It appears St. Maarten is again caught in a “Mexican standoff,” as NA leader William Marlin called it back in 2013 when much of the cabinet with his party’s signature wanted to dissolve Parliament and call early elections after losing its majority support. The big difference is that then-Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams (DP) had also been part of an incoming UP/DP/Laville coalition, so she was able to influence the preparation of a national decree for such a move and its presentation to the Governor.
In the end the wish of the majority in the legislature prevailed at the time, as several constitutional scholars believe it should in what is, after all, a parliamentary democracy. However, not all experts agree, as was the case when something similar occurred in Curaçao in 2012.
The main argument for not allowing a new formation process is that of political instability, with elected representatives going independent and/or changing allegiance at the drop of a hat to throw down governments for what seem dubious reasons. However, most people view the possibility to send Parliament home and hold snap elections as a last remedy when the country threatens to become ungovernable; for example, due to the lack of a working majority.
The latter is hardly the case now, because the NA/DP/USP/Matser/Lake combination already has submitted a governing accord with portfolio division. Moreover, they have committed to further endorsing the “Open and Stable” governing programme written after the 2014 vote by the intended NA/DP/USP coalition that never took office because it was soon replaced by a now apparently outgoing UP-led government.
Governor Eugene Holiday in effect already has acknowledged the “new majority” and has been put in a difficult position over signing the draft dissolution decree sent to him. The law does not really entail provisions to refuse such, only to send it up the Kingdom Council of Ministers for annulment if deemed against national security or the general interest of the Dutch Kingdom and/or Country St. Maarten.
However, by appointing a “formateur” to complete the “de facto” already started formation process, the Governor perhaps can get around the Gumbs cabinet’s plans. Regardless of the final outcome, something needs to happen soon, as the local hospitality industry requires urgent attention based on the latest comments from employers’ organisation SHTA.
Add to those a recent announcement that jewellery chain Diamonds International (DI) is laying off 15 of its 150 personnel due to “negative changes of cruise ship visits” and a worrisome picture emerges. Come what may, “The Friendly Island” must keep its eyes firmly focussed on the tourism-economy ball.