Published On: Wed, Mar 29th, 2017

Donors gave parties more than one million in 2014

GREAT BAY – Most parties and politicians hardly have accurate knowledge of the contents of the national ordinance on registration and finances of political parties and the role of the Electoral Council. This is one of the observations in the 2014 annual report the Electoral Council released yesterday. Donors gave parties and candidates more than one million guilders for the 2014 elections, the report reveals.

Annual report Electoral Council

“Despite this lack of knowledge (about the ordinance – ed.), only a small number of parties and candidates visited the Electoral Council for information,” the report states.

The council furthermore notes that “political parties hardly function according to their articles of association.” The structure and organization of parties are not always as transparent and democratic as stipulated in these articles.

Another point of criticism is that not all political parties have “demonstrated the willingness” to ask their members for a contribution, while paid membership is one of the characteristics of an association. One party (the UP) made an agreement with candidates to donate a percentage of their salary to the party if they were elected or became a minister.

Several parties took decisions about the candidates on their list without following the procedures described in the articles of association. There was for instance no consultation with the party boards or with nomination committees.

The ordinance leaves room for interpretation of the moment parties have to publish their manifestos before an election. Some parties consider publication of their manifesto on the day they submit their list of candidates (erroneously called postulation day) as timely, but the Electoral Council suggests in its report that manifestos should be published no later than four weeks before an election.

Furthermore, the council is of the opinion that candidates and parties should register donations they receive from three months before “postulation day” until two months after the elections.

“The unlimited use of private funds by candidates may jeopardize all efforts to establish a political level playing field,” the report states. The national ordinance does not say anything about self-financing candidates.

The Electoral Council also criticizes the government in its report for a “seemingly lack of attention and cooperation.” A service level agreement with the government has not been concluded yet and there is also still no national decree that regulates the remuneration of the members of the council. Because of this substitute member attorney Jeroen Veen resigned from the council.

The report shows that the United People’s party (UP) received the most in donations for the 2014 elections: 629,251.93 guilders ($351.537), more than all other parties combined. The Democratic Party received 217,724.82 guilders ($121,634) in donations, the National Alliance 168,474.85 guilders ($94,120), the United St. Maarten party 31,154.12 guilders ($17,405), the One St. Maarten People Party 6,924.20 guilders ($3,868) and the Social Reform Party zero.

Combined, donors put up more than one million guilders (to be exact: 1,053,529.92) or $558,564 for the 2014 elections. The UP received 190 donations (an average of $1,850), the Democratic Party 84 (average; $1,448), the National Alliance 50 (average; $1,882) and the USp 14 (average; $1,243).

An overview of donations per candidate shows that 37 received no donations at all. Nine candidates received between 30,000 and 200,000 guilders – the highest being $197,011.21 and $110,062. Sixteen received between 10,000 and 30,000 guilders, 14 between 1,000 and 5,000, 11 between 5,000 and 10,000 and 3 received less than a thousand guilders.

Photo caption: From left:  Vice-chair Cela Richardson-Nicolaas, member Linda Richardson, chairman of the Electoral Council Bert Hofman, President of Parliament Sarah Wescot Williams and members Marvel Hooi and Oscar Williams during a recent meeting about amendments to the Electoral Ordinance. Photo contributed.