Democratic Party wants external observers for St. Maarten parliamentary elections

POSTED: 04/8/14 1:11 AM

St. Maarten – The Democratic Party has called for the presence of external observers during the upcoming parliamentary elections on September 5. In a press release issues yesterday, the party maintains that the presence of these observers would enhance the public’s confidence in the voting process.

“At present, election fraud, government corruption and the lack of integrity are (unfortunately) common place topics on Sint Maarten,” the press release, signed by president Michael Ferrier,  begins. “Criminal investigations related to election fraud (“vote for pay”) during the 2010 elections are ongoing in addition to a number of inquiries related to alleged misconduct of various holders of public office. Recently, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams (DP) indicated the need for an investigation into rumors of potential election fraud (ballot switching) targeting the upcoming 2014 national elections.”

Democratic societies based on the rule of law must be able to guarantee (among others) the equality and soundness (reliability and trustworthiness) of the election process and citizens must have confidence in their government’s ability to insure the fairness of free elections, the DP states.

“Given the fact that the 2014 vote is in fact the first general election for Sint Maarten since becoming a Country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, it is even more important that the process proceeds smoothly, in keeping with the requisite legislation related to the electoral process. Transparency and correctness of the preparation, execution and follow up to the electoral process is a priority. “

In terms of the preparation, the Electoral Council has been established and is working on the required activities. In addition, the Central Voting Bureau is awaiting the nomination of new members in order to carry out their work related to the election process. Political parties have also been working to meet the requirements for participation.

“These are all actions that are internal to the country,” the press release states. “Given the aforementioned rumors and the political environment related to investigations, it seems prudent to add a layer of security to the process in the form of external monitoring. The Democratic Party of St. Maarten believes that time has come to improve the degree to which the public confidence in our election process is enhanced. We believe we can increase the honesty of our electoral process by inviting monitors (observers) from internationally respected institutions. Moreover, external expertise can be helpful in terms of strengthening the process by identifying weak practices.”

More important, given the current “integrity milieu” on the island, monitoring can go a long way in terms of discouraging manipulation and fraud, the press release continues. “By removing the ability of a voter to prove for whom he/she voted, the economics of purchasing people’s vote is fundamentally changed.  This will eliminate pressure from (overly zealous, bordering on corrupt) politicians insisting on proof of voting. Mind you, voting in itself is a fundamentally private activity that should never be subjected to political pressures. “

The DP notes that “without a doubt reports from monitors that are positive, help strengthen the confidence and trust in the democratic process and thus can solidify the legitimacy of the victors of the elections, i.e. the government. “

The Board of the DP has asked its leader, Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs Sarah Wescot-Williams (DP), responsible for the electoral process as well as foreign relations, to review and consider the possibility of inviting international monitors to prepare a mission to observe the 2014 Sint Maarten national elections. At the same time she was asked to give consideration to having the chosen international monitoring agency include local persons to join the monitoring team in order to gain experience in terms of best practices for future elections.

“The election monitoring mission should be broad in scope, and not limited to the actual Election Day activities, but should begin as soon as possible in order to have the observers review and report on the preparations for the elections,” the DP-press release furthermore states.

“Optimally, the mission should be endorsed by Sint Maarten’s Parliament. Based on statements in the recent past by members/boards of both the National Alliance (NA) and the United Peoples Party (UPP), Prime Minister Wescot-Williams (DP) should expect, at the very least, to be supported by these two parties in her call for outside election monitors. She may even be hopeful to get unanimous support from all Members of Parliament.”

The choice of which observers are to be used will have to be made by the Government of Sint Maarten. The DP suggests in its press release an organization like the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a non-profit organization that works with international and domestic election observers around the world and has been involved in more than 150 international election observation missions.


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