photo: Voters on election day at Statia

ORANJESTAD – The Progressive Labour Partij (PLP) has won the first election for the island council on Statia since the Dutch intervention in 2018. But the true winner seems to be the people of Statia, who turned out in massive numbers: 1617 individuals cast their votes, a turnout rate of at least 76,93 percent.

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By Urisha Blake

Rechelline Leerdam, party leader PLP – picture: Urisha Blake

“These results are redeeming. Everyone worked so hard. This means that our message came across. And that the people of Statia know exactly what we want for Statia and our intentions”, according to the happy PLP leader Rechelline Leerdam. List pusher Clyde van Putten was most voted on in this election and got 171 preferred votes.

The results will be made official on Friday, but as it stands the party got 815 votes, good for 3 out of the 5 seats. That means that they gained one seat compared to the previous island council elections in 2015.

Concern in The Hague after the result
The council members do not yet have much power, because the Dutch government wants to hand over the administration step by step in the coming years. “In political The Hague there was a fiery hope that PLP would not become the biggest. The fear is that there will be arguments again,” said political reporter John Samson.

“The cabinet made big promises in the takeover of the board. Two years later, these would hardly have been fulfilled, is the often heard criticism from voters.”

Democratic Party (DP), the Dutch-minded party, got 647 votes, good for 2 seats. Koos Sneek is disappointed. “I expected us to win. Unfortunately that’s not the case.”

‘It will be a challenge in the island council: the differences between PLP and DP are enormous’ – DP’s Koos Sneek

Will there be a collaboration with winner PLP? “I think it will be a challenge. The differences are too great. The ideas that the PLP has are clearly not those that DP advocates. So I’m not sure how that will turn out in practice.

DP’s Koos Sneek – picture: Urisha Blake

Despite the corona situation, the elections went off without a hitch, says deputy government commissioner Alida Francis shortly after midnight. “We hoped that everyone would trickle in during the course of the day as to avoid any infections. And that worked out. We didn’t expect the turnout to be this high.”

‘High turnout truly remarkable – Marnix van Rij, government commissioner’

Government commissioner Marnix van Rij is visibly happy when he announces the preliminary results at half past twelve at night. “1617 individuals cast their votes, that’s a lot of people given the COVID situation. Additionally the turnout is 12 percent higher than it was in 2015 during the last island council election. And the election observers said that it’s also higher (about 10 percent) than the election turnouts on other Caribbean islands during the past few months, such as Jamaica. That is truly remarkable.”

Marnix van Rij announces the preliminary results in the Lions Den

Francis also emphasizes, as did Van Rij, the importance of cooperation in the island council. According to her the party leaders have voiced their willingness to do this during the past few weeks.

The third party, United People’s Coalition (UPC) didn’t manage to secure a seat with its 124 votes. Of all the votes, 30 were deemed invalid or blank, and the electoral quota came out to 370 votes. On Friday the number of votes cast per individual candidate will be published.

‘If the Netherlands isn’t comfortable with the PLP, they are not happy with the people’s choice’ – Statian voter

Voter on Statia – picture: Urisha Blake

If the Dutch government commissioner can work well with the PLP when they take their seats on the island council remains to be seen, given the party’s past. A Statian voter sums it up as follows:

“If the Netherlands isn’t comfortable with the PLP, that means that they are not happy with the people’s choice. Eventually it’s about the choice that the people have made, whoever wins, and that has to be respected. The only thing that counts is that they take their seats and work together. With mutual respect.”