Published On: Mon, Sep 23rd, 2019

Political chaos is complete

Parliament meeting

PHILIPSBURG – The chaos is complete in St. Maarten’s political arena after two United Democrats MPs – Luc Mercelina and Chanel Brownbill – withdrew their support for the UD/St. Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) coalition government, and declared themselves independent, thereby following the example set by UD-stalwart Franklin Meyers a few weeks earlier.

The Council of Minister has in the meantime voted for invoking article 59 of the Constitution to dissolve the Parliament and to call new elections. Only newly appointed VROMI-Minister Chris Wever voted against this decision. The National Alliance and the United St. Maarten party issued press statements that they are ready to form a new government with the support of Mercelina and Brownbill – a coalition of nine members.

But while all this plays out in the media, Parliament has yet to adopt a motion of no confidence against the Romeo-Marlin government.

Whatever happens next – it is now up to Governor Holiday to either accept the article 59 initiative of the government or to allow the new majority to grab power – St. Maarten is heading for its ninth government in nine years. Whether the Kingdom will jump in by invoking article 43 of the Kingdom Charter that makes it responsible for good governance on the island remains an open question.

Political instability has become a fact of life in St. Maarten. Since the first government of the country took office on October 10, 2010, 3,350 days have gone by up to September 22, 2019. During this period the island has seen eight different governments with five different prime ministers take office. That puts the average lifetime of a government so far at 419 days, or just 14 months.

MP Sarah Wescot-Williams, then leader of the Democratic Party, led the first three governments as prime minister between 10-10-10 and December 12, 2014. Marcel Gumbs was in office after her until October 28, 2015, before William Marlin succeeded him on November 19, 2015 until his forced departure on November 2, 2017. Leona Marlin-Romeo first led an interim government from January 15, 2018 until the day before the elections on February 26 of that year; her reign now seems to have ended on September 22, or on an undetermined date shortly after that.

If a new government led by the National Alliance takes office it will find itself in an awkward position from the get go. After all the National Alliance voted against the establishment of the Integrity Chamber that is now getting close to become operational. The same party also vigorously opposed the conditions the kingdom demanded in exchange for funding the island’s recovery efforts after Hurricane Irma.

Nevertheless, the National Alliance said in a press statement that the new majority “is looking forward to working with our kingdom partners on the basis of mutual respect and positive results for our people.” The press statement mentions “the turmoil caused by MP Franklin Meyers going independent” as the reason for forming a broader coalition. The party “hopes that the governor will appoint a formateur (to be charged with the formation of a new government – ed.) soon.”

MP Chanel Brownbill who switched from the United St. Maarten party to the United Democrats before the 2018 elections has now turned his back on the UD and declared himself independent. “The differences within my former party are irreconcilable and uncertainty could in theory continue in perpetuity,” Brownbill, who was sentenced last year for tax fraud to 18 months in prison with 15 months suspended, said in a press statement.

Rookie MP Luc Mercelina also declared himself independent, citing a whole list of reasons: from the “accelerated level of poverty since Hurricane Irma, the situation at the landfill and the lack of affordable housing to the state of the roof repair project, the reconstruction of the airport and “the lack of control over the influx of undocumented people.”

StMaartenNews.com will be bringing you an analysis of the political developments in a later publication today. In the meantime, both chairs of parliament have submitted their resignations with immediate effect. See the related stories below.

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Related stories:
Both Chairs of Parliament resign effective immediately
MP Mercelina: “Country is in a political vacuum”; goes independent
MP Chanel Brownbill declares himself independent
NA and USp forms broader base coalition
Chairs of Parliament both resign effective immediately