Published On: Mon, Jul 2nd, 2018

Political crisis looms as governing coalition remains two MPs short

St. Maarten_GovernmentPHILIPSBURG - St. Maarten is facing yet another unique political and constitutional crisis. The governing coalition is two Members of Parliament (MPs) short of a majority. This leaves the two opposition parties combined with more seats in the legislature.

Two plenary sittings on Friday to examine and approve the credentials of two incoming MPs failed to get a quorum of seven MPs – the majority needed in the currently 13-member Parliament. The two MPs-in-waiting were to be sworn-in by Governor Eugene Holiday at 2:00pm last Friday.

The two seats need to be filled following the resignation of now Ministers Emil Lee and Wycliffe Smith of United Democrats/St. Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) coalition. They were sworn-in together with the rest of the Leona Romeo-Marlin Cabinet II on Monday.

By law, ministers cannot hold the post of MP concurrently. A minister, as was the case with Lee, who is elected as an MP can combine the two posts for up to three months, but must resign from Parliament if serving again as a minister.

The fate of the five-day old cabinet now hangs in the balance. The nine-member Council of Ministers could easily be sent home by the combined opposition MPs – five of National Alliance and two of the United St. Maarten Party. The governing coalition has six seats in the current 13-seat configuration – all belonging to the United Democrats.

The fourth party in Parliament – SMCP – has the right to one seat in Parliament, but that chair is vacant with Smith’s resignation and the two aborted attempts to vet and approve the party’s incoming MP Claude Peterson.

The country will now have to wait and see what occurs next week whether another meeting called to approve the two incoming MPs Peterson and Tamara Leonard will be successful or if the combined opposition will take the opportunity to point out how fragile a government supported by a simple majority is by tabling a no confidence vote.

The current cabinet is the country’s seventh since attaining the status of country within the Dutch Kingdom in October 2010.

Friday started with the first plenary session set for 10:00am failing to get a quorum of seven MPs. Only six MPs from the governing coalition – Theo Heyliger, Sarah Wescot-Williams, Franklin Meyers, Chanel Brownbill, Sidharth “Cookie” Bijlani and Dr. Luc Mercelina, were in attendance.

Six of the seven MPs not present for the first meeting were absent with notice. Of those two – MPs Rolando Brison (United St. Maarten Party) and Jurendy Doran (National Alliance) are on a Parliament work visit. The other four who were absent with notice were NA parliamentarians Silveria Jacobs, Christophe Emmanuel, Ardwell Irion and William Marlin. The current 13th MP is Frans Richardson (US Party).

Before the close of the first gathering of MPs, Heyliger queried if a meeting to review the credentials of incoming MPs were ever stalled in the past and what are the consequences of Parliament not restoring its full complement of members.

Parliament Chairwoman Wescot-Williams said such a situation had never occurred in the country’s constitutional history and that the consequences “could be quite serious.” She intends to explore those ramifications in the event the noon meeting is affected by quorum issues.

The noon meeting also failed to get a quorum. This time, though, there were no notices of absence.

The rules of order allow for a meeting to be recalled in a short period if the matter is of vital importance.

The current Parliament, the country’s fourth in under eight years, took office on April 2. The 15 MPs were elected in the February 26 snap elections.

Whether the country will face another election in the near future due to the current crisis remains to be seen.

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