Published On: Sat, May 25th, 2024

Interim elections: “A dilemma about fundamental values”

PHILIPSBURG — No elections on July 19, as the outgoing government has proposed, but on Monday, August 19. That is the proposal of the Central Voting Bureau. Its chairlady Natalie Tackling expressed concerns about the timeline proposed by the government in a letter dated May 23. It is currently unclear whether the date for the interim elections will be changed.

The problems with interim-elections that take place after the government dissolves the parliament are not new. There is a longstanding conflict between article 59 of the constitution and regulations established in the national ordinance registration and finances political parties and the election ordinance.

The Central Voting Bureau asked legal advice from constitutional expert Prof. Dr. Arjen van Rijn who concludes that exceeding the 3-month term established in the constitution is acceptable: “It is of the utmost importance that the legitimacy of the newly elected parliament is beyond any doubt. This effect is longer lasting and carries more weight than a limited overstepping of the 3-months term.”

Article 59.2 of the constitution dictates that, after the dissolution of parliament, the new parliament must be seated within three months. This rule conflicts with several articles of the national ordinance registration and finances political parties and the electoral ordinance.

The national decree signed by Governor Baly sets postulation day for May 31, election day for July 18 and the assembly of the new parliament at August 19.

These dates make it impossible for new political parties to register. The Central Voting Bureau maintains that this is untenable and detrimental to the democratic process.

The Bureau also brings a practical problem to the table: the police force has indicated that it will encounter logistical and operational challenges in July due to the vacation period. It requires “critical support and additional financial resources” to enable it to do a proper job in July.

The civil registry will also encounter challenges because it will be understaffed if elections are held in July.

The Central Voting Bureau points out that the discrepancy between article 59 of the constitution and election laws stem from “legislative oversight.” Extending the 3-month term mentioned in the constitution or amending election laws falls outside the authority of the Bureau, the letter states.

The Bureau proposes a different timeline: closure of the voter registry on June 3, deadline for registering political parties June 17, postulation day on July 2, elections on August 19 and seating of the new parliament on September 20.

In his advice Prof. Van Rijn reveals the position of Governor Baly who held that article 59 of the constitution prevails because the constitution ranks higher than national ordinances. Van Rijn speaks of “a dilemma about fundamental values.”

Van Rijn acknowledges that the 3-month term aims to prevent that dissolution is used to sideline the parliament and to create a democratic vacuum. “Constitutionally a pure solution is not possible,” he states. “The 3-month term in the constitution is compelling. If the legally prescribed election procedure, as regulated in national ordinances, cannot be completed within three months it violates the constitution.”

Van Rijn states that shortening the terms for the election procedure to stay within the three month time limit “is incompatible with voting rights that are guaranteed in treaties. Exceeding the 3-month term with two months outweighs violations of the legally prescribed election procedure.”

Van Rijn points out that the dissolution of parliament has already happened three times in the past, combined with exceeding the three-month term. “Cabinets and the Governor were prepared to take responsibility for this and there were no repercussions.”

Van Rijn states that abiding by the 3-month term results in not abiding by the election procedure. “This results in an unacceptable limitation of passive voting rights and it justifies exceeding the 3-month term.”

He furthermore states that it is up to the government to take a decision about exceeding the 3-month term.”The governor does not have an independent authority on this issue. “He is free to advise, warn and encourage, but the ministers decide. Deleting, deviating and shortening the election procedure to stay within the 3-month term are incompatible with voting rights that are guaranteed in treaties.”

The legislator could solve the problem by extending the 3-month term in the constitution or by regulating a different election procedure that fits within the 3-month term of article 59.2 of the constitution.

“It is not possible to create a solution without stepping outside the legal framework,” Van Rijn observes, adding that the interest of an as pure as possible election procedure has to carry the most weight.


Related news:
Letter + Advice Prof. A. Van Rijn to PM Mercelina
New elections will be held on July 18
Governor on “current political developments”