May 22, 1999

Democrats win landslide in St. Maarten for first time in a decade

                  PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten (AP) -- The National Democratic Party of St.
                  Maarten won two-thirds of seats in local elections, allowing it to form the
                  Dutch Caribbean territory's first non-coalition government in nearly a
                  decade, officials reported Saturday.

                  Election officials announced that in Friday's local elections, the Democrats
                  won 7 seats, the Patriotic Alliance -- the senior partner in the previous
                  coalition -- won three seats, and the National Progressive Party took the
                  remaining seat.

                  "This is the end of the coalition era in St. Maarten," jubilant Democratic
                  Party leader Sarah Wescott-Williams said Saturday.

                  The Dutch territory, 150 miles east of Puerto Rico, elects a government that
                  deals with local issues, and separately votes for a federal government that
                  rules the Netherlands Antilles, a grouping of islands in the Caribbean. The
                  Dutch government is still responsible for its foreign affairs and defense.

                  The Democrats governed St. Maarten for 40 years until 1991. Since then,
                  elections have forced coalitions that seldom have lasted a full term.

                  Hundreds of supporters dressed in the Democrats trademark red thronged
                  the streets of Philipsburg before dawn Saturday, honking car horns, tooting
                  noisemakers and holding impromptu motorcades around the capital.

                  Seven parties fielded 77 candidates in Friday's elections, and 69 percent of
                  the 15,000 eligible voters participated.