Harris loses in St. Kitts

Former Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Timothy Harris.
Former Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Timothy Harris.
Associated Press / Seth Wenig

One day very soon, perhaps, over confident Caribbean leaders may eventually learn not call snap general elections as was the case with Prime Minister Timothy Harris of the St. Kitts-Nevis Federation.

Beset by internal bickering and accusations of disloyalty among colleague cabinet ministers, Harris fired six of his Team Unity coalition ministers back in May, asked the governor to dissolve parliament and called snap elections for Aug. 5, saying he wanted his own mandate without the rebellious group of ministers.

But his plan has backfired badly, with his People’s Labor Party (PLP) winning only one of the 11 federation seats as it makes way for the return of the experienced St. Kitts-Nevis Labor Party (SKNLP) to power after seven years on the opposition benches.

Harris’ Team Unity had won nine out of the 11 seats in the mid 2020 general elections as it returned to office for a second five-year term which has now flattered to deceive with the break up of the three-party coalition. Team Unity with Harris, 56, at the helm, had displaced the SKNLP in 2015 after 20 consecutive years in office. The public fighting among coalition members meant that Harris was forced to call elections three years before constitutionally due.

Clearly opting for political and governmental stability, voters gave the SKNLP six of the parliamentary seats, meaning that medical doctor Terrence Drew will most likely become the federation’s fourth prime minister. The Political Action Movement (PAM), the other major party which had contested mostly on mainland St. Kitts and was also in the coalition, won a single seat that went to former deputy prime minister, Shawn Richards. The PLP’s single seat will go to Harris as political analysts are now predicting the beginning of the end of his career.

“So far based on the results I have heard in St. Kitts it appears that the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party has won a majority of the seats and so I say congratulations to Dr. Terrence Drew and the rest of his team. To that party, I say the voters have spoken. Ultimately, you have a responsibility to all of the voters in St. Kitts-Nevis and as such you must look out for all of the people,” said a disappointed in a radio broadcast mid-morning Saturday.

PM designate Drew collected the highest number of votes, polling 2,950, three times rivals from PAM and the PLP. The Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) won all three seats in sister isle, Nevis.

The snap poll has brought reminders about a similar move by former Grenadian Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell . His New National Party (NNP) was kicked out of office in late June by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) of attorney Dickon Mitchell, 44. The NDC won nine of the 15 seats, reversing a complete 15-0 by the older Mitchell, 75 in the previous elections. He had done so three times in total.

CARICOM and the Organization of American States (OAS) had sent observer missions. Both complained about the unusual delay in announcing results in a federation of about 51,000 people as official results were not made public until mid morning Saturday.

“One recommendation that we have consistently made, in 2011 and again in 2015, is that we need to avoid any extended period of time between the closing of polls and the declaration of the results,”said Bruce Golding, a former Jamaican prime minister. “People need to know that when a government takes office, that government was properly elected, and you run the risk of undermining that confidence,” he told reporters.