By Alita Singh,
PHILIPSBURG–Women born around the globe, but holding Dutch nationality, account for the majority of eligible voters for the September 26 Parliamentary elections.
The “fairer sex” number 11,488, more than half of the total voter count of 22,302. The number of women voters is up from 11,090, the tally from two years ago.
The number of women contesting the upcoming elections will not be known until Nomination Day, August 8. However, in the 2014 elections women, in spite of holding more voting power collectively, only saw themselves reflected in 28 of 89 candidates on five of the six party slates in that election.
This election has seen the number of parties set to be on the ballot climb from six to nine. That growth brought two more women-led parties to the fore – People’s Progressive Alliance (PPA) of former Member of Parliament (MP) Gracita Arrindell and Helping Our People Excel (HOPE) of former radio personality Mercedes “Elektra” van der Waal-Wyatt. They join, or in Arrindell’s case re-join, long-time Democratic Party (DP) leader MP Sarah Wescot-Williams in the political arena.
St. Maarten does not have a legislated quota for women in Parliament nor are seats specifically reserved for women MPs. None of the political parties have a designated quota for women enshrined in their constitutions.
No quota exists in the Dutch Kingdom.
In the current Parliament only three of the 15 MPs are women Wescot-Williams, Tamara Leonard (United People’s party) and Leona Marlin-Romeo (independent). All three are seeking re-election.
The women’s vote has the potential to control almost eight seats in Parliament, based on a 100 per cent voter turnout and 100 per cent vote validity. The total number of votes needed for one Parliament seat currently stands at 1,487. That number is not vastly different from August 2014, yet that election saw only four women, one-fourth of the Parliament, gain seats. The fourth MP in 2014 was present Education and Youth Minister Silveria Jacobs. She is also deputy leader of National Alliance (NA).
Men account for 10,814 voters, lagging behind women by 674 voters.
Ballot boxes will be located in 20 voting districts: John Larmonie Center (986 assigned voters), Sundial School (1,319), St. Maarten Senior Citizens Recreational Centre (1,314), Sister Marie Laurence School (1,487), Dutch Quarter Community Centre (1,480), Milton Peters College (1,441), and Rupert Maynard Community Centre (1,294).
At St. Maarten Academy 1,500 are assigned to cast their ballots, in Celebration Palace 1,362, Raoul Illidge Sports Complex 1,333, Charles Leopold Bell School 1,287, Leonald Conner School 865, Simpson Bay Sports Community Center 1,146 and Belvedere Community Centre 1,391.
Melford Hazel Sports and Recreational Centre has 1,424 voters, Methodist Agogic Center 1,183, Justice Academy 397, Seventh-Day Adventist School 960, the prison 67, and St. Maarten Home 66.
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The voter numbers give St. Maarten another claim to uniqueness. The political power to choose the next Parliament lies in the hands of 22,302 persons. They will decide the way forward for this 16-square-mile country of some 52,000 residents, come Election Day, the second in two years. And those voters, through holding Dutch nationality, hail from some 115 places around the globe.
The voter count represents an increase of 869 voters since 2014 when the voter number stood at 21,433.
At the current total, the quota for a seat in the 15-member Parliament stands at 1,487 based on a 100 per cent turnout. The seat quota in 2014, based on actual voter turnout, was 967 votes per seat, compared to 917 votes in 2010.
Voters who were born in the Dutch Kingdom account for the largest number of voters, a total of 13,030. That number includes people who were born when the Netherlands Antilles comprised six islands (11,816), those born in the Netherlands (1,191) and in Aruba after country status (23).
The remaining 9,272 voters in the Civil Registry were born outside the modern-day Dutch Kingdom, but a number were born in what were Dutch colonies. The Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) is in this grouping with 11 voters as well Dutch New Guinea (now New Guinea) with a lone voter. Both are the same as in 2014.
Voters born in Suriname before and after independence from the Netherlands are not listed separately by the Civil Registry. The total for that South American country stands at 506, up from 476 in 2014. The number has grown steadily in the past six years, climbing from 397 in 2010 to the current tally.
Dutch nationality can be acquired primarily via the principle of Jus sanguinis – “right of blood” – from a Dutch parent, naturalisation and option (for people born to non-Dutch parents and raised legally in the kingdom).
The highest number of voters born outside the Dutch Kingdom is from the French Republic. They number 1,677 and are listed as born in Guadeloupe, a constitutional grouping that includes people born on the French side of St. Maarten/St. Martin in the days it was still part of the Department of Guadeloupe, 20 in France, eight in Martinique and one each in French Guiana and French Cameroons (now part of Cameroon).
The second largest group of voters born outside the kingdom hails from the Dominican Republic (1,417). This group has a slight increase over previous years. The number stood at 1,387 in 2014 and 1,423 six years earlier.
The Dominican Republic tally takes into account those people born in that country to parents from St. Maarten and elsewhere in the Dutch Kingdom as well as naturalised Dutch citizens.
St. Kitts and Nevis has the third largest bloc of voters (940, down from 964 in 2014).
Other large numbers of “foreign” voters are from Dominica (839 voters, was 845 two years ago), Haiti (560, up from 536), India (452, was 451), Anguilla (445, was 469), United States (436, was 409), Jamaica (243, was 231), British Guiana/Guyana (352, was 340), St. Lucia (177, was 179), Trinidad and Tobago (133), China (113, was 112), U.S. Virgin Islands (109, was 101), and Antigua and Barbuda (82).
A total of 79 voters were born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada (64, was 65), Colombia (62, was 67), Puerto Rico (48, was 46), Barbados (43, was 45), Montserrat (38, was 39), Venezuela (33 was 30), Great Britain (27), Canada (25, was 23), South Africa (25), Hong Kong (24, was 25), Philippines (23, was 21), Kuwait (16, was 15), Jordan (15, was 17), Israel (12, was nine), Lebanon (12), Pakistan (11), and Nigeria (10, was nine).
The Civil Registry has nine voters each registered as born in Argentina and Mexico, eight in Germany, seven in Italy, six each for Belgium, Peru and Spain, five each for Australia, Morocco, and Vietnam.
Four voters each come from West Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Liberia, and Soviet Union.
Three voters each were born in Chile, Cuba, Honduras, Ireland, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia and Sweden.
The Bahamas, Brazil, British West Indies Federation, British Virgin Islands, Ceylon (now Sri Lanki), Denmark, Ecuador, Ghana, Guatemala, Yugoslavia, Nicaragua, Palestine, St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Czech Republic, Turkey, and Uruguay were the birthplaces of one voter each.
One voter apiece was born in Afghanistan, Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), Belize, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Finland, Iraq, Cambodia, Kenya, Malacca (now part of Malaysia), Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Poland, Romania, Sierra Leona, Somalia, Tanganyika (now part of United Republic of Tanzania), Tanzania, Czechoslovakia, Zambia, Southern Rhodesia (now part of Zimbabwe), and Switzerland.
One woman, as in 2014, is listed as birthplace unknown – “Onbekend.”