Curaçao Election Result Sparks Calls for Independence

A majority of lawmakers in the Netherlands would rather the island became independent.

Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte of Curaçao in The Hague, the Netherlands, June 1, 2011
Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte of Curaçao in The Hague, the Netherlands, June 1, 2011 (Ramsay Soemanta)

Curaçaoans on Friday returned to parliament a majority of parties that favor further dissolution from the Netherlands.

Pueblo Soberano, which advocates full independence, and former prime minister Gerrit Schotte’s Movementu Futuro Kòrsou both won five out of 21 seats in the island’s legislature. They are likely to continue their coalition with the Social Democrats.

Schotte tendered his resignation in August after two lawmakers had pulled out of budget talks. The island’s governor — the representative of the Dutch king — subsequently appointed an interim prime minister instead of allowing Schotte to stay on as caretaker. He likened the move to a coup d’état and speculated the Dutch were involved.

The Hague was involved to the extent that it demanded Curaçao make deeper budget cuts to mend its deficit. Pueblo Soberano refused to cut education spending, precipitating the crisis in Schotte’s coalition.

Fed up

After the election result was announced on Saturday, a majority of lawmakers in the Netherlands called for Curaçao to leave the kingdom, citing rampant corruption and Scotte’s suspected ties to organized crime.

Among them were members of the ruling Christian Democrat and liberal parties as well as Labor, with which Prime Minister Mark Rutte is in talks to form a new government.

The three parties in the center have traditionally resisted calls for complete dissolution of the country’s Caribbean territories.

Semi-independent

Curaçao became a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 2010, when the Netherlands Antilles were dissolved.

The three smallest Dutch islands in the Caribbean became municipalities; the larger three became semi-independent.

The Dutch government retains the right to intervene in Curaçaoan affairs, although it has little power to do so.

When The Hague recommended budget cuts in July, it sparked a political crisis on the island. But the Netherlands would have had no enforcement tools at its disposal had Schotte’s government simply refused to comply.

Good governance

Under the charter governing relations between the different parts of the kingdom, the Netherlands is responsible for defense and foreign policy as well as “good governance” on the islands.

Curaçaoan politicians’ perennial failure to balance their budgets, ongoing corruption scandals and infighting do not bode well for an independent future. But short of taking over the local government, there is little the Netherlands can do.

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