Island Electoral College elections in March 2019

Residents of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba with Dutch nationality will be able to vote indirectly for the Dutch Senate in May 2019 via the Electoral College on their island which will be elected on March 20, 2019, on the same day the Island Council election will take place.

The Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament this Thursday will approve a change to the general law regulating the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, the WolBES, to introduce the Electoral Colleges as a formality. This means there will be no general debate on this law proposal and all parties in the Second Chamber are in favour.

The law proposal is a result of the approved amendment to the Dutch Constitution to secure an Electoral College for the election of the members of the First Chamber. This enables residents on the three islands with Dutch nationality to have an influence on the composition of the Senate.

The members of the three separate Electoral Colleges, one for each public entity, will have only one task: to elect the members of the Senate. The members of the Electoral Colleges will do so in conjunction with the members of the Provincial States, on the same day and time.

The Electoral Colleges will be bodies of the public entities, but will not have an active part in the daily management of the local governments. The Electoral Colleges will also not be general representative bodies like the Island Councils.
The Electoral Colleges on the islands will have the same number of members as the Island Councils: nine in Bonaire, and five each in St. Eustatius and Saba. The Electoral Colleges will be elected for a period of four years, like the Island Councils, but unlike the Island Councils, the Electoral Colleges cannot be dissolved within the four years.

A member of the Island Council, an Island Commissioner and a civil servant may become a member of the Electoral College as long as he or she has Dutch nationality. The Island Governor will serve as the Chairman of the Electoral College, but he or she will not be a member and will have no voting rights.

A number of measures will be put in place to improve the personal integrity of the members of the Electoral College. The member will have to declare additional functions, take the oath and adhere to the code of conduct. A member will not receive a salary, but only a compensation.

Each public entity will form its own electoral district, which makes it possible for local political parties to submit a list of candidates for the Electoral College. Voters with Dutch nationality will receive two ballot papers: one for the Island Council election and one for the Electoral College. Non-Dutch eligible voters will receive only a ballot paper for the Island Council election.

Organising the voting for the Electoral College on the same day as the Island Council election has a number of benefits: it is a recognisable event for the residents, it is easier for voters to cast two votes on one day and it saves cost, as the same polling stations will be used.

The Dutch Government opted to have an Electoral College per public entity versus the idea of having one combined Electoral College for the three islands. Having one Electoral College per public entity is expected to have a positive influence on the turnout at the election and on the willingness of persons to be candidates in the election for the Electoral College.

A large-scale public information campaign will be set up prior to the first election of the Electoral College, to introduce the voter to this new phenomenon and its importance. Political parties will also be informed about the procedure of nomination.

The law proposal to adapt the WolBES for the introduction of the Electoral Colleges was sent to the Governments of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba for consultation. Saba’s Executive Council expressed the wish for a separate Electoral College per public entity. Bonaire’s Executive Council had no legal objections to the law proposal.

The St. Eustatius Executive Council did have objections and stated in its advice that the law proposal infringed on the local government’s desire to attain more autonomy within the Kingdom.

The Statia Government requested a delay in the further handling of the law proposal. However, the Dutch Government was not willing to entertain this request, mainly because speed is required to ensure that residents of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba with Dutch nationality have a say in the next election for a new Senate in May 2019.

The elections of the Electoral Colleges have to take place on the same day as the elections for the Island Councils and the Provincial States, which is March 20, 2019. Nomination Day has been set at February 4, 2019, and the registration of political parties up to December 24, 2018. Considering these dates as well as the necessary preparations, the Dutch Government is striving to have the adapted WolBES go into effect mid-2018.

The Daily Herald.

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