Published On: Thu, Jul 7th, 2022

Prime Minister Jacobs not concerned: “I think we still have a majority”

PHILIPSBURG — The National Alliance-United People’s party governing coalition continues discussions with members of parliament about their willingness to leave the opposition benches. But Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs declined to comment on these developments during Wednesday’s Council of Ministers press briefing.

Asked whether she supported the addition of MPs Akeem Arrindell (independent) and Chanel Brownbill (United St. Maarten party substitute for suspended MP Claudius Buncamper) to join the coalition, Jacobs only conceded that there are “discussions with MPs” but that these talks have not been finalized. “And as long as they are not finalized, I will not say anything further on this topic,” she said.

The governing coalition was caught off guard when National Alliance MP Ludmila Duncan declared herself independent, thereby reducing the formal majority of the coalition to just one seat.

Prime Minister Jacobs did not seem too concerned about this. “MP Duncan has indicated that she will support anything that is good for the country, so I think we still have a majority,” she said.

Journalist Ralph Cantave pointed to the “minimal contribution in parliament” of MPs Arrindell and Brownbill and further labeled Brownbill as a “deputy-MP.”

The perceived status of MP Brownbill as a ‘deputy-MP’ has raised many questions. The constitution (staatsregeling) does not mention the term deputy for a parliamentarian that replaces a suspended member of parliament. Article 50.3 only states that a suspended MP will be “taken over” (waargenomen). “The one who stands in for the suspended MP or the one who replaces the MP that has lost his membership, steps down at the same time as the other members of parliament.”

The constitution does not specify that a stand-in like MP Brownbill has a status that differs from that of other parliamentarians.

Brownbill is no stranger to political upheaval. In 2019 he left the faction of the United Democrats (together with MP Luc Mercelina) to bring down the government. Brownbill subsequently joined the United St. Maarten party (USp) and Mercelina joined the United People’s Party (UPP), but failed to win a seat in the January 2020 elections.

Joining the NA-UP coalition would reunite Brownbill, who was sentenced for tax fraud in 2018, with a party that he helped into power three years ago.

In the 2020 elections, Brownbill won 224 votes as a candidate for the USp, behind the now suspended MP Claudius Buncamper (301 votes); Arrindell won 229 votes for the same party. USp-founder Frans Richardson (212 votes) lost his seat in parliament that year. In 2018, Brownbill was a candidate for United Democrats, a short-lived fusion of the Democratic Party and the United People’s party.

Given this political history it is not surprising that the coalition focuses on Arrindell and Brownbill as potential candidates to strengthen their position. The question remains, as usual, which price NA and UP will have to pay for their support.