Published On: Sun, Jan 14th, 2024

The old normal

By Hilbert Haar

Nothing surprises me anymore about politics in St. Maarten so the coalition-agreement the URSM signed with the DP, NOW and PFP did not come like a bat out of hell either.

The four parties have eight seats and therefore a parliamentary majority. I have no argument with that. But when I think about the process, I think that there is something very wrong. Why?

Under normal circumstances, the winner of the elections, in this case the National Alliance (NA), gets to propose the appointment of an informateur to the Governor. This character is something like a scout, one who investigates how the cards lay in the political arena. When his work is done, the Governor appoints a formateur. That is the one who will examine which parties are willing to form a government.

This person will first look at combinations that honor the result of the elections by giving the winner first choice. Is the NA willing to step into a cabinet with the United People’s party (UP) and with one of the four two-seat parties? Are those parties willing to give the NA the lead in a new government? If one of these options succeeds, you have a new government. If it fails, the formateur will look at combinations that include the party that finished second (the UP) in combination with other parties.

That would become quite a puzzle, since the UP only has three seats and it therefore needs at least five more for a majority. It could be a combination with the NA and one of the smaller parties, or a deal with at least three of the smaller parties. Complicated but not impossible.

This would be the formally correct procedure to follow. Politicians in St. Maarten don’t give a rat’s behind about being formally correct.

Luc Mercelina (URSM) Sarah Wescot-Williams (DP), Christophe Emmanuel (NOW) and Melissa Gumbs (PFP) quickly came together and closed a deal. It did not even take two days after the elections to get that far.

The NA and the UP are left out in the cold. Is that fair? Politics is not about being fair. It is about being realistic. And the reality is that the four parties that found each other have a slim majority of eight in the 15-seat parliament. That’s enough to thumb their noses at the NA and the UP.

The question is now what kind of governing program will give direction to this new government. Making a coalition deal is one thing, getting on the same page for a governing program is something else. Until such a program is there, I’ll hold my horses with an opinion about this four-party government.

One thing I know for sure. From day one, the NA and the UP will attempt to bring that government down. They need just two coalition MPs to declare themselves independent and boom, the collation-majority is history, and politics is once more in disarray.

Whether such attempts will be successful remains to be seen, but history suggests that the odds are in favor of such a scenario. The ship jumpers will soon come out of the woodwork and turn the political balance of power upside down.

Is that fair? You tell me. I figure that politics is about power and that the parties that are now seemingly defeated will do whatever it takes to get it back.

In the meantime, get used to the old normal and the way politics is practiced in St. Maarten.