Saba’s electorate participated for the first time in the Second Chamber election. The turnout to voting stations was slow in the early hours of the day, picking up around noon, with most voters showing up late afternoon. No Dutch party representatives were visible in Saba’s streets, with a conspicuous lack of party posters or other political paraphernalia, except the scarce posters of Government Service Caribbean Netherlands announcing the historic event.
The lack of information about candidates on the large voting lists, coupled with voter confusion, tempered the drive for voter participation. Businesswoman Alida Heilbron said she was disappointed in the lack of party propaganda and information about candidates. Having lived in Holland, and therefore having a good knowledge of what the parties and candidates stand for, she chose to express her solidarity with the many Sabans who are not as familiar with Dutch politics. “It is very disappointing that we are a part of Holland, with the constitutional change since 2010 so that we now can vote, yet no effort was made on the islands to let us know what they stand for and who you vote for.” Saba resident René Caderius van Veen had taken it upon himself to distribute pamphlets of centredemocrat D66. “But that was too little too late,” said Heilbron, adding that in a digital age, “it would not have been a monumental task for parties to let their voice be heard on the island and they did not do it. That is my motivation for not voting.” Second Chamber party leaders visited the island earlier this year and could have established ties. They could have provided direct feedback on the concerns voiced during their visit and showcase results, Heilbron said.
“Yes, it is our right to vote,” but the authorities “have not informed the public,” on what was at stake, said Marlene Zagers (78). She said she was worried about her children and grandchildren’s future with locals casting votes without knowing who they are electing, precisely “because there are those in Holland who do not like and want us.”
Braving the midday heat, pensioner Guy Johnson arrived at the Windwardside polling station with a big smile. He said it is a privilege to vote. “Saba people should vote so that the Dutch see there is an interest. You have to pick a candidate and vote, because when you vote you can expect representation.”
Speaking about the availability of information via television, Young Luis “Black Chiney” Harrigan said not many Sabans watch Dutch television and candidates and parties did not put up posters here. He said that with the exception of Wassila Hachchi (D66), he did not recognize any other names on the lists.
“Candidates should have come or somehow represent themselves, at least with some posters” said Harrigan, “that is what we are accustomed of, or else how do you know who you are voting for?”
Saba resident for over 30 years, teacher Henk Bontenbal said the election is very important for the island’s representation. While he and his wife Wilma do not watch Dutch television, the couple read the newspaper to make up their mind.
GEBE employee Daniel Johnson said he checked the parties on the Internet and just “picked someone.”
Business owner Stanley Peterson said he also found the information he needed on the Internet, but said parties could have done more to promote their ideas.
Trail Shop Manager Evette Peterson subscribed to the perception there had been insufficient efforts to inform everyone on how to vote.
Peterson’s vote went to Hachchi, the only candidate who had some posters up and showed some interest. Peterson said she had written a letter to Hachchi and had received answers to her questions, which had helped her in making her final decision.