Saint Kitts and Nevis is a two-island nation situated in the West Indies. It is the Western Hemisphere’s smallest state in terms of both land size and population. The two islands are among the first in the Caribbean to be occupied by Europeans. Saint Christopher (Kitts) was the first island in the Caribbean to be occupied by the French and British colonies, and therefore it is often referred to as the “Mother Colony of the West Indies.” The country became an associate state of Britain in 1967 and attained independence in 1983, but remains as a Commonwealth realm.
Politics of Saint Kitts and Nevis
The government of Saint Kitts and Nevis is a federal parliamentary democracy, with the British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II, as the head of state, who is represented by the governor-general. The country has a long history of successful general elections, except for the 1993 election that was strongly protested leading to the deployment of Regional Security System to restore peace and order in the country. Saint Kitts and Nevis has a multi-party system with the leader of the majority party or coalition becoming the prime minister. Nevis is considerably autonomous and has own premier, assembly, and a deputy governor-general. The 1998 independence referendum held by Nevis failed to secure the 2/3 majority required for secession from the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis. There are three branches of power in the country, namely the executive, legislative, and judiciary.
Executive Branch of Government
The executive branch of the government is headed by the prime minister or premier of the Saint Kitts and Nevis. The queen appoints a governor-general to represent her as the head of state. The governor-general acts in consultation with the prime minister. The prime minister is appointed by the governor-general and must be someone who is likely to command the support of the majority of the legislatures, and in most cases is the leader of the majority party. The prime minister, together with the cabinet, directs the affairs of the state. The ministerial appointments are made by the governor-general in consultation with the prime minister. If there is no suitable candidate for the position of prime minister, the governor-general may dissolve the national assembly and call for an election. The prime minister can be removed if he or she loses the support of the majority of the representative. The constitution also provides for significant autonomy in Nevis, which has its own island assembly, premier, and deputy governor-general.
Legislative Branch of Government
Saint Kitts and Nevis has a unicameral parliament whose main responsibility is to make and pass laws. The national assembly is made up of a minimum of 14 members and a maximum of 15, depending on the prevailing circumstance. 11 of these members are directly elected, and three are appointed as senators by the governor-general upon the advice of the leader of the opposition and the premier. The attorney general is given a seat as a senator if he is not appointed as a senator, making the number of nominated senators four, and the total number of members in the national assembly 15. The representatives and senators serve five-year terms.
Judicial Branch of Government
The judicial branch is organized around the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, which is a superior court of the six independent Caribbean States. the court has unlimited jurisdiction in Saint Kitts and Nevis, with one of the judges of the supreme court residing in the country. The judiciary is independent of the other branches of government.