Published On: Sun, Jan 12th, 2020

Instability is here to stay

NA-UP sign coalition - 11 Jan 2020By Hilbert Haar

Based on results, issues like integrity and transparency do not appeal to our electorate. The United Democrats and the St. Maarten Christian Party campaigned on these issues and look where it got them. The SMCP lost its seat and the UD barely managed to hang on to its lone seat in parliament.

But, as the saying goes, the people have spoken and they will now get the government they deserve.

The coalition of the National Alliance with the United People’s party looks on the surface stable enough: together they occupy ten seats in our fifteen-seat parliament. That’s enough to bring about changes to the constitution if they had an appetite for it.

However, the first crack in this ten-seat majority has already surfaced before the parties have named their candidates for positions in the new Council of Ministers: a missing signature on the coalition agreement.

National Alliance MP Christophe Emmanuel has expressed his dissatisfaction with his party’s decision to get into bed with the UP by not signing the agreement. He seems now a prime candidate for going independent after the new parliament has been installed.

And there is a second potential cloud hanging over the rather unique political marriage between two parties that have been unable to see eye to eye for years. That would be the position of current interim Minister of Justice Egbert Jurendy Doran.

You’d think the guy has some clout now that he won more votes than party leader Silveria Jacobs: 843 versus 753. But word on the street is that the NA intends to bring in Roland Duncan as its Minister of Justice. That would send Doran back to parliament, unless of course Jacobs steps aside and lets him take on the role of Prime Minister – and unlikely scenario.

Keep in mind that the average lifetime of a coalition government since 2010 is around 14 months. Statistically, the next government is destined to fall towards the end of the summer of 2021. Party leader Silveria Jacobs will have a full time job keeping her team on the same page; the NA can survive the loss of two MPs but that’s really the limit and it does not take into account the likelihood of one of the new UP-MPs to join potential ship jumpers in a desperate grab for power.

The stability of any coalition in St. Maarten is something like an eternal question mark. I once told UD-leader Sarah Wescot-Williams – if I remember correctly after the fall of her first cabinet – “instability is here to stay.” Looking back over the past decade I have to conclude that – unfortunately – I was right and I see little reason why this will change for the better in the near future.

Not that many local politicians care about this, but the election results were received with some dismay in the Netherlands. A report in the Volkskrant expressed concerns – with a reference to former Prime Minister William Marlin’s dispute with the Netherlands in the wake of Hurricane Irma – that the new government would be hostile to relations with The Hague.

That may be a premature observation – but the thought has been put out there. It is up to Jacobs and her fellow coalition members to put that concern to rest.


Related articles:
NA-UP sign coalition agreement to form the next government of St. Maarten
Emmanuel does not sign NA-UP coalition agreement
Opinion piece: Instability is here to stay (published Feb. 13, 2018)