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- Year: 2010
- Country: Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Language: English
- Document Type: Publication
- Topic: Advocacy and Public Policy Activities,Assessments
St Kitts and Nevis General Election
25 January 2010
REPORT OF THE
Report of the Commonwealth Expert Team
C o n t e n t s
Letter of Transmittal
Map of St Kitts and Nevis
Chapter 1 – Introd uction
Invitation and Composition of the Expert Team 1
Terms of Reference 1
Background on St Kitts and Nevis 2
Activities of the Expert Team 3
Chapter 2 – The Democracy and Electoral Framework
The Constitutional Framework 5
Electoral Laws 5
Electoral Reform 5
Electoral Authorities 6
Political Parties 7
The Campaign 7
Chapter 3 – Issues
Composition and Functioning of the Election Management Bodies 9
Voter Registration and Ide ntification 10
Constituency Boundaries 13
Campaign Financing 15
Voter Education 15
Women‟s Participation 15
Civil Society 16
Chapter 4 – The Poll and The Count
Performa nce of Polling and Counting Staff 17
Events on Polling Day 17
Conduct of the Count 19
Chapter 5 – Conclusions and Recommendations
Annex A: Biographies of m embers of the Expert Team 25
Annex B: Letters of Invitation and response 27
Annex C: Press release issued on 21 January 2010 29
Annex D: List of meetings held 31
MAP OF ST KITTS AND NEVIS
Invitation and Composition of t he Expert Team
This report presents the observations, conclusions and recommendations of
the Commonwealth Expert Team which was present in S t Kitts and Nevis for
the General Election held on 25 January 2010.
The Commonwealth had previously provided a Commonwealth Expert Team
to the 2004 General Election, and prior to that, a Commonwealth Observer
Group to the 1995 General Election . In 2005 t he Commonwealth provided an
expert Assessment Mission to St Kitts and Nevis, at the invitation of the
Government, to provide advice and recommendations on electoral reform.
The Commonwealth Secretary -General‟s decision to send an Expert Team to
the 2010 General Election followed an invitation from the Government of St
Kitts and Nevis. A copy of this letter and the Secretariat‟s response is
attached at Annex B . The Leader of the opposition People‟s Action
Movement party also wrote to the Secretary -General in 2009 requesting
Commonwealth observation of the election.
The Team consisted of:
The Hon Chris Carter MP (Team Leader)
Former Minister; Opposition Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs
Mr Krishnan Srinivasan
Former Foreign Secretary
Ms Lorna Simon
Supervisor of Elections
Antigua and Barbuda
The Team was assisted by two staff members from the Commonwealth
Secretariat ‟s Political Affairs Division : Ms Shennia Spillane and Ms Charlene
Terms o f Reference
The Terms of Reference f or the Team were as follows:
The Team is established by the Commonwealth Secretary -General at the
invitation of the Government of St Kitts and Nevis.
The Team is to assess the overall conduct of the electoral process and the
environment in which the elec tion is conducted, according to the standards for
democratic elections to which the country has committed itself, with reference
to national election -related legislation and relevant regional, Commonwealth
and other international commitments.
The Team is to act impartially and independently. It has no executive role; its
function is not to supervise but to observe and assess the process as a whole
and to form a judgement accordingly. It would also be free to propose to the
authorities concerned such act ion on institutional, procedural and other
matters as would assist the holding of such elections.
The Team is to submit its report to the Commonwealth Secretary -General,
who will forward it to the Government of St Kitts and Nevis , the electoral
authoritie s, political parties , and thereafter to all Commonwealth
Background on St Kitts and Nevis
Situated in the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean Sea, St Kitts and Nevis has
a total land area of 261 square km (St Kitts 168 sq km; Nevis 93 sq km). The
population of St Kitts and Nevis is estimated at 40,131 (July 2009 est ). Most
citizens are descendants of African slaves brought to the islands; others are of
British, Portuguese and Lebanese descent along with more recent migrants to
the islands from various countries , and their descendants . The predominant
religious denomination is Anglican, followed by other Protestant
denominations and Roman Catholics. The main language is English.
St Kitts and Nevis is classified as a middle -income nation, with a per -capita
income of USD19,100 (2008 est). The economy is heavily dependent on
tourism and international education services, following the decline of the sugar
industry and its eventual closure in 2005. St Kitts and Nevi s has a high public
debt burden equivalent to nearly 185% of GDP (end 2006), largely attributable
to public enterprise losses. St Kitts and Nevis is a member of the Eastern
Caribbean Currency Union.
St Kitts and Nevis was occupied by Carib Indians for several hundred years
before Euro pean discovery of the islands. Christopher Columbus landed on
the islands on his second voyage in 1493, and gave them their present
names . The English and French colonised St Kitts in the 17 th century and
held it jointly from 1628 to 1713. Nevis was set tled solely by the English .
Following more than a century of competition over St Kitts, t he Treaty of Paris
in 1783 definitively awarded both islands to Britain. From 1871 to 1956 both
were part of the British colony of the Leeward Islands, then from 195 8-62 part
of the West Indies Federation.
In 1967 St Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla became a self -governing state in
association with Great Britain. Later that year Anguilla rebelled and was
permitted to secede. The Federation of St Kitts and Nevis attained full
independence on September 19, 1983.
Nevis enjoys considerable autonomy under the Constitution including the
ability to unilaterally secede from the Federation under certain conditions.
Calls for secession have arisen in the small er island since ind ependence and
in 1998 , a referendum was held on separation but fell short of the two -thirds
majority nee ded .
Activities of the Expert Team
The Expert Team began its work in St Ki tts and Nevis on 21 January 2010 .
The Team held a seri es of briefings over two days with key stakeholders
including the Supervisor of Elections, St Kitts -based political parties, the
Commissioner of Police, representatives of the media, civil society, and the
British and Indian Consul s in St Kitts and Nevis. A list of those with whom the
Team met is attached at Annex D. Members of the Team were also able to
attend political campaign rallies held by both political parties in St Kitts, and to
speak to a number of ordinary voters in the course of their work.
