|St Kitts and Nevis Election Basics
St Kitts and Nevis is regarded as a middle-income nation with a per-capita income of $8,800 (2002 est.). St. Kitts and Nevis is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) issues a common currency for all members of the ECCU. The ECCB also manages monetary policy, and regulates and supervises commercial banking activities in its member countries.
As Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II is represented in St. Kitts and Nevis by a Governor General, who acts on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. The Prime Minister is the leader of the political party which won the largest number of seats in the National Assembly in the last general election. He is invited to form a government by the Governor-General. The Prime Minister is the senior minister in the government and is ultimately responsible for all government policies and programmes.
The Parliament of St. Kitts & Nevis is comprised of the Speaker, elected members of the Government and Opposition parties (11), appointed Senators (3) and the Attorney-General when not an elected member. Parliament, also called the National Assembly is the sole institution through which laws of the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis are passed, taxes imposed, and public expenditure authorized.
Under the Constitution, Nevis has considerable autonomy and has an Island
Assembly, a Premier, and a Deputy Governor 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.
election allows those eligible to vote (the )
to decide who should represent their views and interests.
Elections are held at regular intervals to enable
the population to change their representative if they
no longer feel that the current postholder best represents
those views and interests.
and free elections are an essential part of a democracy, allowing
citizens to determine how they want the country to be governed.
The National Assembly Elections Act Cap. 162 divides St. Kitts and Nevis into 11 electoral districts for the purpose of federal elections. Each electoral district constitutes one constituency and each constituency elects only one member to the Assembly.
Schedule 2 (1) of the Constitution states that “There shall be not less than eight constituencies in the island of St Christopher and not less than three constituencies in the island of Nevis and if the number of constituencies is increased beyond eleven, not less than one third shall be in the island of Nevis.”
HOW GENERAL ELECTIONS WORK IN ST KITTS AND NEVIS
general election is held when Parliament is dissolved by the
Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister of the
day. General elections must be held every five years at least.
St. Kitts and Nevis
is divided into 11 electoral districts or constituencies.
Voters in each constituency elect one member of parliament
(MP) to send to the National Assembly on the first past-the-post
system. (The Senate in St. Kitts and Nevis is not an elected body.)
A is a group of people who seek to influence or form
the government according to their agreed views and
principles. There are a number of political parties in
St. Kitts and Nevis. Each party nominates one candidate for each
constituency. Independent candidates may also stand
party that wins the most constituencies is asked by the Governor
General to form the government. The leader of that party becomes
the Prime Minister. If the party wins in more than 8 constituencies,
it will have a majority government, which makes it much easier
to get legislation passed in the House. If the winning party
has fewer than 8 seats, it forms a minority government. In
order to get legislation through the House, a minority government
usually has to adjust policies to get enough votes from MPs
of other parties.
party that has the second highest number of seats in the National Assembly is called the Official Opposition.
citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis who is 21 years of age or older and resident
in St. Kitts and Nevis is eligible for election to the National Assembly.
OF THE ELECTORAL PROCESS
voter (also called an elector) receives a form shortly
before an election in their constituency and this gives
the location of their polling station.
elector presents his/her identification card to officials
at the polling station, who checks off the name of the
voter against the electoral register and issue them with
a ballot paper.
vote by putting a cross on the ballot form against the
name of the candidate they want to represent them and
then placing the ballot paper in a sealed box. (Any other
mark or comment on the paper renders it invalid.)
polling closes, the ballot boxes are collected from each
polling station in the constituency and taken to a central
the seals are checked before the boxes are opened and
the votes for each candidate are counted.
the counting finishes, the results of voting in that constituency
are announced by the returning officer, who declares the
winner of the election.
St. Kitts and Nevis, the Prime Minister may call general elections at
any time, though no more than five years may lapse from one
general election to the next. All seats in the National Assembly
are vacant and the political party that wins the most seats
in the subsequent general election form the government. Aside
from general elections, for which all seats are open, by-elections
are held when a member of Parliament dies or resigns.
Prime Minister's power of discretion adds an element of spontaneity
to the electoral process that does not exist in systems where
voting dates are fixed on the calendar. Prime ministers generally
ask the monarch, the formal head of state, to dissolve Parliament
when they think their party has the best chance of winning
a general election.
factors may force an election on a Prime Minister. It is a
convention (established practice) that if a government is
defeated in the National Assembly on a vote of confidence,
then a general election will follow.
person who at the date of his election-
- is a Kititian and Nevisian citizen of the age of twenty-one years or upwards;
- has resided in St. Kitts and Nevis for a period of twelve months immediately preceding the date of his election; and
- is able to speak and, unless incapacitated by blindness or other physical cause, to read the English language with sufficient proficiency to enable him to take an active part in the proceedings of the House.
may stand as a candidate
at a parliamentary election.
Anyone who wishes to stand for election must be nominated
on an official nomination paper submitted on Nomination Day.
They must stand either for an established political party
or as an independent. All candidates must pay a deposit
which is lost if they do not secure a specified number of
the Prime Minister decides to call a general election then
he or she will go to see the Governor General to request that
Parliament is dissolved. If the Governor General agrees (there
would have to be very strong constitutional reasons why he/she
would refuse) then a Proclamation is issued in accordance
with the Constitution of St. Kitts and Nevis which
officially allows the dissolution (bringing to an end) of
the Parliament. It is customary for the Prime Minister to
make a statement announcing the date of the dissolution and
usually the reason for calling a general election.
long is an election campaign?
formal campaign is a relatively short-lived affair: the Prime
Minister must give a minimum of three weeks and a maximum
of six weeks' notice for a general election. In practice,
informal campaigning tends to start much earlier.
happens once Parliament has been dissolved?
