In these testing times for Curaçao more people, many of them the until-recently staunch believers of our current status within the Kingdom of The Netherlands, are uttering: “Let Holland take over” whilst a smaller and sometimes radicalized group favors independence to get rid of any type of Dutch oversight.
I will not discuss the merits or demerits of either side. We must realize however that those who believe that a constitutional change is not possible without consulting the population i.e. a referendum, are deeply misguided. Simply put, we don’t have a legally defined referendum process and are at the mercy of politicians. What’s needed is a referendum ordinance that is transparent, not open to multiple interpretations and certainly not prone to manipulation.
We need to determine what type of referendums we want: 1. the mandatory referendum i.e. if a proposal passes, the Government or appropriate authority is compelled to implement it: 2. the optional referendum whereby the consequences of the vote may or may not be legally binding or 3. both the mandatory and optional referendums.
We need to determine how a referendum may be initiated: (1) the legislative referendum whereby Parliament refers a measure to the voters for their approval; (2) the popular referendum, a measure that appears on the ballot as a result of a voter petition (based on a minimum of valid signatures), or (3) both the legislative and the popular referendums.
Very important is also to determine: (1) when a referendum is valid, i.e. establish the minimum amount of valid votes; (2) what margins should be upheld for a proposal to pass (simple majority, 2/3 or 3/4 of the votes) and (3) who can cast his/her ballot.
Since 2010 we have seen a dangerous trend to weaken democratic institutions in our country, a rise of populism and conscious efforts to repress unbiased news and information. We cannot afford not having a referendum law that is transparent and able to withstand political manipulation and bullying. It’s very important that the referendum process be in the hands of an independent electorate authority as I proposed back in 2012. Let’s take action before it’s too late.