Published On: Fri, Oct 7th, 2016

Parliament insists on observers at elections

dutch-parliamentTHE HAGUE -The Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament keeps hammering on independent observers being present at elections in the Dutch Caribbean countries, an offer that Curaçao and St. Maarten did not take up from The Hague for the September 26 and October 5 elections.

The issue of international observers came up during a debate with Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk and Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders to discuss the effects of the developments in Venezuela on Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao.

Member of Parliament (MP) André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party, who had already brought up this issue in past meetings, stated that election observers were “essential for the trust in the results, and therefore confidence in a new government.”

MPs Alexander Pechtold of the Democratic Party D66 and Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA mentioned the guarantee function of the Kingdom, the guarantee for good governance, in relation to the elections and the presence of observers.

“The Netherlands ultimately has the guarantee function when it comes to good governance,” said Pechtold, who emphasized that naturally elections were primarily an autonomous, internal affair of the countries.

Van Laar said it was important to make sure that the elections were free and fair on the islands. He referred to the St. Maarten election process, the reports of vote-buying at previous elections and the system of party financing. “Can we speak of free elections?” Having independent observers would contribute to a fair election process.

Minister Plasterk suggested that it would “not be unwise” to have observers at the islands’ elections as this would indeed contribute to the reliability of the election results and remove any doubt of irregularities. He said that having observers in St. Maarten would also have been wise considering the recount. “The recount shows that it is better to take away any doubts at the front.”

During a meeting of the Kingdom Council of Ministers last month, Curaçao and St. Maarten were offered the assistance of arranging observers; however, neither of the two countries made use of this offer. By doing so, the countries have created worries in the Second Chamber.

The Minister reiterated his view that the organising of elections was an affair of the autonomous countries and that it would be wrong for the Kingdom or the Netherlands to interfere or dictate the conditions.

“Saying to a country that you are unable to organise elections would be the end of the Kingdom,” he stated, adding that there was no way that the countries would intervene such interference. “We should not want that as the Netherlands. The guarantee function only comes into view if things really derail.”

Van Laar responded that he did not intend to be that drastic. “I meant to suggest whether there were possibilities of defining the conditions together with the countries, to arrive together at a definition of what an election has to comply with,” he said.

Bosman, Van Laar, Pechtold, but also Raymond de Roon of the Party for Freedom PVV expressed great concerns about the media reports that Venezuela had influence on the 2012 elections in Curaçao, and in particular on the Pueblo Soberano (PS) party of then PS leader Helmin Wiels.

“The Minister says that this is an autonomous affair of the Country Curaçao and that the local Public Prosecutor’s Office was sufficiently equipped and adept to respond. That may be true, but it does remind me of Pontius Pilate who said it is over there that you have to go,” said De Roon. He said that the Dutch Government was non-responsive and did not persist in tackling good governance issues.

“We keep hiding behind article 43, the guarantee function in the Charter,” said Pechtold, who said that Venezuela had clearly been guilty of foreign interference. He said that the election observers could have been invited from the European Union (EU), which would have taken away the illusion that the Netherlands was looking over their shoulder.

Bosman asked the Minister to impress on Aruba to make use of independent observers during the elections in that country next year. Plasterk was asked to send a letter to Parliament with his reaction to the election results in Curaçao and St. Maarten, including his thoughts on the consequences for the Kingdom.

The Daily Herald

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