Parliament has been formally dissolved, the Clerk of Parliament
issues Writs of Election for each constituency and the election
the election campaign all the main political parties
produce a wide range of publicity material. will be published setting out the party's policies
on each major issue. The headquarters of each party
is responsible for preparing party election advertising
material and broadcasts for television and radio.
much can candidates spend on the election?
candidate who contests a general election has an expenditure
limit, broadly based on the number of registered voters in
the constituency. The limit is overseen by the Elections and Boundaries Commission.
WHO CAN VOTE IN A GENERAL ELECTION?
St. Kitts and Nevis
has universal adult suffrage, i.e. you are entitled to vote in a
general election if you are a Kititian and Nevisian citizen, and will be 18
or older on polling day.
are by secret ballot. Ballot papers are anonymous, to prevent
undue influence on voters, and the ballot boxes are sealed
to prevent electoral fraud.
election day, Kititians and Nevisians vote not for a Prime Minister, but
for candidates running in each of the 11 single-seat constituencies
throughout St. Kitts and Nevis. A party needs to win 6 constituencies
to command a majority in the National Assembly, which allows
it to choose a Prime Minister, formally appointed by the Governor
General. Once selected, the prime minister begins the task
of forming a government.
constituency is divided into a number of polling districts,
each of which has a polling station. Most polling stations
are in public buildings such as schools and churches, but
other buildings can be used on request. Voting takes place
on election day from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
is by secret ballot, and the only people allowed in the polling
station are the presiding officer (who is in charge), the
polling clerks, the duty police officers, the candidates,
their election agents and polling agents and the voters. Just
before the poll opens, the presiding officer shows the ballot
boxes to those at the polling station to prove that they are
empty. The boxes are then locked and sealed. In the polling
station voters are directed to the presiding officer or polling
clerk, who asks the voter his or her name, checks that it
is on the register, and places a mark against the register
entry. This records that the voter has received a ballot paper
but does not show which one. The officer or clerk gives the
ballot paper an official mark before handing the paper to
the voter. The official mark is intended to show that the
papers placed in the ballot box are genuine.
ballot paper lists the names of the candidates in alphabetical
order. Voting takes place in a booth, which is screened to
maintain secrecy. The voter marks the ballot paper with a
cross in the box opposite the name of the candidate of his
or her choice, and fold the paper to conceal the vote before
placing it in the ballot box.
paper that is spoiled by mistake must be returned to the presiding
officer. If the Presiding Officer is satisfied that the soiling
was accidental, another paper is provided and the first is
canceled. At the end of the voting the Presiding Officer delivers
those spoilt papers to the Returning Officer. The ballot boxes
are then sealed and delivered to the central point - the Counting
Station, where the count is to take place.
COUNTING THE BALLOTS
ballot boxes are taken to a central place in each constituency
where counting takes place. Each ballot box is emptied, the
papers mixed up and the votes counted by teams of helpers.
This is done in the presence of the candidates. When all the
votes have been counted the results are announced by the Returning
Officer. Depending on the time it takes to bring all of the
ballot boxes to the count and the result of the count, the
final result may be announced before midnight. Most results
will come in during the early hours of the morning, but some
will not be known until well into the next day.
the result is close then either candidate can demand a recount.
The Returning Officer will advise the candidates of the figures
and sanction a recount. Recounts can continue until both candidates
and the Returning Officer are satisfied with the result.
AFTER THE RESULTS
all of the results are known the Governor General will usually
invite the leader of the party winning the most seats in the
National Assembly to be Prime Minister and to form a Government.
Prime Minister will appoint several members of his party for
both Houses to become members of the Cabinet.
Cabinet consists of the Prime Minister and not fewer than
five other Ministers. Ministers are appointed by the Governor
General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime
Minister, from among the members of the two Houses. The Governor
General, with the advice of the Prime Minister, may also appoint Parliamentary Secretaries to assist
Ministers in the discharge or their functions.
party that wins the second-largest number of seats in Parliament
comprises the opposition, which forms a "shadow"
cabinet poised to assume power at any time during the ruling
government's five-year term.
Governor-General appoints as Leader of the Opposition the
person who, in his/her judgment, is best able to command the
support of a majority of those members of the House who do
not support the Government.
few days after the general election the National Assembly
will assemble in preparation for the new Parliament to begin.
All MPs must be sworn in by taking an oath of allegiance or
making an affirmation, and must sign the official register.
The Speaker and Deputy Speaker are customarily selected by
a vote of the sitting members of parliament.
A by-election takes place when a seat in the National Assembly becomes vacant between general elections. If there are several vacant seats then a number of by-elections can take place on the same day.
Reasons for by-elections
A seat becomes vacant during the lifetime of a Parliament either when an MP resigns from Parliament, for example to take up a job which by law cannot be done by an MP, or because an MP has died. The law also allows a seat to be declared vacant because of a Member's bankruptcy, mental illness or conviction for a serious criminal offence.
A by-election does not automatically take place if an MP changes political party.