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St Kitts and Nevis : Constitution and politics

Constitution

Status: 
Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II
Legislature: 
National Assembly of St Kitts and Nevis
Independence: 
19 September 1983

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.

Politics

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.

Head of government

The Hon Dr Timothy Harris, Prime Minister
The Hon Dr Timothy Sylvester Harris was sworn in as Prime Minister of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis on 16 February 2015 following the success of his coalition party at the general election. He is also concurrently Minister of Finance, Sustainable Development, National Security, People Empowerment and Constituency Empowerment. Dr Harris was first elected as Member of Parliament for St Christopher 7 in 1993 and he has held onto this seat since that time. He founded the People's Labour Party, which he currently leads, in 2013. He is also the Political Leader of the three-party Unity Movement which forms the current Coalition Government of the Federation St. Kitts and Nevis. During his political career, prior to assuming the post of Prime Minister in 2015; he held numerous ministerial portfolios within the Cabinet of the St. Kitts and Nevis’s Labour Government. From 1995 to 2013, Dr Harris has served as Foreign Minister and Senior Minister, Agriculture Minister, Education Minister, International Trade Minister, Industry Minister, Commerce Minister, Consumer Affairs Minister, Marine Resources, Cooperatives and Constituency Empowerment Minister and Minister of Finance. Dr Harris has degrees in accounting from the University of the West Indies and Montreal’s Concordia University. Dr Harris has several publications including “Portrait of a Nation: St. Kitts and Nevis Celebrating 25 Years of Independence”; “The Dynamics of International Diplomacy: the case of China and Taiwan in the Caribbean, (1971-2005) and has presented articles on subjects from politics to accounting and finance. He was born on 14 January 1964 in St Kitts.