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Women majority of eligible voters

~ But under represented on ballot ~

By Alita Singh

PHILIPSBURG--Women account for the majority of eligible voters in St. Maarten for the August 29 Parliamentary Elections, yet are grossly underrepresented on the candidates' lists of the five political parties contesting the August 29 Parliamentary Elections.

A total of 11,090 women and 10,367 men are listed as eligible voters in the Voters Registry, according to numbers from the Civil Registry.

The Voters Registry stands at 21,457 registered voters. That represents a growth of 1,856 voters since the last elections in September 2010. Voters, who are all Dutch citizens through a parent option or naturalisation, were born in 111 former and present countries (including St. Maarten) and former and present territories from all corners of the world.

Despite the large number of women voters, only 28 of 89 candidates on the five political parties' slates, submitted on Nomination Day, July 11, are women.

Only one party, the Democratic Party (DP), is headed by a woman, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams. She won the third highest number of votes overall and had the highest number of votes among the 20 women who contested in September 2010. She garnered 1,368 votes, down from 2,188 in the Island Council elections of April 2007.

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 1,430. This number was not very different in September 2010, yet the results of that early Island Council Elections only saw four women elected as Island Councilwomen.

In the September 2010 elections, the voter turnout was 71 per cent, putting the votes needed for a seat at 912.

Of those four, only three became transition Members of Parliament and only two are still serving. Wescot-Williams opted to become a minister in 2010. This led to her parliamentary seat being allocated to MP Roy Marlin. DP candidate Maria Buncamper-Molanus was next in line for Wescot-Williams seat, but she also opted to become a minister. She resigned from office some two months later.

The other three women who became MPs are Gracita Arrindell, Sylvia Meyers-Olivacce and Rhoda Arrindell of the United People's (UP) party. Rhoda Arrindell opted to serve as a minister and this made way for Dr. Ruth Douglass to entire Parliament. The minister left office with the collapse of the Wescot-Williams I Cabinet and Dr. Douglass resigned in 2013 making way for her party leader Theo Heyliger to enter Parliament. Today, only Gracita Arrindell, who serves as president of parliament, and Meyers-Olivacce are still MPs.

Wescot-Willams, Gracita Arrindell and Rhoda Arrindell are again candidates for the upcoming elections.

St. Maarten does not have a legislated quota for women on the electoral slates of political parties for general elections. No quota exists in the Dutch Kingdom. In the Netherlands, two parties – Labour Party PvdA and Groen Links (Green Left) – have adopted general voluntary quotas that also cover women, according to Quote Project, a collaborative effort of International IDEA, Inter-Parliamentary Union and Stockholm University.

Women on ballot

Millennium Development Goals project lists as its third goal to target the elimination of gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015. Increasing the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments worldwide forms an essential part of this goal.

UN Women reports that as of October 2013, women were 21.8 per cent of parliamentarians in single or lower houses and 19.4 per cent of Senate or upper houses, up from 12 per cent and 10.1 per cent in January 1997, respectively. At the pace witnessed during the last 15 years, it will take nearly 40 years to reach the parity zone in parliaments.

Advancing women's political participation and leadership and economic empowerment are two of the central goals of UN Women.

According to the UN agency, in countries around the world, women in politics are strengthening the credibility of democracies through their participation, reinvigorating political accountability, and contributing to improved efficiency in policymaking through their diverse perspectives.

Kingdom connection

The total number of voters born in the Dutch Kingdom (the Netherlands, the former Netherlands Antilles and Aruba) is 12,387, increased from 11,179 in September 2010.

Of the total voters, 9,070 were born outside the Dutch Kingdom, up from 8,422 in September 2010. These "foreign" voters include people who were born in former Dutch territories prior to independence. The Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, falls into this category with 11 registered voters being born there (a decrease from 13 some four years ago) as does Dutch New Guinea (now New Guinea) with one voter. Voters born in pre- and post-independence Suriname were listed together as 476 by the Civil Registry, an increase from 397.

The French

The largest number of foreign voters are French. This number totals 1,601, and of them 1,569 were born in Guadeloupe. That number also covers people born on French St. Martin to parents with Dutch nationality and those who opted for Dutch nationality claiming it through blood relations. Twenty-three of the French voters were born in France, seven in Martinique and one each in French Guiana and French Cameroons (now part of Cameroon).

Dominicanos and Kittitians

The next largest group was born in the Dominican Republic – 1,387 voters, down from 1,416. This group has seen gradual decrease in voters since January 2010 when the number stood at 1,423 for the last elections for the Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles. The Dominican Republic number takes into account people born in that country to parents from St. Maarten and elsewhere in the Dutch Kingdom as well as naturalised Dutch citizens.

Other large blocks of "foreign" voters are from St. Kitts and Nevis (964, down from 995), Dominica (845, was 794), Haiti (536, was 538), Anguilla (469, was 502), British India/India (451, was 295), United States (409, was 345), British Guiana/Guyana (340, up from 269), Jamaica (231, was 176), St. Lucia (179, was 166), Trinidad and Tobago (133, was 119), China (112, was 110), US Virgin Islands (101, up from 97),

Other voters born outside the Dutch Kingdom are from Antigua and Barbuda (82, up from 79), St. Vincent and the Grenadines (81), Colombia (67, was 46), Grenada (65, was 74), Puerto Rico (46, was 33), Barbados (45, up from 43), Montserrat (39, was 41), Venezuela (30, was 28),Canada (23, was 26), Great Britain (27, was 26), Hong Kong (25), South Africa (25, was 19), Philippines (21, was 14), Jordan (17, was 13), Kuwait (15, was 12), Lebanon (12, was 13), and Pakistan (11, was 12).

Far flung corners

Nine voters each were born in Argentina, Germany, Israel and Nigeria; seven each in Italy and Mexico, and six each in Belgium and Morocco.

Five voters each were born in Australia, Indonesia, Federation of St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Four voters each were born in Cuba, Japan, Liberia, Peru, Soviet Union, Spain, and Sweden.

Three voters each were born in The Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Ireland, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Syria, and Tunisia.

Two voters each were born in West Germany, Brazil, British West Indies Federation, Denmark, Ecuador, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Iran, Yugoslavia, Nicaragua, Palestine, Singapore, Uruguay and Switzerland.

One voter each was born in Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), Belize, Bolivia, Chagos Island (British Territory in Indian Ocean), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Finland, Malaysia, New Zeeland, Norway, Panama, Poland, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanganyika (now part of United Republic of Tanzania), Tanzania, Turkey, Zambia, and Southern Rhodesia (now part of Zimbabwe).

One woman is listed as birth place unknown – "Onbekend."

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