Published On: Tue, May 21st, 2024


By Hilbert Haar

Back in the day, I do not exactly remember the year, the Democratic Party came up with a lofty election slogan: Country above self. This may seem logical to well-meaning citizens but it is badly understood by at least some politicians.

The four-party coalition government of Dr. Luc Mercelina has not even had the opportunity to do anything wrong or the first ship jumper reported to the front line: MP Kevin Maingrette, a former member and candidate of the United People’s party (UP) and during the last elections a member of NOW (Nation, Opportunity, Wealth).

Maingrette cites his objective for stability, something St. Maarten sorely needs, as the reason for his move. That is not the issue here. The issue is that politicians who create instability in the first place by pulling the plug on a government they just joined, now suddenly want people to believe that their desire for stability is their main reason for, well, creating instability.

At the moment of this writing I do not know whether Prime Minister Mercelina will take the bold step to dissolve the parliament (based on article 59 of the constitution) and thereby forcing new elections. If it were up to me, I would do it in a heartbeat, but what the near future holds is currently unclear.

It is however clear, based on historical data (so I am not making this up) that ship jumpers seldom do well in elections they brought upon themselves. Most ship jumpers have lost their seat in parliament in the past, never to be heard of again.

If MP Mercelina does not fall back on article 59, the damages to the country will be limited. Sure, all the freshly appointed ministers will enjoy two years of redundancy pay, but the parliament as such will remain what it is, be it with a different majority.

If Maingrette had offered a believable argument for his decision to get out of the four-party coalition, it would have been tough to argue with his decision. That is not the case here. Maingrette cites “prolonged instability, lack of effective leadership and lack of transparency” as the reasons for his decision, without mentioning a single example.

It is therefore not surprising that quite some people think that this decision stinks. Former Minister of Finance Michael Ferrier certainly is one of them, but as long as Maingrette does not offer any truthful transparency himself it is tough to make a judgment call.

Whatever the true reasons may be, the result is the same: instability, a condition politicians and citizens are all too familiar with.

My opinion? Instability is here to stay, so we might as well get used to it. Maingrette’s motives could become clear over time, for instance if he lands a cozy job in a UP/NA/Maingrette government. That somebody promised him something seems rather clear to me, even though I have to admit: I have no hard evidence to support my way of thinking.

Therefore, for the time being there is little else to do than await the short-term future developments. If MP Mercelina dissolves the parliament, it is almost certain that Maingrette will lose his seat. If the prime minister does not do that, the current opposition parties will form a new government, while citizens are holding their breath, waiting for the next ship jumper.