The Dutch Labour party PvdA, the conservative VVD party and democratic D66 party agree that more active campaigning on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba is highly needed to convince people to vote in the next elections. The top three parties with the most votes in the Dutch “public entities” said on Thursday that they lamented the very low turnout. They acknowledged that it was important to persuade more people to vote in future elections. A mere 23.6 per cent of the close to 15,000 eligible voters on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba turned up at the polling stations on Wednesday. On St. Eustatius only 14.8 per cent cast their vote. Saba was a bit higher with 28.5 per cent; but in Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire, the voter turnout among those with Dutch voting rights was low as well.
The motivation among the voters on the islands was very low, mostly because they did not know for whom to vote. Voters complained that they had received insufficient information about the political parties and their election programmes. The National Government Service Caribbean Netherlands RCN in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba did organise a neutral information campaign to motivate people to make use of their voting right. The RCN said it was up to the individual political parties to get their message across.
Some parties distributed flyers and tickets on the islands. With the exception of Christian Democratic Party CDA candidate Arjan Erkel, who visited Aruba and Bonaire, none of the Dutch politicians campaigned personally on the islands.
It was the first time Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba participated in the elections for a new Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament since they became part of The Netherlands on October 10, 2010. “People are not used to voting for the Second Chamber,” said Member of Parliament (MP) and number seven on the PvdA slate Martijn van Dam, whose party managed to muster the most votes overall in the Caribbean Netherlands. The PvdA was the largest vote-getter in St. Eustatius, Bonaire and Aruba with 20.8 per cent of the votes.
“The low turnout is a clear signal that on both sides of the ocean we have to get used to the new situation,” said MP Wassila Hachchi, number 12 on the D66 slate. D66 was number three on all three islands combined with 14 per cent, but the party was the winner on Saba. Overall, D66 was the second largest party in Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten combined.
MP André Bosman (VVD), candidate number 29, said the elections in the Caribbean Netherlands surely would come up in the general evaluation of the elections. “We will look into what happened, why so few voters turned up and how we can encourage people to vote next time,” he told The Daily Herald. Bosman pointed out that one of the problems was that the Dutch political parties did not have local divisions on the islands like they had in municipalities in The Netherlands. “We have to see how we can solve this,” he said. The VVD secured the most votes in Curaçao and St. Maarten, and ended up second place in the overall Caribbean Netherlands with 15.8 per cent. Personally campaigning on the islands is a costly affair, especially when considering the limited number of voters. Van Dam pointed out that the budgets of the political parties were inadequate to afford that luxury. “We have to be careful with our budget and overseas trips would exhaust our funds too much,” he said.
Both Van Dam and Hachchi said their parties had done some form of campaigning in the Caribbean Netherlands. The PvdA had several volunteers on location who had offered to help out during their vacation. Hachchi said she had sent flyers and stickers to Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, but because the mail takes very long, the flyers arrived only five days before the elections. Her flyers never reached Bonaire. Hachchi said a Saban resident had created his own poster of her, a gesture she appreciated very much. Despite the low turnout Bosman, Hachchi and Van Dam said they were “proud” that their parties had done relatively well on the islands. “It feels kind of special,” said Van Dam. “Super!” said Hachchi about the results on Saba.
Hachchi said she considered it her job and that of her colleagues in Parliament to encourage people to vote next time and to stay close to the islands. She said people should not be afraid to approach Members of Parliament and ask questions. And, she added, “Next time we have to make a bigger effort to involve the islands in the elections. We can do this better.”
Hachchi is almost sure of her seat in the Second Chamber. D66 won 12 seats, so in theory she is in. However, if a candidate lower on the list has acquired the close-to-16,000 preferential votes, Hachchi will lose her seat. She will know for certain next week Monday.
Van Dam and Bosman will keep their seats in Parliament. Chairwoman of Parliament’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations Brigitte van der Burg, number 26 on the VVD slate, also has been re-elected as MP. Bosman said his party would continue on the same track where it concerned Kingdom Relations. The VVD will focus especially on the Passenger Movement Law (Rijkswet Personenverkeer); the Bosman law initiative to restrict the registration of poorly educated people from Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten in The Netherlands; the supervision of the government finances of Curaçao and St. Maarten through the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT; and the progress of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba as Dutch “public entities.” Issues like health care will be further improved and made more effective and efficient. Van Dam said he did not want to speculate too much on the policy of his party. “I can’t anticipate on the formation, but our views on the Caribbean Netherlands are exactly as described in our election programme: better use of local knowhow, less meddling and travelling by The Hague, more efficiency, people should feel the advantages of being part of The Netherlands, not the disadvantages.”
Four members of the Kingdom Relations Committee will not be returning to Parliament: Ineke van Gent (GroenLinks), Cynthia Ortega-Martijn (Christian Union), Bas Jan van Bochove (CDA) and Eric Lucassen (PVV). All parties will decide on the division of portfolios at a later stage. (Suzanne Koelega)
Source: “The Daily Herald” 2012-09-14