Weighing the votes

POSTED: 11/26/15 5:46 PM

Dear Editor,

I can agree with your correspondent of November 10 (“On political stability”) that the instabilities in Sint Maarten’s government since 2010 may be due to the uncritical adoption of a political system from The Netherlands. However, I do not agree that it is therefore necessary to completely change the system. A simple fix is sufficient.

The Dutch system does a fine job of allocating parliamentary seats to parties such that all parties (above a certain threshold) hold a number of parliamentary seats reasonably consistent with their electoral votes. If a party changes allegiances, its seats (reasonably consistent with electoral votes) move to the other side. If an individual representative changes allegiances, one seat moves to the other side. In Holland with 150 representatives, this is generally inconsequential (change of +/-0.7%). In Sint Maarten with 15 representatives, this is very significant (+/-7%), equivalent to 10 representatives or a small party (D66, CDA, …) changing allegiances in Holland. That’s what creates the instability – representatives holding substantially less than 7% of the electoral votes voting in Parliament with the same weight as every other representative. No wonder the electorate feels disconnected from the Parliament and is confused by the effect on government of the change of allegiance of a single representative representing less than 2% of the electorate – as happened multiple times during the 2010-14 Parliament.

The fix? Weight the votes in Parliament by the number of voters represented. Nothing else changes. Governing coalitions may still come and go, as they do from time to time in Holland but based now on significant moves in electoral votes, generally represented in Holland by parties coming in or out of governing coalitions.

In implementing an electoral/parliamentary system based on the Dutch model (150 MPs), the Sint Maarten system (15 MPs) should for parliamentary purposes regard each MP as a “party”, with an influence based on the number of electoral votes that they each represent, not a fixed 1/15 (7%).

As an interesting consequence, one could then reduce the total number of representatives without unreasonably compromising the fair allocation of seats to parties and without giving individual representatives even more undue influence. For example, in these hard economic times, one could consider reducing the total number of representatives to 11, similar to the number of parties currently represented in the Dutch Parliament. St. Maarten would then have the proud distinction of being the parliament with the smallest number of parliamentarians in the world, a distinction currently held by Micronesia, an island state of 271 sq miles, 100,000 inhabitants, 50,000 voters, and 14 elected representatives.

Sincerely,

Patrick Farley

Oyster Pond

 

ST MAARTEN ELECTION 2014
SEAT ELECTED MEMBER PARTY VOTES % votes %pvotes1 %pvotes2

1

Theodore Heyliger UPP

1,945

13%

7%

23%

2

Silveria Jacobs NA

973

7%

7%

11%

3

William Marlin NA

742

5%

7%

9%

4

Frans Richardson USP

731

5%

7%

9%

5

Sarah Wescot-Williams DP

697

5%

7%

8%

6

Franklin Meyers UPP

614

4%

7%

7%

7

Silvio Matser UPP

498

3%

7%

6%

8

George Pantophlet NA

400

3%

7%

5%

9

Cornelius de Weever DP

378

3%

7%

4%

10

Maurice Lake UPP

310

2%

7%

4%

11

Tamara Leonard UPP

304

2%

7%

4%

12

Lloyd Richardson UPP

278

2%

7%

3%

13

Christopher Emanuel NA

246

2%

7%

3%

14

Leona Marlin-Romeo USP

235

2%

7%

3%

15

Johan Leonard UPP

204

1%

7%

2%

TOTAL

8,555

59%

100%

100%

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