07 February 2011

Saba, Statia Gear up for Elections

First polling since the two islands were partially integrated by the Netherlands

Daily Herald

ST. EUSTATIUS--No less than five parties will be contesting the first Island Council election under Statia's new constitutional status. The ruling Democratic Party (DP) of St. Eustatius, Progressive Labour Party (PLP), United People's Coalition (UPC), St. Eustatius Empowerment Party (STEP) and independent candidate Wilhelm "Joshua" Spanner will be contesting five seats in the Island Council.

At 9:45am, Spanner was the first to present himself to Head of the Civil Registry, Ricardo Tjie-A-Loi. Asked about his party's name, Spanner replied he would receive a number, not a name. The UPC, headed by former DP member and current independent Island Councilman Reginald Zaandam, was the second party to submit its candidates' list to the Civil Registry. Other names on the UPC list are Elvin Henriques (2), Vilma van Zoest (3), newcomer to the political arena Bernadine Schmidt (4) and Derrick Simmons Jr. (5).

STEP was the next party to present its list. Party leader Franklin Brown, who is determined to win the election, presented a list with three candidates. These include besides Brown, number two Glenn Schmidt, and newcomer in politics Koert Kerkhoff.

Brown said STEP wants to give hope back to the people. "Hope is what STEP stands for and for empowering the people in taking their rightful places back in the community of St. Eustatius, and to strengthen the social and economic development of our island in protecting our local businesses." He encouraged all voters to come out and vote.

Current opposition leader for the PLP Clyde van Putten presented a list with ten candidates. Headed by Van Putten, other candidates on the PLP slate are Millicent Lijfrock-Marsden (2), Laurens Duiveman (3), Richelline Leerdam (4), Arlene Spanner-Schmidt (5), Brenda van Putten (6), Esmond Roosberg (7), Sonaida Smithen-Windefelde (8), Orlando Sanchez Rivera (9), and Renaldo Redan (10).

Van Putten announced that his party and Zaandam's UPC have closed an electoral alliance for the upcoming election. After the signing of the agreement, members of both parties joined for a photo outside the Civil Registry.

The ruling Democratic Party was the last party to present its list of candidates on Tuesday afternoon. Party leader Rueben Merkman led his party and supporters to the Civil Registry under the accompaniment of honking cars.

Some of the other parties had also arrived at the Civil Registry with some pump and circumstance, including balloons on the sound of blowing car horns.

Rueben Merkman is the third member of his family to run for office. His late brother Earl Merkman was the youngest commissioner on Statia, his sister Edris was also a commissioner on the DP slate, and now he has taken up the mantle from Julian Woodley to lead the DP.

Number two on the DP slate is first timer Koos Sneek, current treasurer of the St. Eustatius Business Association. Other candidates include current Island Councilwoman Adelka Spanner (3), newcomer Maritza Patrick (4), Commissioner Julian Woodley (5), first timer Maya Leon Pandt (6), Donald Zimmerman (7), Jeremiah "Jerry" Obispa (8) and Commissioner Roy Hooker (9).

The process at the Civil Registry went smoothly and without incidents.

Island Governor Gerald Berkel and Acting Prosecutor Jacques van der Horde and members of the Main Voting Bureau were on hand to monitor the process, while members of the public were anxiously waiting to hear whose names would be on the political slates.

As usual, the candidates will be contesting five seats in the Island Council. The number of seats in the Island Council has not been increased under the island's new status, but with the introduction of the principle of dualism the newly elected commissioners will no longer also be members of the Island Council.

During previous drafts of the law on the special municipalities of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (WolBES) different numbers have been discussed, up until a nine-member Island Council. The final version of the law, as passed and amended by Dutch Parliament, left the number of seats at five. This all means that the two-member Executive Council will need the cooperation of a five-member Island Council for the approval of ordinances, policies and decisions.

Party lists submitted on Saba Nomination Day

Wednesday, 19 January 2011 00:46 .SABA--Governor Jonathan Johnson officially received the electoral party lists with the names of candidates for the March 2 Island Council Election on Tuesday. Windward Island's People's Movement (WIPM) and Saba Labour Party (SLP) are the two parties that will take part.

At 10:00am, represented by its leader Rolando Wilson, WIPM submitted a preliminary list of six candidates.
The SLP, represented by Ishmael Levenstone, followed suit at 11:00am, submitting a list with three candidates. Current party leader Akilah Levenstone's name was absent from this list. She announced her withdrawal from politics after the election. After the registration, a follow-up, closed-door meeting was held between the party leaders and the Governor.

Acting as chairman of the Main Voting Bureau, Governor Johnson said a public meeting will be held on Friday, January 21, whereby he will officially announce the names of the candidates. Election Day is set for Wednesday, March 2, when all eligible voters are called to cast their votes for one of the five persons who will represent the community in the Island Council. Two polling stations will be available: one in The Bottom and the other in Windwardside.

While in the past voters were required to cast their votes in the polling station closest to their residence, the current rules allow voters to freely choose where they want to vote. Following the October 10, 2010, integration of Saba into the Netherlands, new laws and regulations have become applicable in local elections.

These new electoral laws will be posted on Website http://www.rijksdienstcn.com/ of the Kingdom Department for the Dutch Caribbean (Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland, RCN).

RCN communication advisor on Saba and Statia Alida Francis assured that efforts are currently underway to have the laws translated and posted both in English and Dutch by the end of January.

More information will thus become available to the public in an effort to dissipate any misinformation or confusion.


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