Prof. Van Rijn in 2012: “The wish of parliament prevails”POSTED: 10/6/15 9:48 PM
St. Maarten – Prof. Arjen van Rijn offered a different opinion about the position of parliament and government in an article in the Nederlands Juristenblad of December 7, 2012 that shows that constitutional law is not black and white. While Van Rijn advised the Marcel Gumbs cabinet this past weekend that its right to dissolve the parliament is autonomous and cannot be limited by parliament, in 2012 he wrote “If there is a serious clash between parliament and government and the tensions need to find a way out, then the wish of the parliament obviously prevails as the body with the most direct democratic legitimacy.”
Van Rijn refers in this article also to the situation in Curacao, where the majority of parliament sent home the Schotte-cabinet immediately. “Decisive was that the majority of parliament found this necessary, even for a short interim-period before the elections.”
“If the confidence rule would no longer be valid for a parliament that has been dissolved awaiting elections, then the outgoing government could take the parliament hostage and destroy the country uncontrolled. That cannot be the intention of our parliamentary system. The captain must always be at the helm. It is not for nothing that the dissolution only takes effect on the day the new parliament convenes.”
Van Rijn furthermore noted that for the governor, “the opinions of the majority of the parliament are leading. His actions are geared towards a future situation in which the incumbent cabinet does not play a role.”
Safeguarding the two oldness within the government is not the parliament’s problem, Van Rijn added. “The parliament does not need the king or his representative the governor to determine who gets the confidence to govern. If something is an authentic authority of the parliament, then this is it. And that is how it should be.”
In 2013, when St. Maarten had one of its government-meltdowns, Van Rijn wrote in an op-ed: “When a minister or an entire Council of Ministers loses the confidence of the majority, they have to make their position available and resign. This rule is anchored in article 22 (2) of the constitution. There can be absolutely no discussion about the compelling nature of this rule which dictates the primacy of parliament.”
Van Rijn pointed out that the Members of Parliament have a direct mandate from the voters: “They represent the people.”
At the same time, Van Rijn seemed to offer an alternative: “The lame duck cabinet does have the right to dissolve the current parliament and to call new elections. This way the electorate can express its opinion on the disagreement with parliament. And so the dissolution right is also a useful weapon to prevent parliament from being quick to pull its support from a cabinet.”
In 2013, Van Rijn was of the opinion that elections were the correct way to go. This time around, he is backing the cabinet in its call for the dissolution of parliament and, again, elections. In 2013 this did not happen, but then the situation was slightly different because there was a disagreement within the Council of Ministers. Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, who had joined the new majority with her party, blocked an attempt by dissenting ministers led by William Marlin, to dissolve the parliament.
Right now, MPs Wescot-Williams and Marlin find themselves on the other side of the dispute.