It can’t hurt

It can’t hurt

There is a good possibility that the number of Parliament seats will go up from the current 15 to 17 for the election due in January 2024. At the end of October 2019 there were already 61,750 persons in the civil registry, of which 23,130 adult Dutch citizens with voting rights.

Article 45 of St. Maarten’s Constitution states that in case of between 60,000 and 70,000 residents the legislature will consist of 17 members. This increase did not take place yet when voters went to the polls in January 2020 because it had been “snap” rather than regular elections following a four-year term. 

However, it is a likely scenario early next year. Some suggest that aspect could be influenced by options government has been exploring to hold the election before then and avoid campaigning during the holiday season.

Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs insists (see Thursday paper) no decision to move up the date was taken after requesting and receiving advice regarding this matter since the start of January. She added that the number of seats will depend on the result of an ongoing clean-up of the civil registry.

Nevertheless, while the COVID-19 crisis and its socioeconomic impact undoubtedly caused people to leave the island, the pool of eligible voters has probably grown further rather than shrunk. If so, this should – with a similar turnout – translate to needing fewer votes to capture a seat.

Whether that may be considered a desirable development is another story and depends on one’s point of view. Many might feel it just means having more unproductive politicians in public office with big salaries and perks at the taxpayer’s expense.

However, this was determined by organic law prior to becoming an autonomous country per 10-10-10. Not only is a two-thirds majority required to change it, but elected representatives who support such would look like they want to prevent newcomers from getting in.

To what extent an expansion helps “smaller” parties remains to be seen. The existing threshold whereby the first seat must be earned outright before qualifying for a possible residual seat still has a limiting effect in that sense, but it certainly can’t hurt their chances.

The Daily Herald

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