Published On: Thu, Jan 11th, 2018


On February 26, 2018, a “snap” election will take place. Voters are called to cast their vote to elect 15 Parliamentarians.

According to the Constitution of St. Maarten, Parliament has the task to approve concept laws of the Council of Ministers (ARTICLE 83); can also propose laws (ARTICLE 85); amend laws; pose questions to government (Council of Ministers) (ARTICLE 62); and can start inquiries (ARTICLE 64).

A member of Parliament cannot be in Parliament and be a Minister at the same time. Article 33 of the Constitution of St. Maarten states that ministers are appointed and dismissed by National Decree. This means an act of government (Council of Ministers), not Parliament.

After the election of the members of Parliament, the formation of a new cabinet, or better yet government or Council of Ministers, starts.

The formation takes place following unwritten procedural rules. Fulfilling his own specific task, the Governor seeks advice from mostly the Faction leaders of the political parties, the Vice Chair of the Council of Advice and the Chair of Parliament, or whoever else he finds relevant to the process.

When a party wins eight seats outright there is no need to form a coalition and the procedures to form government and appoint ministers take place without having to go through the informateur and formateur phases as will be explained below.

When no party wins an outright majority, presently eight seats in Parliament, the Governor can appoint an “Informateur”, who is charged to find out which parties are willing to work together and form a coalition. This phase is usually a formality as parties have already decided to form a coalition as soon as the last votes are counted.

The Governor then appoints a “Formateur”, who usually is the leader of the party who has won the most seats in the election; his main task is to find out which party will get which portfolio and who will be proposed to be a Minister. The “Formateur” is the person who will most likely become the Prime Minister.

Starting the formation process before the appointment of an “Informateur” takes away from the possibility to inquire beforehand what the parties stand for, what are the common goals for the country  and if they can really work together during the coming governing period.

After this selection process, the prospective Ministers need to go through a screening process.

The persons will be screened to see if anyone has a criminal record, if a criminal offense has been charged against that person, if his/her taxes or of their company are paid and other potential security matters. Very important for passing the screening test is not having any integrity issues. If a person does not pass the screening that person will not be appointed as a minister.

The formation concludes with two National Decrees: The first one where the incoming Prime minister will be co-responsible for dismissing the caretaker-ministers and appointing him or herself in the position of Prime Minister. In the second decree the new Prime Minister appoints the other new ministers (See article 40 of the Constitution.)

Dismissal of Ministers.

St. Maarten has a Parliamentary system of governing. That means Ministers are accountable to Parliament. If Parliament does not have confidence in any minister or the entire cabinet of Ministers, the members of Parliament can cast a vote of non-confidence against a minister or the cabinet. On the grounds of article 33, paragraph 2, of the Constitution, the minister or the whole cabinet should make their position available soonest. The Governor can then ask the cabinet, the ministers, to stay on until the new cabinet is formed. Upon the request of the Governor, the ministers and the cabinet become “a Caretaker Cabinet” (“demissionair”). The status of a caretaker Cabinet means that only ‘current affairs’ are handled, and that controversial or new issues are not handled. The new Prime Minister will then sign the dismissal of the outgoing ministers (The Caretaker Cabinet).


  • As government (Council of Ministers) are appointed and dismissed by national decree, an act of Government and NOT Parliament, can Parliament “send home” a minister or an entire Council of Ministers? Article 33 sub 2 of the Constitution states, the minister should make his position available.
  • The Constitution does not state what is the governing period of the Council of Ministers or if the governing period of the Council of Ministers is equal to that of Parliament, namely four years.
  • Are the screening guidelines recorded in a national ordinance?