The Eastern Caribbean twin-island nation of St. Kitts-Nevis will vote for a new government on Aug. 5, almost three months after Prime Minister Timothy Harris’ Team Unity coalition government had splintered in the wake of a bitter internal row among cabinet ministers.
Back then Harris, 57, had fired six of his cabinet ministers, accusing them of abandoning their posts, while they wrote the governor general asking him to fire the PM because they had lost confidence in his stewardship.
Instead of waiting on the governor to act, Harris sent home the six, including deputy Shawn Richards and others, dissolving the parliament and warning the federation that he would call elections before the mid-August constitutional deadline. He had filled their spaces with replacement ministers to run the country until fresh polls.
At a rally in Basseterre, the capital on Sunday night, Harris named August 5th as the new election date, hoping that he and the new team of replacement cabinet ministers, as well as district representatives, would be returned to office without the political quarrels of the very recent past.
Campaigning under a Team Unity banner that had involved his own People’s Labor Party and two others, the grouping had won the majority of seats in the legislature in elections held in 2020.
A series of public quarrels over his alleged dictatorial management style and mumblings about his lack of consultations with coalition partners led to the collapse of the government after just two years.
The PM’s main rival would be the St. Kitts-Nevis Labor Party (SKLNP) of Leader Terrance Drew, former coalition partner the People’s Action Movement (PAM) of Shawn Richards, the Concerned Citizens Movement of Mark Brantley and the Nevis Reformation Party led by Janice Daniel-Hodge, the only woman leader in the race.
“In your name of all democracy lovers, I now declare that I have advised his excellency the governor-general earlier that he should prepare for us to go to general elections on Friday, August 5, 2022,” Harris said to resounding applause.
The federation near Antigua and St. Maarten makes much of its revenue from tourism but has gone through some tough times owing to the COVID pandemic.
And now that the date has been named, campaigning will be stepped up even as it is unclear which coalition combination will have enough of the 15 seats to form the government, whether Harris will patch up differences with former partners or whether the partners will team up with the SKLNP to kick him out of office.
Since the mid May collapse of Team Unity, civil society organizations had grown angry with the PM for delaying naming a date, saying they had feared abuse of power because of the absence of parliament.
“We have some concerns observed by our non-governmental organizations which can diminish our people’s confidence in our electoral system, create social instability, cause widespread anxiety, negatively affect the local economic climate, and undermine the respect for true democracy and the rule of law in our federation. The executive, led by your cabinet of ministers, should refrain from implementing major policy decisions that are likely to commit an incoming government, churches and other civil groups had said in a statement.
The runoff in St. Kitts-Nevis will occur less than two months after voters in Grenada, also an Eastern Caribbean nation, picked the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) over the New National Party (NNP) despite the fact that the NNP had won 15 seats in the previous two elections. The NDC picked up nine and 44-year-old Dickon Mitchell, an attorney, was elected prime minister.