SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The Party for Progress (PFP), a political association which is hosting its launch event on Friday, 27 September 2019, has taken notice of the announcement made by the Electoral Council of Sint Maarten regarding the political parties that are allowed to postulate on 2 October 2019 as participants in the upcoming Parliamentary election.
In a span of several hours on Monday, 23 September 2019, Country St. Maarten learned that it would once again be sent to the polls on November 25th, 2019 to elect a new Parliament. The Party for Progress had announced its launch event on social media on Saturday, 21 September 2019.
“When we posted the date of our launch event, we were not anticipating an election,” states Melissa Gumbs, President of PFP. “The purpose of launching the association was very clear for us, which is one of driving community engagement for actionable change. It was also our goal to participate in the next elections for the Parliament of Sint Maarten, which we foresaw happening in 2022.”
Gumbs states that the board of PFP has already submitted their documents to the Electoral Council for registration. However, she says, the party is aware that the postulation date of 2 October 2019 works against them.
“It would appear that the logic being used behind the choice of this early date set for postulation” she continues, “is that of the long-standing discrepancy between the Constitution (Staatsregeling van Sint Maarten) and the Election Ordinance (Kiesverordening).
“His Excellency the Governor and the Council of Ministers have signed off on a National Decree that, while complying with the Constitution, at the same time tramples many of the democratic principles and rights of the population. This is odd, because this ‘discrepancy’, which has been present since the inception of Country St. Maarten, has never been acknowledged quite like this before.”
Affected by this reasoning are, of course, the new political parties that now fall outside of the six-week registration period to qualify for postulation. The postulation date is not mentioned in the Constitution, but in the Election Ordinance and the National Ordinance Registration and Finances of Political Parties.
According to article 16 of the National Ordinance Registration and Finances of Political Parties, parties must submit their application for registration 6 weeks prior to postulation day, or they will not be eligible to contest in the next elections. If postulation remains set for Wednesday, 2 October 2019, PFP's concern then lies with the legality of this election.
It is also notable to mention that according to article 22 section 4 of the Election Ordinance, the postulation date shall be published by or on behalf of the chairman of the Central Voting Bureau three weeks prior to the postulation date itself. As it stands, in principle, the current postulation date set for 2 October 2019 is also in violation of this article.
One of the primary goals of dissolving Parliament and calling new elections is to allow for the introduction of new parties and new candidates. Considering the short time from the signing of the Decree, the announcement of the postulation date, and the current state of some political parties, PFP is concerned that adhering to the current postulation date and election date is not in the best interest of the people of Sint Maarten. PFP has learned of two other new political parties that were attempting to register for postulation who are now locked out of this critical democratic process.
The deeper issue, PFP believes, is the blatant infringement on the constitutional and democratic rights of the people to choose their representatives. According to articles 48 and 49 of the Constitution of Sint Maarten every resident of our country has a voting right that can be split in two separate rights.
A right to vote for who you wish to represent you in the Parliament of Sint Maarten, and a right to postulate yourself as a possible candidate for the Parliament of Sint Maarten. By maintaining the postulation date for 2 October 2019, not only the PFP but every other party and its members are withheld from their constitutional right to postulate themselves in an election.
According to the same article 21 of the Constitution, the date that will be set for postulation is up to the discretion of the Minister of General Affairs, also known as the Prime Minister. In light of this, PFP says respectfully requests the Prime Minister to reconsider the set postulation date and election date, to guarantee the constitutional rights of all citizens of Sint Maarten are upheld, as PFP believes is the rightful intention of the Constitution.
The Party for Progress remains committed to its intended purpose and invites the public to visit its launch event on Friday, 27 September 2019, from 6 PM to 9 PM at the University of St. Martin.