Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Aruban General Election, 2009

General elections were held in Aruba on 25 September 2009 to choose the 21 members of the Estates (the parliament of Aruba). Aruba is an autonomous region of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and has full autonomy over its internal affairs with defence and foreign affairs overseen by the Dutch government. The elections were the seventh to be held for membership of the Estates since autonomy was granted by the Dutch in 1986.

The Estates are the 21 seat legislature of Aruba and members are elected for four year terms using a proportional representation system of election, with each party being allowed to place up to 29 people on their party list. The members are not elected to constituencies and represent the entire electorate. The party or coalition which wins a majority will select a Prime Minister. Prior to this election the People's Electoral Movement (MEP) were the governing party, holding eleven seats. The main opposition Aruban People's Party (AVP) held eight with the Network of Eternal Democracy and the Aruban Patriotic Movement holding a seat apiece.

Eight political parties contested the election and there were 64,600 eligible voters. Pre-election polls showed the Aruban People's Party were expected to win, campaigning to reduce inflation and abolish a tax on local business. The AVP also pledged to address concerns over the island's oil refinery operated by Valero Energy, which has been closed since mid-July and provided jobs for around one thousand people, and a recent decline in tourists visiting the island. The People's Electoral Movement pledged to diversify the economy and reduce debt and living costs.

A turnout of 85% was recorded for the election which proceeded without disruption. The AVP, led by Mike Eman, claimed 48% of the vote and twelve seats in the Estates. The MEP won 36% of the vote and eight seats, with the final seat being won by the Real Democracy Party. This means that Nelson Oduber, Prime Minister of Aruba prior to the elections, has lost control of the Estates for the first time in eight years. The victory was marked by AVP supporters letting off fireworks and unfurling flags in the green livery of the party. Oduber blamed the MEP's defeat on Dutch interference in Aruba's affairs, in particular referring to a recent announcement that the Dutch authorities would commence an investigation into corruption on the island.

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