Published On: Tue, Oct 26th, 2021

Arrindell wants more action from Electoral Reform committee

PHILIPSBURG – The parliamentary ad-hoc committee Electoral Reform has to become more active ahead of the elections that are scheduled for 2024, Gracita Arrindell, leader of the extra-parliamentary political party People’s Progressive Alliance (PPA) says in a press statement.

The ad-hoc committee consists of ten members of parliament: four from the National Alliance (MPs Duncan, Marlin, Pantophlet and Roumou), two from the United People’s party (MPs Bijlani and Heyliger-Marten), two from the Party for Progress (MPs Gumbs and Peterson), and one each from the United St. Maarten party (MP Buncamper) and the Democratic Party (MP Wescot-Williams).

Since its inception, the ad-hoc committee has met four times. Twice (on November 4, 2019 and on March 5, 2020) to appoint a chairman and a vice-chairman, once (on November 7, 2019) to establish the terms of reference for electoral reform and once (on May 27, 2020) to discuss electoral reform and severance pay.

PPA-leader Arrindell, who won 102 of her party’s 326 votes during the January 2020 elections, mentions five issues that require urgent action.

Firstly, she suggests reviewing the current election ordinance as it relates to MPs who declare themselves independent. This review should be based on the proposal by political analyst Julian Romney.

Already in November 2015, Romney presented his ideas about electoral reform to parliament. He proposed, for instance to ban MPs from declaring themselves independent from the party for which they were elected.

Arrindell also wants equal access to the voters registry restored for eligible political parties, improve privacy for voters who sign the list to support a party, to reimburse registration fees to parties that do not manage to win a seat and to establish voting rights for students in the Netherlands.

Arrindell points out that the minister of General Affairs (currently Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs) is “charged with the proper maintenance of the registry” and that this position would give her an advantage over other political parties if she is a candidate in an election. The voters registry contains the names and addresses of eligible voters.

If other parties do not get access to the registry, this violates the equality-principle, Arrindell argues. Previously, parties would get a copy of the registry, first in hard copy and later on a compact disk.

Currently the Election Ordinance does not contain an option to release the complete registry upon request to third parties. Article 8 of the ordinance states that the Minister of General Affairs is required “to provide all members of the public with information in the electoral register from which they can determine whether they or another person, provided that they are authorized for that purpose, are correctly recorded in the register.”

The PPA-leader furthermore calls for improved privacy on the day voters come to sign a list to support new political parties. Parties that do not already have a seat in parliament, require the support of 1 percent of the votes cast during previous elections to make them eligible for participation in an election. (In 2020 23,106 votes were cast so a new party would require the support of 231 voters).

These supporters have to come to the census office to provide their signature. In the past people have been “uncomfortable with the fact that others could see which party list they signed,” Arrindell states.

Parties have to deposit 2,000 guilders (around $1,117) when they submit their list. This money will be returned to them after the elections, unless the list is declared invalid or if the list did not win enough votes to match or exceed the electoral quota that is required to win at least one seat.

“Political parties not acquiring a seat should be reimbursed,” Arrindell states in her press release, but it remains unclear what should then be done with those funds: “This reimbursement must go towards for example retirement of election-party debts and be registered at the Electoral Council for transparency’s sake.”

Parties that won one or more seats (and therefore get their money back under the current legislation) should make those funds available to the treasury, Arrindell states. “This is fair. After all, elected members move on to collect a full salary.”

The PPA-leader also calls once more for giving St. Maarten’s students who reside in the Netherlands the right to vote. Currently, these students are required to deregister from the census office and re-register at the municipality where they reside in the Netherlands. “Hundreds of students residing temporarily in the Netherlands must be able to have a say in their future,” Arrindell states.

She urges the minister of general affairs “to facilitate and formalize the voting rights of our students in the Netherlands.”

Above all, Arrindell wants the parliamentary ad-hoc committee Electoral Reform to “get off the slow-mode,” adding that “the time is now to debate and make the necessary changes to improve the integrity and transparency in our electoral and constitutional processes.”