The Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis came into being on September 19, 1983, when the Associated State of St. Kitts & Nevis gained independence from Britain. This 105 square mile nation (St. Kitts is 69 sq. mi. & Nevis is 36 sq. mi.) – the smallest in the western hemisphere – has since asserted itself on the world stage, notwithstanding its population of fewer than 50,000 people.
Structure & Process
The Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis is a constitutional monarchy. Our head of state is the Queen of St. Kitts & Nevis who is also Queen of Britain, Canada and a number of other countries around the world. Every act of government is done in the Queen’s name but the authority for every act flows from the people of St. Kitts & Nevis. We have a Cabinet responsible to Parliament and a Parliament answerable to the People.
Government impacts on all aspects of our lives and understanding how it works is important to every citizen of St. Kitts & Nevis. The following sections provide a brief overview of the structure and process of our government, the institutions and symbols that represent it, and the people to whom we have entrusted it.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the formal head of state of the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis. She is also the symbolic head of the Commonwealth comprised of St. Kitts & Nevis and fifty-three other former British colonies. Parliament meets only by royal summons and no bills become law without Royal Assent.
The Governor-General is the personal representative of the Queen in St. Kitts & Nevis. He is appointed by Her Majesty on the recommendation of the Prime Minister and performs the functions of the Monarch in her absence including Royal Assent for all bills and authorization of all government appointments.
The Federal Government
The Prime Minister is the Head of Government of St. Kitts and Nevis. There is a House of Assembly headed by a Speaker of the House. Elections are held every five years.
St. Kitts and Nevis have a single National Assembly responsible for making laws, and comprising fifteen (15) members. Eleven (11) of these are directly elected representatives whilst three (3) are senators appointed by the Governor-General – two on the advice of the Prime Minister and the third on the advice of the leader of the opposition. The Attorney General, who was not appointed as a senator, automatically gets a seat as one, increasing the number of senators to four. Of the eleven (11) elected members, eight represent constituencies in St. Kitts and the remaining three represent Nevis seats.
The Prime Minister is appointed from the representatives by the Governor General, who has a constitutional duty to select someone who is likely to command the support of the majority of the representatives. In practice this would normally mean the leader of the majority party or coalition. If there is no suitable candidate, then the governor general can dissolve the assembly and trigger a general election. Other ministers are also appointed by the Governor General, on the advice of the Prime Minister (and so effectively by the Prime Minister). The Prime Minister can be removed from office by the assembly or by the Governor General if he feels that the Prime Minister no longer enjoys the support of the majority of representatives. The assembly is elected every five years unless the Governor General dissolves it before the end of this period, which he may do on the advice of the Prime Minister.