History of Elections in Saint Lucia
The first civil governor of Saint Lucia was Brigadier General George Prevost, commissioned on April 15 1801. General Prevost was assisted in the Civil Administration by a “Conseil Superieur composed of 12 of the most respectable inhabitants in Saint Lucia.”
In 1802, when the island was briefly occupied by the French, the Civil Administration continued, although with some minor changes. It was fully restored by the British in 1803.
A form of Crown Colony system of government was adopted for Saint Lucia in 1808. It allowed for continued “home rule through Orders-in-Council”, by which means legislation was imposed upon the colony.
The Civil Government of Saint Lucia was reorganised in 1816, with instructions issued by the Prince Regent in Council to Major General Richard Seymore, Governor of Saint Lucia. The Governor issued an Ordinance on December 15 1816, outlining “the principal features of the new Privy Council composed of five of the leading proprietors of the recast Conseil Superieur”. The Conseil Superieur was now strictly confined to its function as a Court of Appeal. The President of the Court of Appeal was authorised to preside at the Privy Council in the absence of the Governor.
The Privy Council was abolished in 1832. Two separate Councils were then formed: the Executive Council, composed of the Governor, Colonial Secretary, Attorney General, Colonial Treasurer, and Protector of Slaves; and the Legislative Council, com posed of the Chief Justice and the above named, together with five of the principal proprietors of the island. The new arrangement was inaugurated in April that year, under the auspices of Major General James Farquharson, The “official” members holding office took precedence over the “unofficial” members without office. They were all nominated under the “sign manual” and were now to be addressed as “Honourable”, a title which was first used in October 1818.
From 1838, Saint Lucia was included in the General Government of the Windward Islands under a Lieutenant-Governor, with headquarters in Barbados. The post of Resident Governor in Saint Lucia was replaced by an Administrator, subordinate to the Governor of the Windward Islands. The Administrator now had a seat on each council.
Minor changes to the councils were effected in 1844 and by Royal Letters Patent dated March 17 1885, the Windward Islands Seat of Government was transferred to Grenada.
In 1922, the Wood Commission visited the Windward and Leeward Islands with terms of reference “to ascertain if the people were ready for some form of political development”. Several influential persons, including Dr. Edwin, C. Beausoleil, Emelius D. Cadet, George Cooper, George S. Gordon, Louis A. McVane, George H. Palmer and Thomas G. Westwell, led a deputation to plead Saint Lucia’s case before the Wood Commission. These “political pioneers” formed a “Representative Government Association with a view to agitating for political reforms”. A public meeting was held on Columbus Square and McVane read out the association’s manifesto. He then presented Lord Halifax, Chairman of the Wood Commission, with a copy.
By Letters Patent dated March 21 1924, provisions were made for the first Legislative Council under the new partially elected principal. The first elections were held on March 9 1925, with three ele districts. The first three members elected to the Legislature i Saint Lucia were Hon. Thomas G. Westall (North), Hon. George H. Palmer (East), and Hon. Thomas B. Hull (West). The inaugural meeting of the new Council was held under the auspices of Governor Sir Frederick S. James on May 1 1925. In addition to the three elected members, the Council was made up of the Administrator or Colonial Secretary presiding, Attorney General, Treasurer, Registrar of the Royal Court, Chief Medical Officer, and Inspector of Schools. The three nominated members were George Barnard, William Degazon, and Gabriel LaFitte. By Order-in- Council dated October 29 1936, the Governor was given “reserve powers for ensuring the passage of legislation which he considered expedient in the interest of public faith or good government”.
The three elected members in 1925 were voted into office with very little campaigning. Indeed, two were unopposed. In 1928 the three candidates ran without campaign or opposition. However, by 1931 the story was different. Although McVane ran unopposed in the North, Belmar and DuBoulay conducted a lively and heated campaign in the West. Also in 1931, provisions were made to allow women to enter the political arena and become either elected or nominated members of the legislature. The minimum voting age was set at 21 years.
The Constitution of the Executive Council was regulated by Royal Instructions of 1936, 1939 and 1945. When present in Saint Lucia, the Governor presided at meetings; in his absence, the Administrator presided.
