DP Leader Sarah Wescot-Williams.
PHILIPSBURG--Although “no rocket science” is needed to determine when the 2024 parliamentary election will be, the government of St. Maarten seems to be weighing the scales to determine when is it “politically opportune” for them to announce the date when the electorate will go to the polls.
This is the opinion of Democratic Party (DP) leader Sarah Wescot-Williams, who outlined her concerns and position in a press release on Thursday.
“The next election will be in January 2024. That’s when it has to be! There is no rocket science needed for that. Nomination is between November 12 and November 22, 2023, and election at least 48 days after nomination, December 30-January 9,” Wescot-Williams said in the release.
“What I think the government is weighing, however, is when is it politically opportune for this government to announce the election,” she concluded.
Wescot-Williams said the DP held a party briefing on Sunday, August 6, where she outlined to candidates the process of election for the Parliament of St. Maarten. “This was part of the briefing on the party’s key issues for this campaign, on the campaign itself, and other urgent matters to be dealt with during the coming months. I did so, because last week was abuzz again with rumours of an early election,” explained Wescot-Williams.
“This goes back to statements by the prime minister [Silveria Jacobs – Ed.] in November last year that elections would be in November 2023, a statement later labelled by the prime minister as misconstrued.”
The DP leader said the only way another election date than one in accordance with the Election Ordinance is possible, is if government takes a decision to dissolve the Parliament and government is then obliged to organise an election and ensure a new Parliament is installed within three months.”
“If indeed there is any truth to the stories that are circulating, we will be right back where we were in 2019, when the government decided to dissolve the Parliament. It took three government decrees to get it right and even so, the dates that were eventually decided on, were not in compliance with the Constitution.
The government tried to circumvent this by toying with the effective date of the national decree that dissolved the Parliament in 2019, and the subsequent election on January 9, 2020,” explained Wescot-Williams.
“It must be recalled though, that this was only done after the Main Voting Bureau members had threatened to resign. The [National Alliance/United People’s party] NA/UP (interim) government’s first order of business should have been to fix these inconsistencies. In fact, that government had committed to do so urgently, along with other reforms such as electoral reform. The NA/UP government has not delivered on any of these fronts. And after both parties lost members of Parliament and a ‘new’ government was formed, the touted electoral reform became a moot point.”
She said the issue is that the constitutional order to dissolve Parliament and have a new Parliament no more than three months later, means that nomination (postulation), election, approval of credentials etc., all need to take place within the three-month period.
“These actions, however, are interconnected on the basis of the Election Ordinance and in accordance with that ordinance, require at least 48 days between postulation and election, and 80 to 90 days between nomination and the new Parliament installation. In 2019, the constitutional order was exceeded to provide the periods mentioned above in the Election Ordinance,” stated the DP leader.
When asked whether there was any truth to reports that elections will be called early, during the live Council of Ministers press briefing on Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacobs said the process to select the date for election is still being finalised and indicated that the reports might be “wishful thinking”.