Published On: Thu, Feb 10th, 2022

The trouble with dualism in St. Maarten (and in the Netherlands)

PHILIPSBURG — When St. Maarten became an autonomous country in the kingdom of the Netherlands on October 10, 2010, the Island Council disappeared and was replaced by the Parliament as we know it today. The date of 10-10-10 therefore marks the switch from a monistic to a dualistic political system. Was that an improvement and does it function as it is supposed to work? That’s debatable.

Sjaoel Richardson started the debate about St. Maarten’s dualistic system with a post on Facebook this week. “In sweet sxm you see MPs and ministers shoulder to shoulder defending political moves and strategies, both on executive and legislative level. The line between the legislative and executive branch is getting blurred more every day and the trias politica is more than ever in danger.”

The question is, as Richardson puts it, whether our politicians simply don’t know (that there is supposed to be a separation of powers) or that they are willfully trampling on our system of checks and balances.

In the monistic Island Council system, commissioners were also members of the Island Council – the executive and the legislative branch were one. In today’s dualistic system ministers cannot also be members of parliament.

The definition of dualistic systems is simple: the government governs and the parliament controls. But that situation only occurs in an ideal world that does not exist in St. Maarten and that has at times proven to be illusionary in the Netherlands as well.

In the Dutch system, only the judicial power is truly independent. As far as legislation is concerned, there is no strict separation between the executive and legislative powers. The government executes policy, but government and parliament have a shared legislative responsibility.

Dualism is under pressure in the Netherlands, especially for coalition partners because these factions are bound by the governing accord. What does not help either is that ministers quite often have strong personal ties with parliamentarians because they know them from their party or from their own past as members of parliament. It is not difficult to accept that these ties are even stronger in a small community like St. Maarten.

Dutch politics also knows the concept of faction discipline. This is the ability of faction leaders to keep a grip on the voting behavior of their faction members. Back in the eighties of last century, the CDA-faction struggled with a number of dissidents: faction member who were radically opposed to the party line and the government position on issues like nuclear missiles and apartheid in South Africa.

MP Raeyhon Peterson joined the Facebook discussion with a simple statement about the way ministers and parliamentarians work together: “Collusion is what it is.”

Khalil Revan, a candidate for the United St. Maarten party in the 2020 elections agreed: “Time and again we see (….) sentiments of collusion between this MP (a reference to MP Rolando Brison) and particular members of the Council of Ministers.”

Attorney Aernout Kraaijeveld referred to an article in Trouw written by Bob van den Bos, a former senator and parliamentarian for D66. “Dualism should not become an objective by itself,” Van den Bos wrote. “Government and parliament are both legislators. One cannot do without the other.”

Van den Bos points out that three of the four party-leaders are now members of the Rutte-government. “Often members of coalition factions will not be able to get away from defending ‘their’ ministers in public. A new political culture must include that all factions show genuine preparedness to listen to each other, without an unbridled urge to profile themselves.”

Van den Bos closes with a clear warning: “Promises about dualism you cannot live up to, undermine the democratic legitimacy that the new cabinet so sorely needs.”

Marie Louise offers a realistic perspective on how dualism works in St. Maarten. “Come on. It is difficult for any system to work in sxm, seeing the close family and fren fren ties we have. Take a good look at the coalition MPs, the Council of Ministers and the boards of government-owned companies. What do you see? “Family, friends, dependents and indebted loyalists over ambition, character, quality, qualification, professionalism and experience.”


Follow the Facebook discussion on dualism online here>>>