The electoral system in the Netherlands Antilles does not make the politicians accountable to the voters, but to the political parties that they are affiliated to.
It seems the electoral system sees the political party that gets the votes, then it sees the politicians that get elected, then it says the elected ones are not obligated to the party once they are elected.
This seems to me that I could run with party A, get elected and then work with any party I choose after the elections. This sounds good and well, except for the way a person is elected.
The system says that the seats a party receives go to the persons at the top of the list. For a person lower down the list to be elected, that person must receive specific percentage of the votes the party receives. This system will continue to make the politicians first and foremost obligated to the political parties and party board and not to the voters they are to serve.
The system also allows for a person to be part of a group that is supposed to supervise him. A commissioner can also be an Island Council member. In the case where you have five council members being part of the team (Island Council) that supervises them, it is not difficult to see the problems that this could cause.
Politicians can run for a seat and then decide that they don’t want that seat, for whatever reason. What gives anyone the right to use your vote as they see fit and without your permission? You vote for a person/party, but the party board determines who will be your representative.
It is said that to change the electoral system would take years. That is, if the sitting parliamentarians would work at it and if those in the future would consider continuing the work. Basically, it sounds like “we ain’t gon’ start, because we may not be here to finish it”.
If we look at the results of the last federal elections on St. Maarten, we would see that we are not represented by the people we voted for.
On the DP list, Sarah was #2 candidate and she got the most votes, but because of the system, she was not elected. On the SPA list, Vance James and William Marlin were elected, but the seats were given up, to become commissioners.
Imagine, if you would, the people’s choice being bypassed on one list and on the other, the seats being given up, because the party/party board decides to. And in all this, the voters have no say.
If we look at the last Island Council elections, we see two persons were elected with about 50 votes each, because of their positions on the list, while persons with over 150 votes were not.
The only way I see to change this situation is to make the politicians work to be elected and the way to do that is by making them accountable to the voters in the first place. The voters must make politicians agree that they will not accept a seat ahead of anyone who got more votes than them on their list. This calls for political integrity and the voters would see the true politicians. The voters must also make politicians commit to accepting a seat, if they run for it and are elected.
The habit is that the party leader and ‘big guns’ run in an election to pull the votes, then decline the seat(s) for #2 or #3 candidates or whoever else the party board decides on. This gives the impression that only a selected few in the party command the respect and the trust of the voters. Then that trust is betrayed when they decline the seat.
Another habit is that an Island Council member runs for a seat in parliament and, if elected, occupies both seats. This gives the impression that there aren’t enough capable people to represent the island. It also weakens the representation.
Imagine a Parliamentary and an Island Council meeting on the same date. That individual must then choose which one he will attend. He will decide which one is is more important and attend that one, but the bottom line is that at one of those meetings, the voters are not properly represented.
The upcoming elections must be used as a turning point in our politics. The people who run in the upcoming elections must be prepared to commit to accepting the seats if they are elected and they must committed to decline the seat if anyone on their list gets more votes than they get.. They must also know that there is a new breed of voters who are not accept the nonsense of the 20th century politics, when we enter the 21st century.
The time for politicians with new or renewed vision is now.
Clifton R. Wilson
Daily Herald Aug 11th 1997