St Kitts and Nevis has been thrown into political turmoil following a British judicial decision to strike down new electoral regulations a few days before the state’s general election.
Five British justices sitting on the judicial committee of the privy council in London on Thursday overturned the introduction of fresh constituency boundaries ahead of the poll Monday. The elections will now be held using the old electoral boundaries.
The Labour party government had introduced the electoral constituencies by proclamation on 16 January, exactly a month before the scheduled vote. The opposition challenge was led by Mark Brantley and claimed the proclamation was not correctly gazetted adding that the new boundaries would give government candidates an unfair advantage. They launched a legal challenge but local courts dismissed their appeals.
Lord Goldsmith, the former Labour attorney general, who appeared for the government, argued that correct constitutional procedures had been followed and that the PM’s press secretary had distributed copies of the changes to the media.
Part of the case turned on precise timings of what occurred on 16 January. The eastern Caribbean court of appeal ruled that the proclamation was made by the governor general, Sir Edmund Lawrence, at 6.20 pm, while an injunction opposing the new boundaries was granted by a local court only at 7.38 pm and served on the country’s attorney general at about 8.20 pm. The proclamation had been approved by the country’s national assembly.
Peter Knox QC and Douglas Mendes SC, for the opposition, alleged that the process was calculated to prevent non-government politicians gaining access to the court adding, changes were not made available to the public.
The privy council ruling declared: “It is determined and ordered that the list to be used in the … election is and shall be that existing prior to the proclamation … purportedly issued and published by the governor general. Any effect which the said proclamation would continue otherwise to have, whether in relation to any other election or otherwise, is hereby suspended until further order.”