These meetings provided the Team with information on the electoral process,
the overall political and electoral environment, the conduct of the campaign,
and issues of concern to respective stakeholders about the electoral
On 24 October m embers of the Team in St K itts attended the final briefing of
polling staff by the Supervisor of Elections and two Election Commissioners,
and the distribu tion of polling materials . The Team members also travelled
around the constituencies to observe the location o f polling statio ns, activities
and advertising by the parties, and the mood of the electorate, on the final day
of the campaign.
Meanwhile one member of the Team , accompanied by one of the staff team,
travelled to Nevis and held meetings with the Premier of Nevis, Commis sioner
of Police, the Nevis political parties, media, the Nevis -based Election
Commissioner, and others. The Team member observed final preparations
for the poll and remained on Nevis for polling day and the count there.
Observer Team s from both CARICOM and the Organization of American
States (OAS) were also present in St Kitts and Nevis for the elections and
interacted with the Commonwealth Team during the course of the mission .
The Team was also made aware of local election observers on St Kitts
mobili sed by a c oalition of civil society organisations and comprised of church
ministers; Team members encountered and spoke to a few of these observers
on election day.
On election d ay itself members of the Team visited all constituencies and
indeed most poll ing stations in the country. Team members then observed
the return of ballot papers from the polling stations to the counting centres in
three constituencies, and counting of the votes in five constituencies.
On 28 January , the Team held a follow -up meet ing with the Supervisor of
The Team‟s presence appeared to be well known and welcomed in St Kitts
and Nevis, and the Team was in no way hindered in its work.
This report was prepared prior to the Team‟s depa rture from St Kitts and
Nevis on 30 January 2010
THE DEMOCRACY AND ELECTORAL FRAMEWORK
The Constitutional Framework
Queen Elizabeth II is Head of State of St Kitts and Nevis ; r epresented in the
country by a Governor -General, who acts on the advice of the Prime Minister
and Ca binet. St Kitts and Nevis has a National Assembly comprised of eleven
popularly elected members along with three or more Senators appointed by
the Governor -General (mainly on the advice of the Prime Minister and Leader
of the Opposition), who also sit in t he Assembly with limited voting powers.
The leader of the party in the House holding a majority of (elected)
Representatives becomes Prime Minister, and appoints a Cabinet to conduct
affairs of state, responsible to the Parliament.
The Constitution gives Nevis considerable autonomy. Nevis has a separately
elected island assembly, a Premier, and a Deputy Governor -General. Under
certain specified conditions, Nevis m ay secede from the Federation.
Constitutional provisions protect a number of fundamental r ights including
freedom of speech, press, worship, movement and association in St Kitts and
Election procedures in St Kitts and Nevis are governed by the Constitution,
the National Assembly Electi ons Act , and subsidiary Regulations.
St Kitts and Nevis is divided into eleven electoral constituencies, eight on St
Kitts and three on Nevis. Each constituency elects one member of parliament
on a first -past -the -post basis, for a five -year term.
The Constitution provides for such matters as qualifications to vote and to
stand as a candidate, basic provisions for registration and voting including the
secret ballot, and the power of the courts in relation to election disputes. The
National Assembly Elections Act provides more detail regard ing th ese
procedures, and sets out election offences.
Electoral reform issues have been the subject of significant political debate
and controversy since before the 2004 election. The Commonwealth Expert
Team (CET) that observed the 200 4 General Election in St Kitts and Nevis
made recommendations in relation to several “important issues that need to
be addressed” including a comprehensive review of constituency boundaries,
a national registration and enumeration exercise, amendments to l aw to
require wider consultation on the appointment of election staff, and the
introduction of a media code of conduct and election financing rules.
At the request of the Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis , in August –
September 2005 the Commonwealth depl oyed a Commonwealth Assessment
Mission to develop proposals for electoral reform. The Terms of Reference of
the Assessment Mission were to:
Assess arrangements in St. Kitts and Nevis for the holding of elections and
those matters which have a significant impact on the electoral environment;
Make proposals for any reforms that may be necessary.
The Mission recommended “a programme of comprehensive electoral
reforms”, echoing those reforms proposed by the 2004 CET, and
recommended a Scheme for Impleme ntation of the reform project.
In response, the Government of St Kitts and Nevis produced and tabled in
parliament in mid -2006 an “Electoral Reform White Paper”. In the White Paper
the Government stated that it had reviewed the recommendations of the 2004
Commonwealth and CARICOM observer teams, and th e 2005
Commonwealth Assessment M ission, and decided to pursue the introduction
of reforms in two areas: a national registration system including an identity
card for voters, and a review of the electoral boun daries to reflect as near as
possible equality in the number of constituents. The White Paper set out a
system of consultative, advisory and technical committees which would
undertake preparatory work on the boundaries reform and report to the
relevant pa rliamentary committee and the Const ituency Boundaries
The process was commenced in August 2006, and a number of amendments
to the Election s Act were subsequently passed by parliament in 2007 and
2009, particularly in relation to the voter regi stration and identification process.
The Government‟s process to reform the constituency boundaries, on the
other hand, was completed in mid -2009 but immediately challenged in court
by opposition political parties on the basis that the boundary changes were
implemented too close to the election, and that the proces s by which the
changes were proposed was unconstitutional. The court proceedings were
not finalised by the time of the 2010 election and as a result, the electoral
boundaries remai ned unchange d in this election.
The Electoral Authorities
Section 33 of the Constitution provides for an Election Commission of three
persons appo inted by the Governor -General: one on his own discretion, one
on the advice of the Prime Minister and one on the advice of the Leader of the
Opposition. Section 33 sets out qualifications for the Electi on Commissioners,
and conditions for the ir remo val .
The function of the Electoral Commission is set out in Section 33(4) as: “to
supervise the Supervisor of Elections in th e performance of his functions”.
