Election Day 2014: Friday, September 5: Regular elections before the summer not possible

POSTED: 03/21/14 7:47 PM

St. Maarten – Unconfirmed rumblings suggest that the fall of the third Wescot-Williams cabinet is scheduled for the end of this month but it is unclear whether this is inspired by the wish to bring about elections before the summer or by other political motives.

Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said at yesterday’s press briefing – before this latest political rumor came to our attention – that only the government is authorized to dissolve the Parliament by national decree. If that happens, for instance per April 1, the new Parliament must take office within three months of the date on the decree. “In that case there would be elections on June 8,” Wescot-Williams said.

However, the prime minister did not give a single indication yesterday that such a move is somehow in the works. She gave an extensive overview of all the steps that must be taken in preparation for regular elections. To cut a long story short: the parliamentary elections are now scheduled for Friday, September 5, and postulation day – the festive moment when political parties will presents their list of candidates – will be 48 days before that date. By our calculation that would be on Friday July 18.

The key date in the law is that postulation day must fall between 80 and 90 days before the end of the regular term of the current Parliament. Since that date is October 9, 2014 – the window is between July 12 and July 22.

Wescot-Williams said yesterday that the law does not offer the possibility to move the regular elections from September to before the summer, as UP-leader Theo Heyliger has repeatedly suggested with the argument that elections during the peak of the hurricane season are a bad idea.

The prime minister said that this is “absolutely not possible” because there would not be enough time to go through all the steps in the preparation for regular elections require. “If Parliament were dissolved it would be different,” she said.

What about electoral reform? Wescot-Williams said that the draft proposals, based on the discussion she had with Parliament about this issue, are ready. One of the concrete ideas is to remove the curtains from the voting booths. “That does not require a decision by Parliament,” the prime minister said. “This could be an addition to the existing guidelines under the electoral ordinance.”

Other matters could be resolved through the General Police Ordinance. “This establishes for instance what people are allowed to do and when they need a permit for using public places during elections.”

The proposals that require a decision by Parliament will be sent to Parliament, Wescot-Williams said.

(For an overview of all the steps on the road to Election Day 2014, see our opinion post).

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