Aruba goes to the ballot box today. Twelve political parties participate. Analysts expect the battle to go mainly between Evelyn Wever-Croes government party MEP and opposition party AVP from former Prime Minister Mike Eman. Three parties are new.
The elections are a result of Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes‘s decision at the end of March to file her government’s resignation. This happened after it became known that the Public Prosecutor‘s Office had initiated a criminal investigation into public money abuse by coalition party POR.
According to political analyst Karel Arends, smaller parties are now more likely to have a seat. “Big party political campaigns attract far less public than usual. There’s a hint of corruption and friendism around MEP and AVP. I think these parties don‘t get the previous numbers of votes from their fixed core this time. AVP knows that, it itself filed an interim action against the Electoral Council to get his hands on the electoral register. This allows them to pick up AVP voters from home during election day, if they haven’t voted yet.”
Aruba is captivated by a major corruption scandal involving the AVP. A former minister is in custody and party leader Mike Eman has called on everyone to vote for this man. That would send a signal to the Public Prosecutor‘s Office, which would interfere too much in the elections.
“And people are tired of that. Over 400 billion guilders have been dealt with gross national product in recent decades, but you can’t see that. Anyone who was close to the big parties has become a millionaire by now, you can see that. People wonder why Aruba stays poor, says Arends.”
Renegotiating with The Hague
In the run-up to the elections, the Evelyn Wever-Croes government eventually moved to pressure from the Netherlands and wanted to reform the economy and invest in education and healthcare with Dutch money over the next six years. In return, the Netherlands is giving budget support now that corona has shut down the economy. Without this support, the government in Oranjestad will no longer be able to pay its bills.
Most parties in Aruba recognize the dependence on the Netherlands, but promise the voter to renegotiate with The Hague, a strategy that is unlikely to work. The agreements with the Netherlands have been cast in concrete, with a Caribbean Body for Reform and Development led by The Hague.
“A victory of the MEP is therefore in line with the Dutch interest, but is not in the interest of Aruba,” says Arends. “There is hardly any intelligent framework within the MEP and AVP, people who can move the island forward. In that respect, hope is based on a few small parties, where there is more expertise than the two major parties put together.”