The Commission may make decisions by majority, may act notwithstanding a
vacancy or absence , and may determine its own procedures.
Section 34(1) provides that: “There shall be a Supervisor of Elections whose
duty it shall be to exercise general supervision over the registration of voters
in elections of Representatives and over the conduct of such elections.” The
Supervisor of Elections is a public officer appointed by the Governor -General,
and Section 34 provides for the powers of the Supervisor, and the
Supervisor‟s accountability to the Election Commission.
There are four main political parties in St Kitts and Nevis: the ruling St Kitts
and Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP), the People‟s Action Movement (PA M); and
specific to Nevis, the Concerned Citizens‟ Movement (CCM) and the Nevis
Reform Party (NRP). The political landscape in the Federation is such that
each island features entirely separate political parties and campaigns; there
was no party which fie lded candidates in both St Kitts and Nevis.
There is a third political party on St Kitts, the United National Empowerment
Party (UNEP); however, on 15 January 2010 the party announced that it
would boycott the ele ction, expressing eight concerns about th e process
including the alleged ly illegal removal of names from the voters‟ list , the
absence of a level playing field due to state control of the media, and a lack of
confidence in the impartiality of the Supervisor of Elections and polling staff.
The Te am was unable to secure a meeting with representatives of the UNEP.
The 2010 election was also contested by two independent candidates.
The Team observed a vigorous and passionate campaign conducted by the
two major political parties on St Kitts . Issues covered in the campaign
included the state of the economy, access to land and housing, and
employment. The campaign also featured allegations of corruption by both
parties against the leader of the other party. Both major parties published
manifestos in the lead -up to election day, setting out their positions and
promises on a range of issues.
The election rules and procedures themselves also became a subject of the
campaign, with allegations of electoral impropriety raised by the main
opp osition party, particularly in relation to the registration of certain voters.
The governing party, meanwhile, laid blame on the opposition for preventing
electoral reform through litigation .
The electoral law of St Kitts and Nevis prohibits on polling d ay the supply,
wearing or use on a vehicle of any “loudspeaker, bunting, ensign, banner,
standard or set of colours, or any flag”, and the wearing or use of any “flag,
ribbon, label or like favour” as a badge to distinguish a party supporter. The
Team not iced that the local interpretation of these restrictions appeared to
allow party banners with clear identification of candidates, party colours and in
some cases even party names, in the streets on election day , as well as
instances of voters and agents we aring party colours clearly identifying party
support within the polling stations . While this seemed to be accepted by the
parties and their supporters, such practices appear to significantly undermine
the ostensible intention of the law to impose a “camp aign blackout” on election
Composition and functioning of the Election Management Bodies
According to the Constitution, a three -member Electoral Commission is
appointed by the Governor -General to supervise the Supervisor of El ect ions ,
whose task is to organis e and conduct the polling arrangements. In practice,
this supervision by the Commission, which is not a full -time body, is
conducted at an arms -length relationship, the Commission did not seem to
concern itself with the many p roblematic issues that were the topic of
discourse and contention prior to election day, and regular meetings between
the Commission and the Supervisor of Elections to discuss such issues did
not appear to occur . On polling day itself, however, the member s of the
Commission we re seen to visit several polling stations with a view to providing
moral support to the poll officials and on occasion to help in expediting the
process in busy polling stations by offering unobtrusive advice on crowd
The S upervisor of Elections is also a part -time official, who has had the
advantage of previous experience in the conduct of the 2004 election. He
confirmed to the Team that he did not in any way lack for resources, in which
case he would benefit by strengtheni ng the Electoral Office under him by the
appointment of at least two additional persons: one for information and public
relations to handle the various queries posed to the Supervisor of Elections by
the political parties , the media and the public , and to address the complai nt
that the Supervisor is often inaccessible; and the second to advise on legal
matters to meet the charge that at present it is the government‟s Attorney
General who fulfils that role.
It was apparent from political discourse prior to the election that there remains
a lack of trust in some quarters – particularly the opposition parties and their
supporters – in the impartiality of the election management authorities. In
principle, there is much to be said for the appointment by the Gov ernor –
General of an Electoral Commission of eminent persons after consultation
with all the political parties rather than just the prime minister and leader of the
opposition as is the case at present; and the appointment, after similar wide
consultation, of an eminent neutral personage, such as a retired High Court
judge, as a full -time Supervisor of Elections. This would help allay any fears
or suspicions and promote the confidence of stakeholders in these positions.
The newly constituted Commission assi sted by the Supervisor can then
expeditiously dispose of all the objections to the electoral procedures and
complaints of specific incidents of breach brought to their individual or
Apart from the Electoral Office under the Supervisor a t Basseterre, there is a
registration office in each electoral district supervised by a Registration Officer
and run by a full -time Assistan t Registration Officer. These c ould have been
called into play on the occasions when voters turned up at polling sta tions with
election Identity Cards but were not on the voters ‟ list at the visited polling
station , to check master rolls and verify the correct polling station. Instead,
this task was left to the voter to determine through party agents .
Voter Registrat ion and Identification
Following the General Elections in 2004, the Commonwealth Expert Team
recommended as follows:
There is a need for a systematic national registration and enumeration exercise
a reliable and accurate register of electors;
the introduction of voter identification technology;
the identification of non -resident electors;
the regular removal of deceased persons from the register;
the requirement that voters (other than those residing overseas at the time of
an election) are registered in the constituency of their normal residence;
We recommend that the Commonwealth offers technical assistance to the
Government to undertake the national registr ation and enumeration exercise.
The Commonwealth Assessment Mission which visited St. Kitts and Nevis in
2005 reiterated the recommendation of the 2004 CET regarding national
registration and enumeration.
The St Kitts and Nevis Government‟s 2006 White Paper on Electoral Reform
stated the government‟s commitment to “modernise the elect oral process”
through the following steps:
1. Introduce a National Registration System; leading to the
issuance of a “Smart Card” that will among other things assist
citizens in accessing their rights and discharging their
responsibilities including voting.
