Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Ludmila de Weever’s suggestion (see Tuesday paper) that citizens are being deregistered to stop them from voting should not be overlooked. She asked, “Is it true that government identified persons they believe will not be supporting them for the upcoming election and removed them?”
The elected representative who will be running with Party for Progress (PFP) in the January poll did not offer any specifics or evidence to back up her statement. She went as far as to speak of “fraudulently removing sons and daughters of the soil from the voter registry list.”
Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs had earlier said that is not the case, so it will be up to her – possibly as National Alliance (NA) leader – if she wants to address the issue any further. Whether the remarks made by the opposition MP at the closing of the past legislative year on Monday were wise is another matter.
It’s probably best not to unnecessarily give the public reason to doubt the democratic process, including the voter registry. However, precisely therefore, De Weever’s questions how the list is being generated and what criteria are used for de-registration seem more than justified.
A clear answer would no doubt be appreciated. After all, St. Maarten has a history of vote-buying practices and other election-related irregularities proven in a court of law.
Another concern was whether the intention might be to keep the number of legal residents low enough to prevent having to expand from 15 to 17 seats in Parliament as prescribed, giving new and so-called “smaller” parties a better chance to get someone elected into office. Indications were that this will indeed not happen unless a huge number of people become legal residents before the voter registry closes, which at this point appears highly unlikely.