Over 19,000 voters were eligible to participate in the historic election that saw four parties vying for the 15 seats available. Early returns after the polls closed at 7:00pm, showed a close race between the NA and UPP, surprising many who thought that the elections would have been dominated by the DP, which has been on the local political scene for decades.
When the final vote was recorded though, the NA, led by William Marlin, was declared winner of 7 seats, followed by Theo Heyliger’s United Peoples Party, (UPP), which won six seats and the Democratic Party, (DP), of Sarah Wescot-Williams, taking the remaining 2 seats. The Concordia Political Alliance failed to win a seat in the elections.
Despite being declared winner of the most seats by any single party, up to Saturday, (September 18), it was still not clear if the National Alliance would be called upon to form the government. Speculations are ripe that the possibility exist that the UPP and DP, with a combination of 9 seats, could put their differences aside and form the new government. Other combinations of a coalition government have also been speculated. Some are of the view that the trump card is held by the DP who might negotiate with the other two parties. Given the history of St. Maarten politics, no one would ever know the true outcome until it is announced officially.
The UPP leader, Theo Heyliger once served in the DP but resigned and left the party over differences with the DP’s leadership. Heyliger since moved on to form his new party, UPP, which on Friday contested its first elections.
This election will usher in a new political status for the island. In addition to their sister island, Curacao, St. Maarten will on October 10, become a new “independent” country, though still within the Dutch Kingdom. The date is promoted in St. Maarten as 10-10-10. The remaining territories of St. Eustatius, Bonaire and Saba are to become municipalities within the Dutch Kingdom.
In October, when the new status kicks in, the newly elected Island Council will be transformed into the island’s first parliament, with a head of government, possibly carrying the title of Prime Minister. However, there still has not been any confirmation of the actual designation to be carried by the leader of government.