Opinion: 2014 elections : Business as usual

POSTED: 06/19/14 11:54 PM

It will be business as usual for the 2014 elections. The Parliament has been screaming for electoral reform (months ago), yet it has fallen silent in recent months. Prime Minister Wescot-Williams has made some proposals, even made a presentation about them to the Parliament, but something is becoming clear what quite some people already suspected months ago: nothing is going to change – not before these elections and probably not before the 2018 elections either.

Politicians feel the need to put up a show for “the people” every now and then, clamoring for fair elections, but when push comes to shove, everybody has suddenly something better to do and the so-called hot topic dies a peaceful death.

Electoral reform: why did politicians want this in the first place? It is of course all about power and control. The main bone of contention were those Members of Parliament who slipped into a $125,000 a year seat on the coattails of a powerful vote getter – be it William Marlin, Theo Heyliger or Sarah Wescot-Williams – and who would declare themselves independent as soon as they has their place secured for the next four years.

Is there a way to stop these political opportunists? Yes, there is. The electorate has this power and nobody else. This is also how it ought to be.

Since the first Parliament took office in 2010 we have seen Frans Richardson leave the National Alliance to become an independent MP, Patrick Illidge left the same party immediately after the elections, and Romain Laville, once the rising star and faction leader of the United People’s party, also went independent. Laville, Illidge and Richardson were instrumental to the fall of the first Wescot-Williams cabinet. Laville was also involved in the fall of the second cabinet, after which he became a shadow minister of Economic Affairs.

How will these people fare in the August 29 elections? That is up to the voters. We know from the 2010 elections that politicians that get caught up in some kind of scandal (like Maria Buncamper-Molanus) don’t do well in the next elections. So Patrick Illidge, a suspect in the Bada Bing bribery investigation should lose at least some support in August – even though right now it is unclear whether he will appear on any list. Who wants to campaign with a guy who is the subject of a criminal investigation? Time will tell.

Politicians have always made their own rules. They determine for instance their own – enormously bloated – salaries. Our take is that they will never give up a position that enables them to manipulate the government. Remember that statement from Illidge in the Bada Bing video? Right, he said “We own the government.”

So who wants electoral reform? Certainly the politicians are not as eager to do something in this field as they pretend to be. They love the status quo, where they are able to do whatever they like without ever having to fear any consequences.

That is of course bad news for St. Maarten, especially for the people who depend on the decisions those politicians are taking – or fail to take. There are some new players in the field for this year’s elections, and they bring a fresh perspective to politics – but do not expect dramatic changes from these new parties, even if they manage to capture a seat or two in Parliament.

One of the changes Parliament wanted is to remove the black curtains from the voting booths. That was an interesting idea, designed to prevent voters from taking pictures of their ballots. This is also an example of how little thinking politicians put into their proposals, because it appears that there is no law against taking pictures of your own ballot. There is also no law against sharing such pictures with others.

All this came out during the municipal elections in the Netherlands where everybody suddenly went bonkers with stemfies – a variant of selfies. Minister of Home Affairs Ronald Plasterk looked into this matter and found that it is not prohibited.

So why then remove the black curtains from our voting booths? It just does not make sense. Now the government has realized that maybe, just maybe, removing those curtains could infringe on people’s privacy as well.

So yeah, prepare for August 29 with you smart phone and get ready for your selfie. Don’t sell your vote to anybody though – that is still forbidden.



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