2. Introduce a pro per ID system for registration.
Following national consultations in accordance with the Government‟s White
Paper, t he law relating to the eligibility of voters was amended in December
2007 as follows:
42 (1)………..a person is qualified to be registered as a voter for a constituency if,
on the registration date, he is
(a) a citizen of Saint Christopher and Nevis of the age of eighteen years
or upwards and is ordinarily resident in Saint Christopher and Nevis;
(b) a citizen of Saint Christoph er and Nevis of the age of eighteen years
or upwards whose name appears in the register of voters for a
constituency and who is ordinarily resident overseas and has a
domicile in Saint Christopher and Nevis in accordance with section
(c) a Commonw ealth citizen (not being a citizen of Saint Christopher and
Nevis) of the age of eighteen years or upwards who has been
ordinarily resident in Saint Christopher and Nevis for a continuous
period of at least twelve months immediately before the registration
St. Kitts and Nevis maintains a system of continuous registration in each
electoral district and persons wishing to register as voters must –
(a) apply in person, in writing to the Registration Officer for that
constituency to have his name ente red in the register of voters for that
(b) provide the Registration Officer with a qualifying address submitted by him
for that constituency.” 1
The amendment of the above regulation requires that an applicant who claims
to be qualified to be r egistered as a voter shall certify the correctness of the
information so entered by placing his signature and date on the application
and by producing
(a) his birth or baptismal certificate;
(b) certificate of citizenship;
(c) deed poll;
d) passp ort or driver‟s licence; or
(e) any other form of identification containing his photograph,
and such other evidentiary document as may be required by the Chief
Registration Officer to authenticate the identity of the applicant.
The Act was also amended i n December 2007 by the insertion of the following
“42A. (1) For the purpose of registration under this Act a person shall be
deemed to reside in the constituency where he was ordinarily resident on the
(2) A person sha ll not, for the purposes of this Act, be deemed to be
ordinarily resident in any constituency to which he has come for the purpose
of engaging temporarily in any employment of a seasonal character and for
the purposes of this subsection, “seasonal” means t emporary employment of
not more than six months at any one time.
(3) Subject to subsections (1), (2), (4) and (5), the question whether a
person is or was ordinarily resident in a constituency for any material period
shall be determined by reference to a ll the facts of the case.
(4) The place of ordinary residence of a person is, generally the place
which has always been or which he has adopted as, the place of his
habitation or home, whereto when away from there he intends to return.
1 Election Registration (Amendment) Regulations, No. 9 of 2008
(5) Where it app ears by reference to all the facts of the case that a
person has more than one place of residence, such person shall elect in
respect of which place he desires to be registered.
(6) Notwithstanding subsections (1), (2), (3), (4) and (5), the Chief
Registr ation Officer or the Registration Officer for a constituency may carry
out an investigation and may visit any house within the constituency for the
purpose of ascertaining whether persons whose names appear in any list
reside in a particular constituency o r are still alive or for such other prescribed
purposes as the Chief Registration or the Registration Officer may require.”
With regard to overseas voters, the amended law provided that:
42B. (1) A person to whom section 42 (1) (b) applies whose name ap pear
in the register of voters for a constituency is only eligible to vote in the
constituency in which that person had been registered immediately prior to
leaving Saint Christopher and Nevis to reside overseas.
In 2008, The Election Registration (Amendm ent) Regulations made under
section 104 of the National Assembly Elections Act were amended 2 by adding
the following new Regulation 3A:
“3A Confirmation of Registration
3 A (1) Notwithstanding sub -regulation 3 (1), a person whose
name appears in the reg ister of voters shall confirm his registration
during the registration period declared pursuant to section 107(1) of
the Act by certifying the information contained in the register.
(2) In order to facilitate the confirmation of persons resident
overseas , the office of any mission or embassy of the State, may be
designated as a Registration Office and a registration officer shall be
appointed under the direction of the Chief Registration Officer for that
(3) A person who has confirmed his regis tration in
ac cordance with the provisions of these Regulations shall be issued
with a national identification card in the same manner as if the
confirmation had taken place within the State itself.
(4) Upon confirmation under sub -regulation (1), the
appl icant‟s details shall be entered into the electronic database
provided by the Chief Registration Officer.”
The system of confirmation of registration facilitated a computer generated
record known as the “National Registration Record” which enabled the iss uing
of a National Identification Card, as well as the use in polling stations of a
Photo Identification List.
Voters already registered in St Kitts and Nevis were therefore required to re –
confirm their registration with the Elections Office between the p eriod
2 No. 9 of 2008
December 2007 and September 2008 to re -confirm their address and to have
photographs taken for the National ID Card. We were advised by the
Supervisor of Elections that teams of officials were deployed from the
Elections Office to the various consti tuencies during this period to facilitate
such re -confirmation. National identification cards were subsequently
produced using the information and photographs obtained , and voters were
advised to collect their cards prior to the election .
Those voters not re -confirmed on the roll by 30 September 2008 were
required to register anew, which could be done up to November 2009.
This process of re -confirmation of existing voter information, rather than a
comprehensive re -registration process as recommended in the 2004 and
2005 Commonwealth reports, led to allegations of per sons remaining on the
voters list in constituencies in which they did not reside.
This became an issue o n polling day in some constituencies, where voters
and party agents claimed that vo ters were registered who had never resided
in that area, and in one case, attempted to prevent these voters from entering
the polling station. The leader of the major opposition party has subsequently
alleged that objections to these voters lodged by the party were not properly
handled by the Electoral Office at the time of the re -confirmation process , and
has foreshadowed the opposition party‟s intention to pursue this complaint
through an election petition in court. The Supervisor of Elections assured the
Team , on the other hand, that the registration officers from the Electoral Office
had acted according to law.
