Getting Ready to VoteFriday was election day in Saba! It started with car horns honking at around 6:00 am — just to get the excitement going! All day on Friday, while the elections were taking place, there were car horns blaring as cars drove around with flags for either the Orange or Blue party. The Orange party is the Windwardside Islands People’s Movement (WIPM) and the Blue party is the Saba Labour Party (SLP). The two parties present a combined total of 10 candidates for 1 seat in the Netherlands Antilles Parliament. Since Saba is a small island, everyone knows all of the candidates — this makes it an interesting election process. It’s not like in the States, where we often don’t know the candidates and must rely on websites, televison, newspapers, debates, etc. to find out as much as we can.

Orange Party Flags - St. Eustatious in BackgroundBlue & Orange Party Flags on Cars & StreetI took a stroll around town to get a feel for the excitement of the election. People were showing up at the Lions Club community center in Windwardside to vote. You could definitely feel the energy of the community just by walking around town. Cars were driving around with flags & bumper stickers for the Orange or Blue party. Orange and blue flags and campaign posters were everywhere — on telephone polls, bulletin boards and even on the top of Mt. Maskehorn!

As I walked around town, I could hear residents shouting to each other, “Hey, how’s the turnout?” It was definitely a big day for meeting and greeting neighbors around the island. People in Saba are already some of the friendliest around — and if you can believe it, they were even friendlier on election day — everyone full of excitement. I felt good to be part of the community as I waved to people driving and walking by — even if I was not taking part in the voting.

I did ask many local Sabans about the elections though, so I could learn how it was done on the island. Here is what I found out:

  • Each person shows up to vote — their name is called and they are given the ballot.
  • They go behind a curtain and vote — filling in a bubble sheet with a red marker.
  • There is no electronic voting
  • The votes are tallied up and the results are typically known within 3-4 hours.

This election was especially important because it is the last of the Parliamentary elections as members of a unified Netherlands Antilles. The same is true for St. Maarten, Curacao, Bonaire and St. Eustatius. Starting in July 2007, Saba, St. Eustatius and Bonaire will become “kingdom islands” of the Netherlands. Kingdom islands are a newly created status that has not been fully defined yet, so Sabans are not sure what changes will come as a result. Some guesses have been put forth — for example, there may be more of a focus on recycling or perhaps a focus on medical care or education. Some people are a bit concerned, but for the most part, they are hopeful that they will continue to live peaceful, happy lives on this island.

Parade To Celebrate VictoryThe winner of the Parliamentary seat was Ray Hassell, of the Orange party — Ray was the incumbent and has much experience in this position. Sabans, including supporters of the Blue and Orange parties, celebrated on Saturday by having a parade of cars from the airport to Fort Bay. Since there is only one road in Saba, everyone got to watch as the cars, decked out in orange flags — with passengers in orange t-shirts — drove by with a cacophony of horns.

We took a ride down to Fort Bay and talked to many of the revelers. It was definitely a festive time, with food and drinks being served by Pop’s — a local fast food joint (you must try their lobster rolls!) on Fort Bay. Joel and I had the opportunity to meet Ray Hassell and other members of the community. One Saban told me that “Ray is experienced and he will lead us forward.” There was definitely a note of hope in his voice as he said this. No one knows what the future will bring, but for now, everyone seems content to focus on the present and let the future unfold.

Story on Netherlands Antilles Elections – St. Martin, Bonaire, Curacau, St. Eustatious & Saba