St Kitts and Nevis is a constitutional monarchy, recognising Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. She is represented by a Governor- General who takes advice from the Prime Minister and cabinet. The country is a sovereign democratic federal state, with a unicameral National Assembly of 14 members (plus the Attorney-General if he or she is not an elected member). Eleven Assembly members are elected for a term of no longer than five years by universal adult suffrage in eight constituencies in St Kitts and three in Nevis, and three are nominated ‘senators’, two on the advice of the Prime Minister and one on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition. The cabinet comprises the Prime Minister (who must be able to command the support of the majority of members of the National Assembly), five ministers and the Attorney-General.
Nevis has its own legislature, Premier and administration. The Nevis legislature, the Nevis Island Assembly, has five members elected by universal adult suffrage and three nominated members. The central government legislates for Nevis in matters concerning overall policy formation. Under the constitution, provision is made for the secession of Nevis at six months’ notice, after a two-thirds majority in favour in the Nevis Assembly and a referendum, also with at least two-thirds in favour.
Dr Denzil Douglas and the St Kitts–Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) were returned to power in the general election of October 2004, which was observed by a Commonwealth expert team. The ruling party took seven of the St Kitts seats, and the People’s Action Movement (PAM) one. The Nevis seats were again divided between the Concerned Citizens’ Movement (CCM; two seats) and the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP; one).
In January 2010 the SKNLP won its fourth consecutive general election, taking six seats in St Kitts and 47 per cent of the national vote; and Douglas was returned as Prime Minister. The remaining seats were again divided between PAM (two in St Kitts; 32 per cent), CCM (two in Nevis; 11 per cent) and NRP (one in Nevis; ten per cent). Turnout was 84 per cent. The election was observed by a Commonwealth expert team.
Governor-General Sir Cuthbert Sebastian retired on 1 January 2013, from the office he had held since 1996, and was succeeded by Sir Edmund Lawrence on 2 January 2013.