SHTA reiterates need for Electoral Council

POSTED: 09/12/13 11:33 AM

GREAT BAY – The St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA), stresses the urgency in having the Electoral Council becoming functional as soon as possible. With the 2014 elections around the corner it is imperative that this council is able to carry out the tasks that it has been entrusted with facilitating the registration of political parties that want to participate in the elections and financial supervision of party campaign funds,” the SHTA stated in a press release last night.

The Landsverordering Registratie en Financiën Politieke Partijen prescribes an electoral council, to date, the long awaited appointments of members have not been made.

“It is commendable of Parliament to have passed a motion on regulating campaign paraphernalia and combating vote buying, in cash or in barter, via the drafting of legislation, but without an electoral council the recent call from parliament requesting government to prepare the accompanying legislation may be pointless,” the SHTA notes. “In accordance with the national ordinance the electoral council is an entity that operates independently of parliament and government.  A political party wishing to take part in the next election will have to submit a written request to be registered to this council.  They will only be registered if they comply with the requirements set forth in the national ordinance.”

Registered political parties are required to submit an annual report outlining the organizational makeup of their parties, the amount of contributing members, the financial outline of contribution fees accumulated each year and the annual activities. In addition they have to submit a detailed financial report, which show amongst others an overview of the income and expenses. The electoral council ensures that these reports are available to the public for inspection.

As was suggested by the SHTA in April, individuals that are campaigning should be required to make public certain information as it pertains to the election process, including sources and amounts of campaign donations in cash, services and in kind. Candidates should make public their business interests and either take positions that don’t have conflicts of interest or dissociate from those investment prior to taking office. Candidates should declare after the election how the money was spent.  When elected, these officials should be focused on developing criteria, transparency, policy, legislation and oversight.

“The people of St. Maarten should be able to hold their elected representatives to the highest ethical and moral standards,” the SHTA stated. “Qualifications and experience are to be properly evaluated when selecting the best man, or woman, for the job. With regard to any future elections, the SHTA considers electoral reform an absolute must to safeguard the democratic rights of the people of St. Maarten when choosing a government to represent them. A government whose goals solely focus on the best interests of the country as a whole, and not just in the short run but also in the long run.”

Not having a fully functional electoral council in place can hamper the electoral process and result in a repeat of forgone years when the oversight of the political parties was minimal, the hospitality and trade association stated. “This creates a discrepancy in the intention to elect the right people for the right purpose instead of for financial reasons. The electoral council is yet another essential tool in ensuring that democracy and the chosen government adheres to the corporate good governance, accountability and transparency. These traits lead to consistency which paves the way for true sustainable development. “

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