This of course will ultimately be a matter for the courts to determine, but it
appears to the Team that while the re -confirmation process and the new voter
identification procedures have improved the integrity of the roll, the changes
have fallen short of fully clarifying and reforming the residency requirements
under the law. All parties have conceded that the law remains open in many
cases t o voters “choosing” the constituency where they wish to be registered,
which leaves the process vulnerable to manipulation.
The Team believes that the reform of the voter registration process should be
re -examined prior to the next election, to ensure the register is reliable and
accurate, and to ensure that voters resident in St Kitts and Nevis are
registered in the constituency of their actual residence or, in the case of
overseas voters, in the constituency of last residence.
According to the Constitution, the constituency boundaries are to be
determined by a five -member Constituency Boundaries Commission set up by
the Governor -Ge neral in consultation with the Prime Mi nister and the leader of
the opposition, and the constituenci es „shall contain as nearly equal number of
inhabitants as appear… to be re asonably practical.‟ 3 As noted by the
3 Constitution Schedule 2 , clause 2.
Commonwealth Expert Team in 2004 and reiterated by the Commonwealth
Assessment Team in 2005, the constituency boundaries in St Kitts and Nevis
need to be re -adjusted with a view to reflect fairness and balance in the
number of electors. The present situation where the biggest constituency has
4681 registered voters [St Christopher #8] and the smallest has 1111 [ Nevis
#10 ] is an anomaly.
Attempt s to introduce changes in boundary delineation by the government
from 2006 to 2009 were met with legal challenges and resignations from the
Boundaries Commission on the part of the opposition parties, and a court
injunction eventually forestalled any amend ment in the existing constituency
boundaries before the 2010 elections. This exercise remains to be completed
and is unresolved by the courts.
The m edia play s a critical role in any electoral process and increasingly take s
a variety of forms, from traditional print, radio and television to blogs an d other
web -based campaigning. Both electronic and print media played an important
role in t he St Kitts and Ne vis 2010 campaign , as did some web -based news
sites , although the Team was less conscious of ot her new media such as
social networking sites or blogs playing a prominent role.
Concerns a bout media bias were raised by o ppositi on parties and some
ordinary voters as well, particu larly in reference to the sole t elevision channel
(ZIZ) which is governme nt owned and controlled, and on which only the ruling
party appeared to receive coverage. Similarly, concerns were expressed to
the Team that a large number of the eleven local radio stations were
effectively under government control, and opposition partie s and candidates
had very little access to radio in regard to news coverage and advertising .
Opposition parties made the point that government control of licenses and
spectrum frequencies had been used to keep media subservient to Labour
Party viewpoints. One independent station appeared to be popular and
covered both government and opposition statements and advertisements. A
number of journalists and opposition members instanced that station ‟s
successful litigation in the courts to confirm a license to br oadcast as
confirmation that the Government did attempt to exercise an unwarranted
control over media independence.
Print media consisted of five newspapers. One (the Sun ) was a daily, two
others, the Observer and the Leeward s Times were weeklies and both the
Labour Party and the Peoples Action Movement had their own weekly party
papers. Again, accusations about bias in the print media were common,
although the Team observed coverage of both parties and their
advertisements in some print media .
It appea red to the Team that regulations or a Code of Conduct to provide for
fair and balanced media coverage, particularly in relation to the electronic
media, remains necessary in St Kitts and Nevis. The country could usefully
learn from the practice of other C ommonwealth countries where regulations
provide for allocation of equal public airtime to all parties and candidates
during an election campaign, mandate balanced coverage in news reporting,
and ensure equal access to paid advertising to all who seek it.
As raised in the Commonwealth Expert Team‟s Rep ort in 2004, there are as
yet no laws or r egulation s in St Kitts and Nevis governing campaign financing.
The absence of such regulations or guidelines as to limi ts can lead to
excessive sp endi ng by one party over the other, accusations of improper use
of state resources for campaigning, and a lack of transparency and public
accountability from the parties.
The reforms introduced prior to the 2010 election, such as the new National
Identification C ard and procedures, meant that the mechanics of the election
day process were different to 2004. Information about the location of the
polli ng centres, the voting procedures and the names of candidates were
widely publicis ed by th e Supervisor of Elections in the media in the days
leading up to the election . Beyond that, the political parties appeared to play
the dominant role in mobilising voters to register and vote, and explaining
voting procedures – although not always accurate ly. The significant presence
of billboards and other election advertising around both islands was a visible
reminder to the whole population that the election was happening and who
were the personalities and parties participating.
Interest by vo ters was high, and re flected in the high turnout on election d ay –
at the time of writing final figures were not available , but the Team estimated
turnout of above 80%, and a very small proportion of spoilt ballots . This
indicated that a lack of formalised voter e ducation did not undermine the
ability of voters to be aware of and understand the basic requirements for
casting their votes.
On the broader question of civic education and the importance of participation
in the democratic process , little work appeared t o have been done. This cou ld
be an expanded role for the Election C ommiss ion which may find suitable
partners in the NGO sector, churches and schools willing to work to help raise
awareness of the importance of transparent and accountable democratic
During its discussions some concerns were raised with the Team that women
in St Kitts remained reluctant to participate in the electoral process, as
candidates and in some cases even as voters, due to a political environment
ch aracterised by threats, intimidation and character attacks against
candidates and their families – including in some cases sexually explicit or
discriminatory rhetoric . The Team notes that there were only two female
candidates out of the 24 who contested the election, and one of these was
The Team did note a strong representation of women as polling and counting
officials and party agents on election day. The Team observed that women
appeared to be proportion ately represented as voters, women voters did not
express any fears or concerns to Team members about going to the polls , and
there was no sign of any intimidation or other hindrance to women casting
their vote freely .