A new Constitution was granted to the Windward Islands in 1951, the year adult suffrage was granted to the Lesser Antilles. New constituencies were added to those already existing in Saint Lucia, bringing the elected members up to eight. There were still three nomi nated members. The second general election in Saint Lucia under universal adult suffrage was held in September 1954.
Letters Patent dated February 15 1956 made provisions for the establishment of a Ministerial system of government in Saint Lucia. The first three ministers were declared on March 15 1956. They were Hon George F. Charles, Minister of Social Affairs; Hon. Herman B. Collymore, Minister of Communications and Works; and Hon Dr. Karl G. Lacorbiniere, Minister of Trade and Production. However, responsibility for financial matters still remained with the Governor, through the Financial Secretary. Under this new Constitution, the Executive Council was recognised as the policy making authority and consisted of a Chairman, three official members, four elected members and one nominated member. The Legislative Council consisted of a President, two official members, three nominated members and eight elected members, of which three were ministers. At the General Elections held in September 1957, the Saint Lucia Labour Party won seven of the eight seats. During this election campaign, an appreciation of the concept of party politics began to be displayed in the country.
A Federation of the West Indies was attempted in 1958 and Dr. Lacorbiniere became a member of the Federal Parliament, attaining the post of Deputy Prime Minister. The post of Governor of the Windward Islands was abolished in December 1959. Saint Lucia was granted a new Constitution on January 1 1960. The Administrator became Her Majesty’s Representative in Saint Lucia. This new Constitution provided for a Chief Minister and three other Ministers appointed on his advice. It also provided for two more elected seats in the Legislature, bringing their number up to ten, and for two nominated members instead of three, with the Crown Attorney as the only official member of the Legislature. The Administrator was no longer President of the House. A speaker was to be elected from inside or outside the Legislature. On January 7 1960, Hon George F. Charles became Saint Lucia’s first Chief Minister responsible for Treasury, Inland Revenue and Medical and Public Relations; Hon. John G. Compton became Minister of Trade and Industry; and Hon. Martin Jr Baptiste became Minister of Communications and Works. The Executive Council was still the decision-making authority of Government.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party won nine of the 10 electoral seats at the General Elections held in April 1961. The Federation collapsed the following year, when Jamaica opted out. The controversial Banana Bill caused the Saint Lucia Labour Government to fall in 1964, after two members resigned their seats. The Administration dissolved the House on April 6 1964. The newly formed United Workers’ Party won six of the 10 electoral seats at the General Elections held two months later. Hon. John G. Compton became Chief Minister, with four other Ministers, one without portfolio.
Saint Lucia attained Associated Statehood on March 1 1967, which allowed it full control of its internal affairs, with Britain responsible for Defence and Foreign Affairs in consultation with the Government of Saint Lucia. The Executive and Legislative Councils were abolished and replaced by a Cabinet and a House of Assembly. The post of administrator was abolished and replaced by a local Governor as the Queen’s representative in Saint Lucia. The first Governor under the new status was Dr. (later Sir) Frederick J. Clarke and the Chief Minister Hon. John G. Compton became the first Premier of Saint Lucia. The Cabinet comprised the five Ministers, the Attorney General, and the Secretary to Cabinet. The House of Assembly comprised a Speaker, the ten elected members, three nominated members, and the Attorney General.
In 1969, the voting age was reduced to 18 years. In 1974 seven new constituencies were added to the existing ten, bringing the number of elected members up to seventeen.
On February 22 1979, Saint Lucia obtained total independence from Britain. Saint Lucia’s Parliament now comprised Her Majesty’s representative, the Governor General; a Senate; and a House of Assembly. The decision-making body of Government remained the Cabinet of Ministers. The first Governor General under the new status was Sir Allan Lewis, and Premier Hon. John G. Compton became the first Prime Minister of independent Saint Lucia.
The Senate presently comprises 11 Senators, six appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister, three on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, and two by the Governor General on the advice of the general community. The House of Assembly comprises 17 elected members and a Speaker, who may be elected from outside the House. The Cabinet comprises the Prime Minister and such other Ministers as he may consider necessary. The post of Attorney General ceased to be a public one in 1979.
Source: Government of Saint Lucia website: Constitutional Development