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Curaçao Election Result Will Set Off Alarm Bells in Netherlands

Parties opposed to the conditions of Dutch financial aid win a majority.

Willemstad Curaçao
Flag of Curaçao in Willemstad (iStock/Flavio Vallenari)

Two days after parliamentary elections in the European Netherlands, voters on Curaçao, one of the three autonomous Dutch islands in the Caribbean, went to the polls on Friday.

The result was a resounding victory for the populist Movement for the Future of Curaçao (MFK), led by Gilmar Pisas, which won nine out of 21 seats in the island Estates.

Bottom lines

  • Pisas briefly served as prime minister in 2017, after the collapse of the last government with the MFK.
  • The Christian democratic National People’s Party (PNP), led by former transport minister Ruthmilda Larmonie-Cecilia, shared second place with the liberal party of outgoing prime minister Eugene Rhuggenaath.
  • Both parties campaigned against austerity measures and reforms imposed by Netherlands.
  • The MFK’s return to power will set off alarm bells in The Hague. Not only does it oppose the terms of the rescue program that were painstakingly negotiated with Rhuggenaath last year; the party would secede from the kingdom altogether. Its founder, Gerrit Schotte, was convicted of bribery and money laundering after a two-year stint as prime minister.

Results

Party

Ideology

Seats

2017

2021

MFK Pro-independence, populist right 5 9
PAR Liberal, centrist 6 4
PNP Christian democratic 0 4
MAN Social democratic 5 2
KEM Social democratic 0 1
TPK PIN offshoot 0 1
KNT Pro-independence 2 0
PIN Christian democratic 1 0
PS Pro-independence left 1 0
MP Center-left 1 0

Background

  • Coronavirus has shattered the island’s tourism-dependent economy. One in two workers are jobless. 50,000 out of 160,000 residents are dependent on food aid, much of it paid by the Netherlands.
  • Relations with the European Netherlands, and in particular the reforms Rhuggenaath agreed, have become the dividing line in Curaçaoan politics.
  • Measures include reducing public-sector salaries and red tape, lowering the cost of doing business, making it easier to hire and fire workers and speeding up the issuance of permits.
  • The biggest pain point is that a Dutch-appointed panel of officials would supervise the changes. Opponents call this a latter-day form of colonialism.
  • MFK and other opposition parties boycotted sessions of the Estates earlier this year in a bid to filibuster the agreement. They were unsuccessful, but it took Dutch intervention to break the stalemate.
  • Curaçao is one of three autonomous Caribbean islands in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The other two are Aruba and Sint Maarten. The smaller islands Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius are overseas municipalities of the European Netherlands and voted in Wednesday’s election.

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