More parties and 35 percent more candidates in elections

POSTED: 08/10/16 3:01 PM

St.Maarten – The number of candidates that will contest the September 26 elections has increased by 35.5 percent compared to the 2014 elections from 90 to 122 it appeared from the lists the nine political parties submitted to the main voting bureau yesterday. In 2015, six parties contested the elections. There are 22,302 eligible voters; with a projected turnout of 70 percent, 15,611 votes will be cast, setting the threshold to win one seat outright at 1,041.

Only the United People’s Party, the National Alliance and the United St. Maarten party (USp) go to the polls with a full list of 23 candidates. Hope, the party of Mercedes Van der Waals-Wyatt fields just three candidates.

Postulation day began somewhat subdued when the United People’s party presented its list at 9 a.m. a small gathering of green shirts had assembled near the government administration building. Several UP-members, like Franklin Meyers and Richard Panneflek, were suited up to attend the memorial service for the late police officer Gamali Benjamin at the Catholic Church. The UP made up for the slow start later in the day, when supporters gathered on the ring road for a motorcade.

While the main voting bureau, chaired by attorney Jason Rogers, had scheduled twenty minutes for each party to submit their list, it soon turned out that ten minutes would have been sufficient. The UP was in and out of the Claude Wathey Legislative Hall in all of seven minutes.

The second party top present its list was Hope. Party leader Van der Waals-Wyatt made a brief speech but nerves and emotion got her off to a difficult start.

The party-leader referred to One Tete Lokay, the slave whom she described as “the spitfire in the South of St. Maarten” and as an example of someone who preferred to die a free woman than to be belittled as an object and live in slavery.

Van der Waals-Wyatt named professionalism, positivity, law abiding, dialogue and good governance as her party’s five core values. “Let us recognize that we do not serve an ideology or a political party; we serve the people. With every small deed, Hope can accomplish great things,” she said.

Like other new parties, and parties that failed to win a seat in parliament in the 2014 elections, Hope will have to endorse its list of three candidates – Van der Waals-Wyatt, Loekie Morales and Jacinto Mock – with 146 signatures that will have to be presented today at the census office. The parties that currently have a seat in parliament – UP, NA, DP and USp – are exempt from endorsement.

The main voting Bureau consists of six members: chairman Jason Rogers and members Tamara Richardson, Patrice Gumbs, Cindy Marica, Clarence Richardson and Nerissa de la Rosa. Only Rogers, Tamara Richardson and Patrice Gumbs were present yesterday. “The whole team does not have to be here, because the parties submit their lists of candidates to the chairman,” Rogers said.

Next up was the St. Maarten Christian Party. The party submitted a list of nine candidates, spearheaded by retired pastor Wycliffe Smith.

The One St. Maarten People party, headed by Lenny priest, presented a list with seven candidates, followed by the People’s Progressive alliance (14 candidates) and the St. Maarten Development Movement of businessman Benjamin Ortega with 6 candidates.

Ortega showed confidence, saying that he does not believe in grandstanding. “We are professionals first, not politicians,” he said. He wants to put an end to the confusion and conflicts of the past six years. ‘We have become the laughing stock of the Caribbean.”

Last up during the morning session was the Democratic Party of President of parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams. The party emerged with a small parade of dedicated supporters sporting red party flags from the Gevangenis Steeg across the Clem Labega parking at the statue of DP-icon Claude Wathey, before moving up the stairs to the Claude Wathey Legislative Hall. Party leader Wescot-Williams ad advisor Jim Rosen presented the list to the main voting bureau. For the first time during Postulation Day, the room was filled to capacity with party supporters who arrived chanting DP, DP.

Wescot-Williams told reporters that electoral reform remains a priority for her, also during the campaign.

In the afternoon, the United St. Maarten party (USp) and the National Alliance were the final two parties to submit their lists.

Frans Richardson’s USp appeared with stilt walkers carrying a huge party flag and a fleet of around thirty jeeps crammed with candidates and supporter at the government administration building.

The National Alliance followed with a drum band. Party president Cedric James and treasurer Cassie Webster submitted the NA-list to the main voting bureau.

For both parties the room was filled to capacity with supporters.

After doing a radio interview, party-leader William Marlin asked for a moment of silence to commemorate the death of police officer Gamali Benjamin, who passed away exactly a year ago yesterday, after having been shot by an armed robber on august 5, 2015.

The rowdy NA-crowd fell silent, baseball caps were taken off and a respectful silence marked the end of a tumultuous day of postulation.

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