The Team noted that an NGO Coalition comprising the Cha mber of
Commerce and Industry, Evangelical Association and Christian Council,
developed a Code of Conduct for the 2010 election (bas ed on one the same
group had promote d in the 1995 election) and secured its endorsement by all
four political parties partic ipating in the poll. This was a commendable
initiative , although it may have benef ited from wider promotion in the press as
a means of boosting the public accountability of the parties to its terms.
The Team also welcomed the participation, for the first time, of a group of
local election observers mobilised by the same NGO Coalition and consisting
of church ministers, deployed to each constituency on St Kitts to monitor the
vote and the count. The Team believes there is great value in election
observati on by local civil society representatives, and encourages that this be
continued in future, and if possible, expanded to cover all constituencies and
to include other civil soc iety representatives . The Team also hopes the
observations of the domestic obse rvers will be published in due course and
provide a platform for public accountability and informed debate as part of the
There is evidently a great degree of polari sation between the public in St Kitts
and Nevis on politic al party lines and at another level, between St Kitts and
Nevis, with the result that in the latter case, the political parties in St Kitts have
no standing in Nevis and vice versa . While the high degree of political
awareness may be commendable, and accou nts for the very high turn -out at
the polls, the negative consequences of these fissures are that the level of
acrimony is high, and suspicion of alleged mala fides is rife. To an extent, this
is a product of the smallness of the country, the intimate and familiar nature of
society, the fact that most people are known to each other, and the knowledge
or presumption that individuals are associated with one particular political
party or another.
This polaris ation creates an atmosphere in which electoral ref orm providing
for an electoral management hierarchy and procedures that are seen to be
transparent and impartial is of the utmost importance to engender public
confidence and credibility.
THE POLL AND THE COUNT
Performance of p olling and coun ting staff
On polling day, the previous allegations and charges of bias laid against the
election apparatus proved to be unjustified. The actual poll was conducted in
an exemplary manner. The poll officials were clearly well -trained in respect of
their fu nctions, showing themselves to be patient, helpful and considerate to
voters with difficulties, impartial, and displaying a commendable lack of
partisanship. Even those who had not served in like capacities previously
displayed confidence and aplomb in goi ng about their tasks. In the relatively
few cases witnessed by the Team of discrepancies regarding the identity or
location of a voter, or other procedural issues, these were resolved
professionally to the satisfaction of party agents. In general, a cord ial and
even friendly atmosphere prevailed between the election officials and the
party agents in the polling stations.
The Team also observed professional and appropriate behaviour by the police
and security services in their protection of the polling p rocess. Police
presence was to be seen at all polling stations, but officers were there only to
maintain order, and not in any intimidatory or partisan capacity.
The Team is aware of allegations from the main opposition party of improper
conduct by the d efence forces, but Team members did not observe any
improper deployment or action by the military . The defence force was
deployed to quell potential disturbance s at two polling station s in St Kitts on
election day, and in one of these where Team members w ere present, the
army was able to maintain order without any physical violence.
Events on polling day
The Team visited most polling stations in all eleven constituencies on polling
day, with one memb er deployed to Nevis and two teams comprised of two
mem bers each equally coverin g the eight polling districts in St. Kitts.
By and large, the polling stations were situated at venues that were
convenient and the facilities satisfactory, though there was no special access
for the disabled . However, in a handfu l of stations the accommodation was
cramped and uncomfortable and there was no protection from the rain for the
waiting line of voters. These adverse factors contributed to unnecessary
delays, and more appropriate polling facilities should be found in thos e cases .
Polling stations were observed to open on time at 7.00 am after following the
prescribed procedures such as showing the party agents that the ballot box
was empty, and that the envelopes containing the ballots were sealed and not
During voting t he candidates and symbols were explained to each voter, the
manner in which the choice of candidate was to be indicated on the ballot,
and the way it was to be folded when returned to the Presiding O fficer to be
placed in the ballot box. W hile the routine was lengthy and led to delays in
some polling stations, it was followed meticulously even at the end of the long
polling day when at some stations, there were long lines of voters still waiting
to cast their ballots. This contributed to del ays and slow processing of voters,
and seemed to be often unnecessary given that the electoral system is simple
and it seemed to the Team that the vast majority of voters were famil iar with
On the other hand, these careful instructions and meticulous procedures may
well have contributed to the low number of rejected ballots and election
officers and voters in general should be commended for that outcome .
The retaining of the counterfoil on the ballot paper before it is delivered to the
vote r should be re -visited as this has appeared to increase the amount of time
voters spen d in the polling station. It also seemed to Team members that the
consequent requirement that voters hand the ballot back to the Presiding
Officer, rather than put it in the box themselves, was an unnecessary and
undesirable complication in the process. Further, the use of only one voting
booth per polling station contributed to a slow process; many polling stations
were spacious enough to have allowed for two or more bo oths to be used
The Team commends the Electoral Commission for the use of the National
Identification Card and the Photo List used in the polling stations. This was a
considerable asset to the polling process and served to allay most of t he fears
from previous elections about multiple voting and personation. The great
majority of voters were in possession of their identity card. The few that were
not, confirmed their ide ntity by showing other photographic identification such
as a passport or driver‟s license. Voters ‟ lists at each polling station were
usually, but not invariably, displayed outside the polling station which also
contributed to facilitating the process of identification.
While the Team heard concerns from opposition party commentators and
some voters about the indelible ink used to prevent multiple voting – as it
appeared to wipe off easily – the Team‟s observations (and in the case of one
Team member, personal testing) revealed that the ink did in fact deepen in
colour fo llowing its attempted removal, and the Team was satisfied with the
performance of the ink.
There were no violent or serious incidents observed during the poll, aside
from a report of a person apprehended for photographing her ballot with a
mobile phone, a nd the disagreement among party supporters relating to the
registration of certain voters mentioned above at one polling station, which
was contained peacefully by police and security forces.
