St. Maarten Prime minister stresses need for electoral reform

POSTED: 04/24/13 10:20 AM

St. Maarten –Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams announced last week that her cabinet has been working diligently on proposals which would result in a reform of election laws for the country.

The prime minister stated on Friday that her proposals, in addition to the motion tabled during the parliamentary budget debate last week, would result in significant changes in the way campaigning as well as party registration is concerned. “Last week I reacted to a motion which was centered on electoral reform. In that particular case it was centered on electoral campaign reform and in that motion, which was carried unanimously, it was decided to put into law the needed stipulations which would see a change in the way campaigning occurs on the island regarding what is and what is not allowed. This also has to do with regards to how things take place on election day and at the various polling stations in the districts and how best to structure those activities,” commented the prime minister.

The prime minister emphasized that as Minister of Internal affairs the PM has proved a wide array of changes to electoral reform. “In my capacity as minister charged with Internal Affairs my proposals for electoral reform and the motion passed by parliament complement each other. I will therefore be taking the motion of parliament along and will be submitting a broader form of a draft law for parliament’s consideration because it is very important that we have the necessary laws pertaining to how we campaign. As it stands now there are many parties who clog up the streets and districts with campaign material, going bigger and bigger with billboards for example and we believe that this needs to be controlled. In some cases we have had complaints that people are being harassed when they go to their respective voting locations. In my proposal for example I suggested that political parties take down their campaign materials 48 hours before Election Day so that people can, in a very conscious and clear manner, think about their choices. Because the island is so busy during elections, I believe that we need some type of calm during election period,” continued the PM.

The prime minister also commented on the registration and financing of both political parties and their candidates during the election campaign period: “I have seen many reports in the media regarding the issue of political party registration and financing, lamenting the fact that St Maarten does not have laws in place regulating party registration and financing. I would like to state emphatically that since 10-10-10 there is a national ordinance in place that regulates exactly that; how parties register and finance themselves. The law also regulates the financing of not only political parties but also of candidates themselves.  Although this law was not yet in effect before 10-10-10, it does now apply for other elections including the upcoming one in 2014. Political parties and party financing, needs to now be registered, and if a political party or a candidate is receiving financing above a certain amount the source of that financing needs to be mentioned. If you combine these existing laws with the pending electoral reform there will be a more level playing field in terms of participation of politics,” concluded the PM.

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