviewed the situation Governor Holiday, in keeping with earlier calls, strongly urges all involved – Parliament, Government, the Central Voting Bureau and the Electoral Council, each within their area of responsibility – to work together to take immediate steps to introduce electoral reform. Such reform should be a national priority to bring the National Ordinance on Registration and Finances of Political Parties and the Election Ordinance in line with the Constitution. This needs to be urgently addressed to once and for all bring an end to the unnecessary and recurring problems surrounding national decrees to organize early elections.

Going forward, Governor Holiday appeals to all involved to join forces and work to address the challenges our country faces.

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