Th e main concern was in three constituencies where the number of voters
allocated to certain polling stations was too many and th is caused great
agitation by voters who had turned out early to exercise their franchise and
had to wait up to five hours in a long queue. The s ituation was further
compounded by the fact that it was raining for a great part of the day . It was
apparent that this problem could have been averted with better distribution of
voters and staff between polling stations, or additional resources within the
largest ones . The Team noted in particula r that while this problem was going
on, some polling stations nearby were virtually empty . The Team commends
voters in the polling stations in question for maintaining a peaceful deme anour
despite their frustration, and notes that all voters in line by 6 .0 0pm were able
to exercise their franchise. The Team has also seen public comment from the
Supervisor of Elections after election day apologising for this problem and
expressing his commitment to ensure a better distribution of resources next
time to avoid long queues.
It was the overwhelming observation of the Team that the secrecy of the ballot
was satisfactorily observed. In one polling station, it was observed that the
number placed in the Poll Book was the number of the counterfoil of the ballot
rath er than th e consecutive number of voters. This could breach voter
secrecy and was an apparently isolated incident of a poorly trained and
supervised polling clerk. The Team also observed that the process for
assisted voting allowed the ballot paper to be marked in the open by the
Presiding Officer in the presence of the polling agents , which the Team
recognises is in accordance with law but is necessarily a secrecy concern,
since in many cases the voter‟s choice was audible to an entire queue of
waiting v oters.
Conduct of the Count
The box from each polling station was collected by the Returning Officer when
he/she was informed that the voting was over and the box was sealed and
ready for collection. The box was con veyed under police escort and also
acco mpanied by party agents to the Counting Centre. The delivery was both
safe and secure and not open to any malign interference.
At the Counting Centre, each box was opened in numerical order in the
presence of the party agents, and each ballot unfolded, he ld up to the party
agents, the selected candidate‟s name announced and the ballot paper
pierced into a wire stand, one for each candidate. This procedure proved to be
exceedingly slow, and in a couple of cases, one in St Kitts and one in Nevis,
the constit uency result was not announced until after 8am the next day . In the
Nevis case, the constituency concerned had only 4295 registered voters,
which makes the delay all the more unacceptable in public perception.
In the Counting Centre s observed by the Team , as in the polling stations, both
the R eturning Officer and the tally c lerk s were diligent, efficient, and impartial .
A friendly atmosphere between the election officials and the party agents
prevailed. There was a police presence available to the electio n officials at the
Counting Centre at all times.
In some of the Counting Centres observed by the Team , there were recoun ts
requested by the party agents . In one case the party agents themselves
recounted the ballots. It was not clear whether thi s was wi thin the rules, but
the recount did allow consensus to be reached .
Contrary to the experience of the 2004 Commonwealth Expert Team, there
was no frivolous rejection of ballot papers on the grounds that the pencil mark
had touched the edge of the box or fo r any other reason in cases where the
intention of the voter was abundantly clear. This was an important
improvement and the approach of the Returning Officers, along with the
willingness of the party agents to accept it, should be commended.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The Team found in St Kitts and Nevis a highly charged political environment,
and heard concerns from various stakeholders about aspects of the electoral
process in the country. The Team recognised that while the campaign was
vigorous and openly conducted by all major parties, there were issues in the
electoral environment that gave legitimate cause for concern – in particular,
the lack of equity in the access of parties to state -owned media , and a lack of
broa d and transparent consultation in the appointment of electoral officials,
which undermined the confidence of some political parties and segments of
the public in their impartiality.
On election day itself the Team observed a peaceful and successful proces s.
The voting and counting were cond ucted well and the Team observed that
voters were able to exercise th eir right to vote in accordance with legal
procedures, including secrecy. The high voter turnout and low number of
spoilt ballots was testament to th e successful exercise of the franchise by the
people. The Team also observed that the polling and counting staff
conducted their duties competently and with integrity, as did the party agents
who were able to witness the proper conduct of the polls.
Some interlocutors predicted irregularities or difficulties in the use of the new
National I dentifica tion C ard, but the Team‟s observation was that the new
card, used in conjunction with the photographic register of voters, was a
significant improvement i n pro tecting the process from fraudulent and
At the same time, the Team believes that there remain issues of substance in
relation to which the electoral process in St Kitts and Nevis can and must be
improved. Some are process -related and s imple to resolve – such as uneven
distribution of resources on election day leading to long queues in some
places – while others are more complex and contested, such as tightening the
residency requirements for voter registration.
This is the third time a Commonwealth team has been invited by the
Secretary -General to observe elections in St Kitts and Nevis . The Team notes
that a number of the same recommendations for electoral reforms and
improvements were made in both of the previous reports, and are bein g
echoed again in this o ne. T he Team acknowledges the efforts made by the
Government of St Kitts and Nevis to conduct reform on two of the issues
previously raised by the Commonwealth teams – voter identification and
redistribution of boundaries – althoug h it is unfortunate that the boundaries
reform resulted in litigation and was therefore unable to be completed in time
for the 2010 election.
The Team encourages the Government to work with all political parties
represented in the National Assembly to ens ure the boundary redistribution
process can be completed and accepted prior to the next election. The Team
also urges the consideration and implementation of the other
recommendations made in this report, some for the third time. The Team
suggests that t he Government seek assistance where required from the
Commonwealth or other international partners, to ensure this can be
Provision should be made to facilitate the widest possible consultation
with political parties in the appo intment of Election Commissioners and
the Supervisor of Elections , to ensure confi dence in their impartiality .
Provision should be made for the Supervisor of Elections to be a full –
time position, and for strengthening the Electoral Office.
A system of co mplete re -registration should be explored. The Team
recognis es that considerable resources have been expended on the
printing of the National Identification Card and that some may have to
be reprinted for those voters who may be required to register in th e
constituency in which they reside. It may also entail the amendment of
electoral Regulations to clarify and strengthen the residency
requirements . If possible, registration could be under taken in each
The redistribution of electoral bound aries needs to be finalised, to
ensure that each constituency contains as nearly equal number of
inhabitants as practicable, in accordance with the Constitution.
