Four political parties will contest Saba’s Island Council election (see Wednesday paper) next month. That’s exceptional because there are usually two or three at the most.
It shows democracy on “The Unspoiled Queen” is alive and well. Windward Islands People’s Movement (WIPM) has been quite dominant for many decades, so whether that changes any time soon remains to be seen.
Potential downsides of more diversity are political fragmentation and weak coalitions leading to less stability in government. However, that is certainly not always the case.
Some of the relevant changes which accompanied becoming part of the Caribbean Netherlands per 10-10-10 include lowering the thresholds for both required endorsements of new parties and the number of votes needed to earn a – first – residual seat. The less-than-positive effects of these electoral adjustments were already felt in Bonaire and St. Eustatius before.
The number of seats is to increase for all three so-called BES islands in 2027. Saba will go from the current five to nine and from two to three commissioners.
This has to do with a relatively large number of tasks these overseas public entities must carry out and high work pressure of local administrations, as well as some population growth particularly in Bonaire. The islands now also have significantly fewer of each than municipalities in the European Netherlands.
Care must be taken that this does not turn into a mixed blessing, because bigger government means added bureaucracy and cost. A lot of people think the latter has been one of the St. Maarten’s main problems since obtaining the status of autonomous country in the Dutch kingdom.
The tourism economy of each island must in principle be able to carry whatever public services, provisions and facilities are offered to inhabitants. After all, it’s prudent to spend only what you earn.