|Brief Political History of St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Kitts and Nevis is a federal state which became independent on 19th September 1983. The general election of 25th October 2004 is the sixth since independence following on such elections in 1984, 1989, 1993, 1995 and 2000.
At the time of European discovery, the islands of St Kitts and Nevis were inhabited by Carib Indians. Christopher Columbus landed on the larger island in 1493 on his second voyage and named it after St Christopher, his patron saint. Columbus also discovered Nevis on his second voyage, reportedly calling it Nevis because of its resemblance to a snow-capped mountain (in Spanish, Nuesta Senora de las Nieves, or our lady of the snows).
European colonisation did not begin until 1623-24, when first English, then French, colonists arrived on St Christopher's island, whose name the English shortened to St Kitt's island. As the first English colony in the Caribbean, St Kitts served as a base for further colonisation in the region. St Kitts was held jointly by the English and French from 1628-1713. During the 17th century, intermittent warfare between French and English settlers ravaged its economy. Meanwhile Nevis, settled by English settlers in 1628, grew prosperous under English rule. St Kitts was ceded to Great Britain by the treaty of Utrecht in 1713.
Both St Kitts and Nevis were seized by the French in 1782. The Treaty of Paris in 1783 definitively awarded both islands to Britain. They were part of the colony of the Leeward Islands from 1871-1956, and of the West Indies Federation from 1958-62. In 1967, together with Anguilla, they became a self-governing state in association with Great Britain. Anguilla seceded later that year and remains a British dependency. The Federation of St Kitts and Nevis attained full independence on 19 September 1983.
During the progression of St Kitts and Nevis from colonial status towards statehood, the two islands have variously been connected both together and singularly, to other island groupings. In 1816, both islands were joined with Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands to form one colony. St Kitts together with Anguilla formed one unit in the Leeward Islands Federation in 1871, and they were subsequently united into a single Presidency. In 1882, St Kitts and Nevis became a joint colony. St Kitts joined the Federation of the West Indies in 1958, remaining as a member until the dissolution of the Federation some four years later.
St Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla became a state in voluntary association with Britain on 27 February 1967. In 1969-70, at the invitation of the British Government, the Commonwealth sent an International Commission to assist in resolving the constitutional crisis arising from Anguilla’s desire to secede from the three-island state. The de facto separation of Anguilla became official on 19 December 1980, leaving St Kitts and Nevis to proceed towards complete independence.
At a Constitutional Conference held in London in 1982, it was agreed that St Kitts and Nevis would become a federated state. St Kitts and Nevis subsequently achieved full independence in 1983 as the Federated State of St Kitts and Nevis.
St. Kitts and Nevis has enjoyed a long history of free and fair elections, although the outcome of elections in 1993 was strongly protested by the opposition and the Eastern Caribbean Regional Security System (RSS) was briefly deployed to restore order. The elections in 1995 were contested by the two major parties, the ruling People's Action Movement (PAM) and the St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Party. Labour won seven of the 11 seats, with Dr. Denzil Douglas becoming prime minister. In the 2004 elections, Denzil Douglas and the Labour Party were returned to power, winning seven of the eight seats allotted to St. Kitts in the Parliament. The Nevis-based Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) won two seats, the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP) won one seat, and the PAM party won one seat. The next elections are constitutionally due by October 2009, but many believe that Douglas will call elections in late 2008.
The constitution gives Nevis considerable autonomy. Nevis has an island assembly, a premier, and a deputy governor general. Under certain specified conditions, it may secede from the federation. In accordance with its rights under the Constitution, in 1996 the Nevis Island Administration under the Concerned Citizens' Movement (CCM) of Premier Vance Amory initiated steps towards secession from the Federation, the most recent being a referendum in 1998 that failed to secure the required two-thirds majority for secession. In the July 10, 2006 Nevis elections for the Nevis Island Administration, the NRP won three of the five seats; the CCM won two. The NRP's Joseph Parry assumed the premiership of Nevis. While opposing secession, the government acknowledged the constitutional rights of Nevisians to determine their future independence. Constitutional safeguards include freedom of speech, press, worship, movement, and association. Like its neighbours in the English-speaking Caribbean, St. Kitts and Nevis has an excellent human rights record. Its judicial system is modelled on British practice and procedure and its jurisprudence on English common law.