Opinion: Backroom deals

POSTED: 05/2/12 12:00 PM

Politics in St. Maarten has always been irritating, entertaining, and frustrating – all at the same time. It doesn’t really matter who is in charge, there will always be something to complain about.

The most remarkable thing about the calypso-coup is however that, with the limited information we have at our disposal, it is impossible to say whether this government fell over something, and if this is the case, what this something is.

We know a few things for sure: Patrick Illidge was on the list of the National Alliance during the September 2011 elections. Frans Richardson was on the list for the National Alliance. Immediately after the elections, Illidge went independent. Richardson took his time, but he finally also left the NA.

These two decisions have something in common: the reason why they left the party was never properly explained. Oh yes there are always rumors about stuff like casino licenses ad what have you, but there has never been an honest straightforward explanation.

While Romain Laville is not ready to tell his story, we at least understand his frustration with the UP. Laville still has ideals, and he has visibly trouble with the short leash he is tethered to. He has his opinions, and he has voiced them loud and clear, but when it came to making decisions, he had to toe a party line that served other purposes than doing the right thing. Laville’s defection was therefore only a matter of time; one could well wonder what took him so long to jump ship.

But now we see a return of two former NA-politicians to a coalition with a party they turned their backs on after the 2010-elections. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to understand that the independents want to extract a price for their support of William Marlin’s party.

And while all this happens, we imagine that the United People’s party is extremely busy in the shadows with attempts to bring one or more National Alliance MPs over to their side.

The targets they have in mind are most likely Louie Laveist and Hyacinth Richardson. But even if Heyliger’s party managed to bring these two on board, he is still one seat short of a majority. That makes George Pantophlet and maybe even Gracita Arrindell their probable third target.

We’re not saying, or even expecting, that something like this will happen this week or in the very near future. But the ease with which our local politicians move from one side to the other does not promise a lot of good for the long term. At least, it does not offer any guarantee for a stable government.

For the moment however, things are the way they are: the National Alliance, the Democratic Party and the three independents have a two third majority in parliament. Those numbers give them a lot of power: if they band together they’ll be able to push anything that requires a two-third majority through the parliament, and we’re not sure at this moment whether that is good news or bad news.

Another remarkable aspect of this whole business is that, according to Laville, there are no new elections necessary. This means that voters have no say in whatever our politicians do during their four-year mandate – not even when they decide to overthrow the government.

We don’t care much for what politicians in the Netherlands do – in the sense that this should be the tune we have to dance to in St. Maarten – but we do feel that the electorate should have a voice when such a dramatic change on the political level occurs. The way things stand now, everybody has been outmaneuvered by the actions of basically one man.

His name is, of course Romain Laville. We don’t know whether Laville has thought this aspect of his move through or not, and we’re not holding it particularly against him, because we understand his frustration with the UP. But the results don’t lie: without Laville’s resignation from the UP the change of government would not have been possible.

The assumption that no new elections are necessary does not necessarily mean that it is impossible to call for those elections. A good result at the polls would give a new government the legitimacy it needs to act on behalf of the electorate.

Without it, the whole story smells of backroom deals in the interest of the politicians who hatched the agreement. If that turns out to be the case, Laville, Illidge and Richardson could not have chosen a better place to make their announcement than the Festival Village. After all, that’s where most of the shows take place.


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