All that is needed is political will to pass it – Social Scientist Romney proposes electoral reform

POSTED: 07/2/13 12:48 PM
RomneyPolitical and social scientist Julio Romney. Photo contributed.

St. Maarten – Local political and social scientist Julio Romney held a press conference on electoral reform at the University of St. Martin last Friday given the recent controversy surrounding the fall of the second Wescott-Williams cabinet. “It puts us in a bad light,” he said. He was also prompted by a “displeasing blog on one of the island’s online newspapers.” It referred to “St. Maarteners as riding the donkey, an analogy I didn’t take too kindly. As a people, that’s not who we are.” It challenged him to produce an “insular electoral reconciliation ordinance” aimed at reforming the way seats are distributed in parliament and placing restrictions on the way MPs elected on the backs of their party can behave with the party’s seat.

According to Romney, though, what transpired over the past few weeks, however embarrassing and ugly, “was just part of democracy playing out. That happens all over the world. So we shouldn’t feel bad that we had issues with our government,” he reminded everyone. Nevertheless, despite the recent political upheaval being a natural part of democratic politics, he will be submitting his draft ordinance to MPs and the Council of Ministers, hoping that it will be ratified and become law. “Because the people of St. Maarten, they are all crying out for some kind of reform,” Romney said.

“Whereas, it is expedient to promote insular electoral reconciliation, to foster trust and confidence in the allocation of seats in Parliament and remove the vestiges of political vendetta and victimization, to make the election process more transparent and to amend certain ordinances for that purpose and for matters connected therewith and ancillary thereto,” the draft legislation opens. In section 1 of the draft law Romney proposes to use the D’Hondt formula, a method of dividing seats in a proportional system that tends to favor larger parties in the hopes of creating more political stability. “The first seat will be assigned to the party with the highest number of votes. After assigning the first seat the total number of votes polled by each party will be progressively divided by two, three, four, etc., and each time a result is obtained the seat will be assigned to the party which has the highest average as result thereof. This process will continue until all seats in Parliament have been assigned,” the draft legislation states.

Romney’s initiative aims to tackle the glaring weakness of the current system, namely the ability of MPs who were not self elected to switch political allegiance at whim and therefore take with them the seat that was earned by their party’s collective votes. Section 2 states, “Transfers (that is, declaring oneself independent or to different political party) of non-elected candidates will not be allowed. By not obtaining the division quota a non-elected candidate serves at the pleasure of the political party. If such a candidate no longer wishes to serve at the pleasure of the party the seat will be surrendered and re-assigned by the same method used in the second phase of section 1.” In other words, candidates that do not receive enough votes to self elect must support their party or give up the seat to the next person in line. Though he did not have legal consultation on the matter, Romney does not feel this piece of legislation will conflict with the constitution. He said, “It’s a system that has been used all over the world.” Once proposed, it’s up to the Council of Advice to determine whether it is unconstitutional or not, he added. All that is needed, he feels however, is the political will to pass it.

“I see this ordinance appropriately on the eve of emancipation as nothing less than the continuing of emancipation of another kind and the further sustainable political development of St. Maarten as a constituent state within the Netherlands,” he said. “We need to put in place the applicable laws in order to ensure that we go on the right track.” Romney said that he has no question in his mind that such new legislation will solve the problem of non-elected MPs switching political allegiance at the expense of their elected colleagues. “It’ll work well for us.”


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