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St. Maarten holds historic election as Dutch territory prepares to become country

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten (AP) — St. Maarten's two major parties expected to dominate the election Friday of 15 parliamentary representatives who will lead the Dutch territory when it becomes an autonomous country next month.

The race was expected to be close between the Democratic Party and the ruling National Alliance Party. Some voters, however, favored one of two new parties: United People and Concordia People's Alliance.

"I have seen already what the other parties can do, and I am not impressed," said United People supporter Orlando van Duivenvoorde. "I am giving my vote to a newcomer. Maybe he can do better."

St. Maarten and Curacao will become countries within the Dutch kingdom when the Netherlands Antilles are dissolved Oct. 10. The islands of Saba, St. Eustatius and Bonaire will become special Dutch municipalities and respond directly to the Dutch government.

Details of the new governments for St. Maarten and Curacao have not been decided, however, even as the deadline approaches.

It is unclear what kind of tax system will be adopted or which currency will replace the Netherlands Antillean guilder. So far, government officials have confirmed that St. Maarten and Curacao will have a common Court of Appeal and a shared central bank.

St. Maarten, which has nearly 20,000 registered voters, shares an island with the French territory of St. Martin.