Is giving away electronic gadgets vote-buying?

POSTED: 01/9/14 2:05 AM

PM: “We need a policy around the law”

St. Maarten – “Is giving away electronic gadgets at the launch of a political party a form of vote-buying?” That was the question this newspaper put to Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams at yesterday’s press briefing. The question turned out to be simpler than the answer.

“I think that the crux of the matter in terms of enforcing the law is going to come down to answering that question,” the prime minister said. “Generally speaking, interpreting and enforcing the law comes down to these kinds of questions. The law is clear about vote buying. But we need a policy around it. It must become clear how we interpret the law. Even with the laws we have now, the education of the people is going to be crucial. The question remains: what exactly constitutes a break of what is stated in the law?”

Wescot-Williams made clear that right now there is now clear answer available. Our question came up in the context of the launch of Frans Richardson’s United St. Maarten party in December where gifts were showered upon those in attendance. In April, Richardson tabled a motion in parliament in which he called for electoral reform. . That motion contained the line “not to bribe, not to pay or accept cash, not to give or accept gifts and/or other tangible or intangible assets; not to provide preferential treatment.”

On the day before the party launch, comedian Fernando Clark sent out an email with an invitation that contained the following line: “During the launch the MP will be giving away gifts (gift baskets, computers, cell phones, etc.) to members of the community, just in time for Christmas.”

“How do we determine that a particular activity is vote-buying?” Wescot-Williams wondered yesterday. If you try to convince someone to vote, or not to vote for a party by coercion, by giving or by accepting, then it is punishable. In that respect the law is clear. But how do you prove vote buying? That is what you have to deal with. It is a process of awareness.”

 

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