Netherlands Intervenes in Curaçao to Make Sure Elections Proceed

The Dutch government overrules the interim government of Curaçao, insisting that elections go forward.

Dutch foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders speaks with Lucille George-Wout, the governor of Curaçao, in The Hague, September 24, 2015
Dutch foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders speaks with Lucille George-Wout, the governor of Curaçao, in The Hague, September 24, 2015 (Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken)

The Dutch government has given extraordinary powers to the governor of Curaçao to allow elections to go forward on the island despite opposition from its ruling parties.

Lucille George-Wout, who nominally represents the Dutch king, has been given authority over public services to make sure the elections can proceed.

It is the first time the Netherlands has intervened so overtly in the politics of the Caribbean island since it became self-governing in 1954.

Dutch interior minister Ronald Plasterk justified the move, saying election workers had been threatened with dismissal for organizing the vote.

“It is of the utmost importance that the people of Curaçao can have free and fair elections about the future of the island,” he said.

New majority

Elections were called after Prime Minister Hensley Koeiman lost his majority in the legislature of Curaçao in February.

Since then, the Movement for the Future of Curaçao (MFK), led by Gerrit Schotte, has cobbled together a new majority.

Schotte himself is barred from public office after he was convicted of bribery, money laundering and forgery of documents last year. He is appealing the verdict. In the meantime, his deputy, Gilmar Pisas, heads the new, MFK-led government.

Pisas asked George-Wout to cancel the election, due next month, but she refused and turned to the Netherlands for help.

Good governance

Situated 65 kilometers off the coast of Venezuela, Curaçao is independent except in matters of defense and foreign affairs.

The Netherlands also retains responsibility for safeguarding “good governance” on the island of 160,000.

The last time this division of powers came to a head was in 2012, when The Hague demanded spending cuts. Two lawmakers from the pro-independence Sovereign People party walked out in protest, leaving Schotte, then prime minister, without a majority. Elections were held and the MFK was kept out of power.

The party lost support in the 2016 election, but managed to return to power earlier this month when the Sovereign People once again switched sides.