Two political parties were launched in the past month, namely United Resilient St. Maarten Movement (URSM) by Dr. Luc Mercelina and Nation Opportunity Wealth (NOW) by Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel.
These political organisations may be new, but that is not the case for the main figures behind them. Mercelina is a former leader of United People’s (UP) party who also served in Parliament on behalf of United Democrats (UD), while Emmanuel was part of the National Alliance (NA) faction before going independent.
Assuming the current five parties represented in the legislature run again, this would put at least seven on the ballot early 2024, unless there is a crisis in government and snap elections are called earlier once more. That’s the same number as in January 2020, of which two did not manage to earn a seat.
To prevent too much political disintegration, parties not yet in Parliament as such need to collect voter endorsements from one per cent of the most recent valid turnout for their candidate lists beforehand. That has proven a significant obstacle for several in the past, although it is not expected from organisations led by persons with experience in campaigning.
The other threshold is that one must earn an initial seat before being able to qualify for so-called “residual seats” that require fewer votes as customary in the Dutch Caribbean. This was adjusted for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba when they became overseas public bodies of the Netherlands to promote more active participation in the political process.
Despite abovementioned hurdles in St. Maarten new parties can be successful and even capture more than one seat at their first poll, like for example Party for Progress (PFP) did last year. A larger number of parliamentary factions obviously enhances options for coalition forming but could also make such difficult by having to comply with wishes of multiple “smaller” governing partners regarding policies, ministerial posts, etc.
Nobody said democracy was easy.