St. Maarten voters will make a third consecutive early return to the polls today, having already done so in 2016 and 2018. Monday’s call by Member of Parliament (MP) and National Alliance (NA) candidate Rodolphe Samuel to announce “crystal clear” rules on the expected behaviour at polling stations was not specifically answered up to Wednesday evening.
At the end of November Justice Minister Egbert Doran issued some guidelines for the campaign based on existing legislation including the General Police Ordinance. However, these did not address the Election Day situation itself.
Things were different in August 2016, when the Justice Ministry stated that the customary campaigning in front of polling stations for the September vote had been moved back by 50 to 200 metres, up from the 150-metre limit set for the preceding election in 2014. But within 24 hours, due to practical reasons, this was changed to “not in the immediate area” to be “left to the judgement of the police, in the interest of public order.”
International observers for the 2018 elections in their recommendations nevertheless mentioned – among other things – evaluating the 200-metre principle they found to be “applied extremely strictly” occasionally. The question thus arises which of these distances is now in effect.
Speaking of observers, a lot has been said of late about the current interim government not inviting any from elsewhere this time around primarily because it costs money and is not considered necessary. Some have claimed that the Netherlands was willing to pay for its own participation, but there has been no confirmation of such concrete offer.
Fact is that the observers, including Dutch Members of Parliament (MPs) two years ago, did not experience any major issues or incidents. They did suggest a straightforward policy on taking pictures of filled-in ballots that can later be used as “invoices” in case of vote-buying, on which there has been no official word since.
The Prosecutor’s Office on Monday issued a release warning against vote-buying and -selling in general. Not that most folks would need reminding, because two cases of that nature were tried in court and related sentences handed out during the past few years, which undoubtedly had a deterring effect.