Government office buildings on the Castries waterfront
Saint Lucia follows the British two-house system of Parliament made up of a House of Assembly and a Senate. The House of Assembly consists of seventeen Members of Parliament each having been elected to represent an individual constituency district. The leader of the political party which represents the majority in Parliament becomes Prime Minister, the leader of the nation. The Senate consists of eleven nominated members and has no direct function in legislative matters.
Saint Lucia became an independent nation on February 22, 1979. The country is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations and as such the titular Head of State is Queen Elizabeth II. Representing the queen is Saint Lucia’s Ceremonial Head of State, the Governor-General, who presides at official events.
Following a tumultuous history of being fought over by England and France for a century and a half, Saint Lucia finally came under British control in 1814. While the island technically remained under British rule for more than the next 165 years changes were instituted a number of times which gave the Saint Lucian people an increased role in their governance. The initial measure of democratic representation was instituted in the 1924 constitution which legislated a minority of elected members to sit on the previously all nominated Legislative Council. Universal adult suffrage was introduced in 1951 which was accompanied by a change in which elected members made up a majority of the council.
Ministerial government was introduced in 1956, and in 1958 Saint Lucia joined the short-lived West Indies Federation, a semi-autonomous dependency of the United Kingdom. When the federation collapsed in 1962, a smaller federation was briefly attempted. After the second failure, the United Kingdom and the six windward and leeward islands – Grenada, St. Vincent, Dominica, Antigua and Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Lucia – developed a novel form of cooperation called Associated Statehood.
As an Associated State of the United Kingdom from 1967 to 1979, Saint Lucia became fully responsible for internal self-government while its external affairs and defense responsibilities remained with the United Kingdom. This interim arrangement ended on February 22, 1979, when Saint Lucia achieved full independence. While over the past 30 years, a few new political parties were created, the United Workers Party (UWP) and the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) have been the major forces in elected politics.
John Compton, as leader of the UWP party, was Premier from 1964 until independence in February, 1979, and assumed the position of Prime Minister until elections later that year when the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) won the first post-independence elections in July, 1979, taking 12 of 17 seats in Parliament. A period of turbulence ensued, in which squabbling within the SLP party led to changes of Prime Minister from Allan Louisy to Winston Cenac to Dr. Michael Pilgrim, who agreed to serve four months until new elections were held. Pressure from the private sector and the labour unions forced the government to resign in 1982. New elections were then called and were won resoundingly by Compton’s UWP, which took 14 of 17 seats.
The UWP was re-elected on April 16, 1987, but with only nine of 17 seats. Seeking to increase his slim margin, Prime Minister Compton suspended parliament and called new elections on April 30. This unprecedented snap election, however, gave Compton the same results. In April, 1992, Prime Minister Compton’s UWP government again defeated the SLP. In this election, the government increased its majority in parliament to 11 seats.
In 1996, Compton announced his resignation as Prime Minister in favor of his chosen successor, Dr. Vaughan Lewis, former Director General of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Dr. Lewis became Prime Minister on April 2, 1996. The SLP also had a change of leadership with former CARICOM official, Dr. Kenny Anthony, succeeding businessman Julian Hunte.
In elections held May 23, 1997, the St. Lucia Labour Party won all but one of the 17 seats in Parliament, and Dr. Kenny Anthony became Prime Minister. In elections of December 3, 2001, the SLP won 14 of the 17 available seats. The leader of the UWP, Dr. Morella Joseph, failed to win a seat resulting in Marcus Nicholas assuming the role of leader of the parliamentary opposition. Former Prime Minister, Sir John Compton, came out of retirement to become leader of the opposition UWP in 2005 leading the United Workers Party to an upset victory in elections held December 11, 2006, taking 11 of the 17 seats and Compton once again returned to the position of Prime Minister.
In May 2007, Prime Minister Compton became ill and appointed Minister for Health, Stephenson King, as Acting Prime Minister. King served in this capacity until Compton passed away on September 7, 2007. Two days later, King was sworn in as Prime Minister and remains in that position to date. Elections were again held in November 2011 with the Labour Party regaining power with an11 to 6 seat victory bringing Dr. Kenny Anthony back as the island’s Prime Minister.
Today, Saint Lucia is an active member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), the East Caribbean Common Market (ECCM), and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
St. Lucia has an independent judiciary composed of district courts and a high court. Cases may be appealed to the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeals and, ultimately, to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. Most towns and villages have elected local governments which oversee such tasks as regulation of sanitation and maintenance of cemeteries and secondary roads. Saint Lucia has no army but maintains a Marine Police unit and a Special Services Unit with the Royal Saint Lucian Police Force.