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Brief Political History and Dynamics of Anguilla

The most northerly of the Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean. Latitude 18 degrees North, Longitude 63 degrees West, Anguilla was first settled by Amerindian tribes who migrated from South America. The island, formerly called by the Carib name Malliouhana, gained the Spanish name Anguilla because of its ‘eel-like’ shape. It was inhabited by Arawaks for several centuries. The earliest Amerindian artefacts found on Anguilla have been dated to around 1300 BC, and remains of settlements date from 600 AD. The date of European discovery is uncertain: some sources claim that Columbus sighted the island in 1493, while others state that the island was first discovered by the French in 1564 or 1565.

Anguilla was first colonised by English settlers from Saint Kitts, beginning in 1650. Other early arrivals included Europeans from Antigua and Barbados.  It is likely that some of these early Europeans brought enslaved Africans with them.  Historians confirm that African slaves lived in the region in the early seventeenth century.  For example, Africans from Senegal lived in St. Christopher (today St. Kitts) in 1626.

By 1672 a slave depot existed on the island of Nevis, serving the Leeward Islands. While the time of African arrival in Anguilla is difficult to place precisely, archive evidence indicates a substantial African presence (at least 100) on the island by 1683.

The island was administered by England, and later the United Kingdom, until the early nineteenth century when – against the wishes of the inhabitants – it was incorporated into a single British dependency along with Saint Kitts and Nevis.

When the West Indies Federation dissolved in 1961 and various attempts at a new federation failed, Britain formed the Windward and Leeward Islands Associated States.  Under British law, associated states have full internal self-government, while Britain retains control of defence and external affairs.  This meant full internal self-government for the new association, including the unit of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla.  

Associate Statehood and the Succession Movement

In 1967 St Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla together became an associated state of the UK; they enjoyed internal independence, but responsibility for external affairs and defence remained with the UK.  However, Anguilla was opposed to government by St Kitts and Ronald Webster, a local businessman and leader of Anguilla's only political party, the People's Progressive Party (PPP), led a breakaway movement.  On 30 May 1967, the Anguillans evicted the St. Kitts police force and began to run their own affairs through a local council.  Six weeks later, Anguilla held a referendum in which all but five of over 1,800 voters rejected continued ties with St. Kitts and Nevis.  This overwhelming sentiment may have influenced the initial low-key British response aimed at negotiating a compromise.  In 1969, however, Webster led a bid to secede from the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla union; the Anguillans made a "unilateral declaration of independence" under the "rebel" British flag.

Economic concerns were at the root of the 1969 secession. Anguillans claimed their island was the poor cousin of the union and received little from St. Kitts and Nevis.  The Anguillans believed that colonial status meant a legal obligation on Britain's part to help with development aid.

After attempts to repair the breach between St. Kitts and Anguilla failed, St. Kitts requested that Britain land troops on Anguilla. The British did so in March 1969 and installed a British commissioner.  Britain reluctantly accepted Anguilla's request for a return to colonial status.

Since Anguilla's 1969 secession from St. Kitts and Nevis, politics on the island has been a contest between Ronald Webster, who led the secession, and his political rivals.  In July 1971, the British Parliament passed the Anguilla Act, which provided that should St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla decide to end its associated status, Anguilla could be separated from the other islands. 

In the March 1976 House of Assembly elections, Webster, then head of the PPP, won and was appointed chief minister. In February 1977, Webster lost a motion of confidence, and Emile Gumbs replaced him as chief minister and as leader of the PPP (renamed the Anguilla National Alliance in 1980).  On 28 May 1980, Webster won the House of Assembly election under the Anguilla United Party (AUP) banner.

As independence for St. Kitts and Nevis approached, Anguilla formally separated from the state on 19 December 1980, when it became a British Dependent Territory.

New constitution

In 1981, after political friction within the House of Assembly, Webster formed yet another party, the Anguilla People's Party (APP), and won that June's election.  An early general election was held in March 1984, which resulted in the ANA's capturing of four of the seven House of Assembly seats. Evidently, Webster's plan to cut dependency on Britain by reducing British aid and increasing internal taxes had proved highly unpopular.

In the mid-1980s, the territory's two major parties - the Anguilla Democratic Party and the rival Anguilla National Alliance -had no real policy differences.  Both supported continued affiliation with Britain.

In the late 1980s, it was still a separate dependency, an associated state administered under the terms of the British government's Anguilla Constitution Order of 1982.  In accordance with this legislation, a new Constitution took effect in Anguilla on 1 April 1982.  Britain also contributed considerable financial aid.

The 1990s

Gumbs became chief minister after the 1984 election, remaining in the post for 10 years.  Under great popular pressure, abandoned Webster's tax plan.  He then emphasized a policy of revitalizing the island's economy through tourism and foreign investment.  Webster resigned from the leadership of the APP, since renamed the Anguilla Democratic Party (ADP).  New party leader Victor Banks vowed to resist any attempt by Webster to regain control of the ADP.

Following a general election in February 1994 a coalition government was formed between the Anguilla Democratic Party (ADP) and the Anguilla United Party (AUP), each of which held two of the seven seats in the House of Assembly. The AUP leader, Hubert Hughes, was appointed chief minister. At that time he suggested that he might seek independence from the UK; he later called instead for a constitution that, like that of Bermuda, would allow for a greater degree of internal self-government.

In the March 1999 election, each party won the same number of seats as in 1994, but after one AUP representative, Victor Banks, resigned from the government, Mr Hughes was left with the support of just three of seven elected representatives.  He remained in office as chief minister, but an opposition boycott, initiated in June 1999, prevented the House of Assembly from convening because of lack of quorum.  Consequently, no budget could be passed for 2000.

Recent political history

To resolve this impasse, a fresh election was held in March 2000. The same representatives were returned, but a new government was formed by Osbourne Fleming, whose United Front coalition comprised three Anguilla National Alliance (ANA) members, together with Mr Banks.  Mr Hughes's Anguilla National Party (ANP) formed the opposition, along with the remaining AUP member.

At the general election on 21 February 2005, Mr Fleming's United Front (now a separate party comprising the former Anguilla National Alliance and Anguilla Democratic Party) won four of the seven seats, with two for the opposition Anguilla Strategic Alliance and one for the Anguilla United Movement.  Although party labels had altered since the 2000 election, no seats changed hands. AUF leader Osbourne Fleming continued as chief minister.

In the election of February 2010 the AUM (with four seats and only 32.7% of votes) narrowly defeated the ruling AUF (two seats and 39.4%). The Anguilla Progressive Party received 14.7% of votes and took one seat. AUM leader Hubert Hughes became chief minister and finance minister.

AUF = Anguilla United Front; AUM = Anguilla United Movement; DOVE = The DOVE Party; IND = Independent; * Incumbent; ** Political Leader
The Economist Intelligence Unit Ltd
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 Anguilla Country Profile
 Anguilla Government Structure
 Anguilla Election Basics
 The Parliament of Anguilla
 Anguilla Timeline
 Political History and Dynamics
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 Women in Politics in Anguilla
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AUF Anguilla United Front (AUF)
AUM Anguilla United Movement (AUM)
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