Romney’s draft electoral ordinance prohibits going independent

POSTED: 03/9/15 6:57 PM

St. Maarten – Political analyst Julio Romney presented on Wednesday evening his proposal for electoral reform in the form of a draft electoral reconciliation ordinance. The draft contains two key differences with the current system. One is the way seats are distributed among the parties that contest the elections; the other is a ban for Members of Parliament to declare themselves independent.

Romney supports the D’Hondt system for seat distribution. In this system, the numbers of votes won by each party are divided by a series of increasing denominators – from 1 until as high as necessary to arrive at a result.

Using this method, the results of the 2014 elections would have been exactly the same in terms of seat distribution. The United People’s party would have won 7 seats, the National Alliance 4, the Democratic Party and the United St. Maarten party 2 each.

Romney is however convinced that this system is fairer than the current system of dividing residual seats whereby the highest average is found by the formula [votes won: seats won +1).

The D’Hondt system contains a formula to calculate the true proportion of seats won: [votes won : total votes cast * number of available seats].

For the 2014 election results this would give the following true proportion numbers. UP: 6,157 / 14,451 *15 = 6.4; NA: 4,024 / 14,451 * 15 = 4.2; DP: 2,334 / 14,451 * 15 = 2.4; USp: 1,636 / 14,451 * 15 = 1.7.

These numbers suggest that the UP and the NA received the correct number of seats, but that the DP got a little bit less than it deserved and the USp a little bit more.

Romney’s draft ordinance distinguishes elected and non-elected members of parliament – those who won votes equal or higher than the quota (votes cast: available seats) and those who won fewer votes but obtained a seat on the strength of the party-list.

The draft prohibits non-elected Members of Parliament to declare themselves independent. “By not obtaining the division quota a non-elected candidate serves at the pleasure of the party list. If such a candidate no longer wishes to serve at the pleasure of the party the seat will be surrendered and re-assigned.”

There are no concerns about ship-jumping by politicians who won their seat outright. In the 2014 elections only UP-leader Theo Heyliger (1,945 votes) and NA’s Silveria Jacobs (973) won more than enough votes for a seat. All others squeezed into their seats based on the strength of their party list.

The explanatory notes make clear that this rule is inspired by the persistent instability in government. Two times the government fell during the first four year-term of parliament since 10-10-10. Romney says that this ‘chronic instability of government’ has greater ramifications; it affects the way the international community sees political stability and it affects the perception of investors and sustainable development.

The system of tying parliamentarians to their parties with only two options – toe the party line or step down – has however a weak point. The prospective of having to give up a soft $125,000 job could inspire politicians who under the current system declare themselves independent, to simply stay with their faction but vote with the opposition. Romney did not have a clear answer to this scenario. MP Leona Marlin-Romeo (245 votes in 2014) – who declared herself independent after the elections – said she saw this weakness and that she is not in favor of this approach.

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