A C ode or regulations should be introduced to govern media coverage
during an election period , to ensure balanced and fair presentation of
issues, parties and candidates. St Kitts and Nevis could draw on the
assistance and resources of the Commonwealth Secretariat and
relevant Commonwealth organisations in this regard.
The Electoral Commission s hould look at the possibility of u tilising
more than one voting booth in each polling station as a means of
speeding the process of voting. The expense of constructing booths
could be minimis ed through the use of smaller cardboard screens
which can be sou rced regionally.
The electoral authorities should examine the allocation of staff
resources and the distribution of voters between polling stations, to
avoid long queues and waiting times. The number of voters in each
polling station could be limited to a certain maximum, such as 300 –
The practice of retaining the counterfoil on the ballot before it is
delivered to the voter who returns it to the Presiding Officer for removal
should be discontinued. The counterfoil should be retained by the
Presid ing Officer and the ballot paper separated by a perforated line.
The practice of handing the ballot paper to the Presiding Officer for
placement in the ballot box should also be discontinued and this step
should be done by the voter after the digit is imm ersed in the electoral
There is a need for the introduction of campaign financing rules to
ensure fairness and transparency.
Consideration should be given to the effectiveness of the “campaign
blackout ” provisions and their interpretation, to ensure that the rules are
clearly and consistently understood and the intention of the law is
Independent voter and civic education should be conducted by the
electoral authorities, potentially in cooperation with non -government
organisations, churches and schools, to help raise awareness of the
importance of transparent and accountable democratic processes.
Political p arties and civil society groups should c onsider how women
may be encouraged to run for parliament in greater numbers , including
if neces sary promoting changes in campaign practices to increase
gender sensitivity. This is an area where the Commonwealth
Secretariat could be approached for advice and assistance.
The role of civil society organisations in the democratic process should
be fur ther strengthened, including the possibility of continuing and
expanding the deployment of domestic observers in future elections.
The Commonwealth Secretariat and Commonwealth organisations
should be prepared to consider favourably requests for advice an d
assistance to facilitate the implementation of these recommendations.
The Team is grateful to the Commonwealth Secretary -General, Mr Kamalesh
Sharma, for constituting the Expert Team, thereby allowing us to make a
modest contribution to the further strengthening of the democratic process in
St Kitts and Nevis.
The Team also expresses its gratitude to all who assisted us in our work in St
Kitts and Nevis including the Supervisor of Elections and electoral officials , the
political parti es, media, civil society and other groups, who shared their
knowledge and perspectives with the Team and enhanced our understanding
of the electoral environment and the process for the conduct of the poll.
We also thank the drivers, hotel staff, and busin ess houses whose essential
contributions to the practical work of the Team made our efforts possible and
our stay comfortable.
Above all, we wish to thank the people of St Kitts and Nevis, whose
passionate commitment to their own democracy, and in the ove rwhelming
majority to a peaceful exercise of those democratic r ights, was a privilege to
witness . We have appreciated the ir warm welcome and engaging hospitality ,
and we hope that this report , and the ongoing work which should emerge from
it, will assist in the consolidation and strengthening of the vibrant young
democracy of St Kitts and Nevis.
Biographies of members of the Expert Team
Hon Christopher Carter MP (New Zealand – Chairperson)
Hon Chris Carter is a Labour Member of Parliament for Te Atatu. He was a
senior Cabinet Minister and held a number of ministerial portfolios including
Conservation, Local Government, Ethnic Affairs, Housing, Building Issues and
Education. In Parliament he has built on a keen interest in Education,
Conservatio n, and Foreign Affairs. He is currently the Opposition
Spokesperson on Foreign and Ethnic Affairs, as well as a member of the
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee. Chris holds a Masters Degree
in History from the University of Auckland and was a te acher for over 20
years. He is very involved in community activities and is a Justice of the
Peace and a campaigner for human rights.
Mr Krishnan Srinivasan (India)
Krishnan Srinivasan is a former Indian diplomat, who was Foreign Secretary
of India and l ater Commonwealth Deputy Secretary -General. He is a member
of Christ Church Oxford‟s senior Common Room, and has been a Fellow at
Cambridge, London and Uppsala Universities. Currently, he is a Senior Fellow
at the Azad Institute of Asian Studies at Kolkata and an Honorary Professor at
the Administrative Staff College in Hyderabad. He has published several
articles on international affairs in newspapers and learned journals, and books
on world politics, the latest being Towards the New Horizon: World Order i n
the 21 st Century , along with James Mayall, professor of International Relations
Ms Lorna Simon (Antigua and Barbuda)
Lorna Simon is the Supervisor of Elections in Antigua and Barbuda . Prior to
moving to the Electoral Commission, she held the position of Permanent
Secretary with the Office of the Governor -General, and the Ministry of
Tourism, Youth Empowerment, Sports, and Community Development. She
has a degree in Public Sector Management from the University of the West
Indies. She has att ended public service training courses in Project
Implementation and Management, Supervisory Skills Development and
Advanced Accounting through the Caribbean Development Bank, Canadian
International Development Agency (CIDA), and USAID. Ms Simon has served
as a member of several international electoral assessment and observation
missions in Central America and around the Caribbean.
Letters of Invitation and response
Press release issued on 21 Janu ary 2010
List of meetings held
Supervisor of Elections
The Governor -General
The Labour Party
People‟s Action Movement Party
Concerned Citizens‟ Movement (CCM)
The Premier of Nevis (National Reformation Party)
St Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry a nd Commerce
St Kitts/ Nevis Evangelical Association
St Kitts/Nevis Christian Council
People‟s Action Movement Women‟s Organisation
ZIZ Broadcasting (TV)
Sun St Kitts/Nevis Newspaper
Radio WINN -FM
The Leeward sTimes
The St Kitts/Nevis Observer
Caribbean Media Corporation
Organiza tion of American States (OAS) Election Observer Team
CARICOM Election Observer Team