St. Lucia is a parliamentary democracy that holds competitive elections and has long experienced peaceful transfers of power between rival parties. Persistent challenges include government corruption and inadequate transparency, police brutality and a perception of impunity for such abuses, and discrimination against LGBT+ people.
- Authorities declared a COVID-19-related state of emergency in March, which was extended through September. The government then replaced the state of emergency with the COVID-19 (Prevention and Control) Bill, which it attempted to pass in one sitting; when opposition and independent senators denied the body a quorum, temporary members were appointed, allowing the bill to pass in early October. Authorities reported 340 COVID-19 cases and 5 deaths to the World Health Organization (WHO) at year’s end.
- Some 55 homicides were recorded in the country by New Year’s Eve, the second-highest rate in its history.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
The prime minister, usually the leader of the majority party in Parliament, is appointed as head of government by the governor general, who represents the British monarch as the largely ceremonial head of state. Allen Chastanet of the United Workers Party (UWP) was chosen as prime minister following the 2016 legislative elections, which were considered free and fair.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
The bicameral Parliament consists of the 18-seat House of Assembly, with 17 members directly elected to five-year terms, and the 11-seat Senate, whose members are appointed. The prime minister chooses 6 senators, the opposition leader selects 3, and 2 are chosen in consultation with civic and religious organizations.
The most recent House of Assembly elections took place in 2016. The polls were considered competitive and credible, and stakeholders accepted the results. The UWP secured 11 seats, defeating the then governing Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP), which took 6.
|Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?||3.003 4.004|
Electoral laws are generally fair and implemented impartially by the Electoral Commission. However, differences in the sizes of constituencies have resulted in unequal voting power among citizens. While the largest constituency (Gros Islet) has had more than 20,000 registered voters, the smallest (Dennery South) has had only 5,000.
|Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?||4.004 4.004|
Political parties may organize and operate freely. A number of small parties function, though the UWP and SLP have dominated politics since the 1960s, aided in part by the country’s first-past-the-post electoral system. Campaigns are financed entirely through private funds, which can also disadvantage new and small parties.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?||4.004 4.004|
The country has a long record of democratic transfers of power, with the UWP and SLP regularly alternating in government.
|Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means?||4.004 4.004|
Voters and candidates are generally free to make political choices without undue influence. However, there are few legal controls on the source of funds or on spending by candidates and parties, raising concerns about the potential for improper influence by unaccountable foreign and domestic interests.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?||4.004 4.004|
All citizens are formally entitled to equal political rights and electoral opportunities. Some 85 percent of the population is of African descent, while African-European, East Indian, and other minorities are present.
Women are underrepresented in politics; only three women House of Assembly seats as of 2020. As many as six women were in the Senate as it considered a controversial COVID-19 bill in October. Women have a more significant presence as electoral officials and within party structures. The LGBT+ community is marginalized, affecting its ability to engage fully in political processes.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?||3.003 4.004|
The elected prime minister, cabinet, and Parliament determine the policies of the government without improper interference from unelected entities.
Parliamentary oversight of COVID-19-related legislation was affected by the government’s efforts to attain approval via a shortened process, however. In September 2020, the government introduced the COVID-19 (Prevention and Control) Bill, aiming to pass it in one sitting. The St. Lucia Bar Association objected, calling on the government to consult stakeholders. A group of opposition and independent senators did not attend a scheduled debate, denying the body a quorum and prompting the governor general to appoint two temporary members. The bill was passed in early October.
Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 because a controversial COVID-19 prevention bill was approved through an irregular procedure involving the swearing-in of temporary senators.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?||3.003 4.004|
Several state institutions are responsible for combating corruption, including the parliamentary commissioner, the auditor general, and the Public Service Commission, but their effectiveness is limited somewhat by a lack of resources.
A number of senior officials have faced corruption allegations in recent years. Prime Minister Chastanet and Economic Development Minister Guy Joseph faced long-standing allegations of corrupt behavior regarding an airport redevelopment project during the 2007–11 UWP-led government.
In 2018, an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report warned that the country’s Citizenship by Investment program and other such programs, which offer citizenship and residency rights to foreigners in exchange for large sums of money, carry the potential for misuse.
In September 2020, the St. Lucia Civil Service Association accused the government of retaliating against civil-service members by transferring them to different positions.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||4.004 4.004|
The government generally operates transparently. Access to information is legally guaranteed, and government officials are legally required to declare their financial assets annually to the Integrity Commission. However, the commission lacks the enforcement powers necessary to ensure full compliance.
|Are there free and independent media?||3.003 4.004|
The constitution guarantees freedom of expression and communication, and press freedom is largely upheld in practice. A number of private and independent news outlets carry content on a range of issues.
Criminal libel laws remain on the books, with convictions potentially drawing heavy fines and a jail sentence of up to five years, though civil suits are more common. In 2017, Philip Pierre, of the SLP, received libel damages in connection with a 2011 letter to the editor published in the Mirror that described Pierre as corrupt.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?||4.004 4.004|
Freedom of religion is protected under the constitution and other laws, and these safeguards are largely upheld in practice. However, Rastafarians face some disadvantages as a result of their beliefs, and Muslims have reported occasional harassment.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?||4.004 4.004|
Academic freedom is generally respected.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?||4.004 4.004|
There are no significant restrictions on individuals’ ability to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics.
|Is there freedom of assembly?||4.004 4.004|
The government generally respects the constitutionally protected right to free assembly. In June 2020, protesters organizing under the Black Lives Matter banner held a rally in Castries; while the rally reportedly violated COVID-19 measures, Prime Minister Chastanet spoke in support of the event, which progressed peacefully. In October, the SLP held a reportedly well-attended march.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?||4.004 4.004|
Independent nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are free to form and operate.
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?||4.004 4.004|
Most workers have the right under the law to form and join independent unions, go on strike, and bargain collectively. Antiunion discrimination is prohibited.
|Is there an independent judiciary?||4.004 4.004|
The judicial system is independent and includes a high court under the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC). Judges are appointed through an impartial Judicial and Legal Services Commission and cannot be dismissed arbitrarily. St. Lucia announced in 2014 that it would adopt the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final court of appeal, replacing the London-based Privy Council. However, its accession to the CCJ had not yet been finalized at the end of 2020.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?||3.003 4.004|
Detainees and defendants are guaranteed a range of legal rights, which are mostly respected in practice. However, police corruption is a concern, and court backlogs contribute to lengthy pretrial detention. Defendants charged with serious crimes may spend several years awaiting trial behind bars.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?||3.003 4.004|
While the population is mostly free from pervasive threats to physical security, violent crime rates remain relatively high on a per capita basis. Some 55 homicides were reported in 2020 through late December, the second-highest figure on record. Other crimes reportedly fell compared to 2019, however.
Police brutality has been seen as a significant problem in St. Lucia in recent years, and there is a widespread perception that members of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) enjoy impunity for abusive behavior. In 2013, the United States cut aid to the RSLPF over allegations related to extrajudicial killings that took place in 2010 and 2011. While an international investigation into the matter was completed in 2014, and while RSLPF members were considered culpable, prosecutors took no legal action. St. Lucia receives no US aid due to the so-called Leahy law, though External Affairs Minister Sarah Flood-Beaubrun voiced hope that the incoming administration of US president-elect Joseph Biden would provide aid in November 2020.
In 2019, the government announced that corporal punishment in schools would be suspended starting that May, and would be abolished 12 months later. However, this reportedly did not occur in 2020.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?||3.003 4.004|
While discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, and other such grounds is generally prohibited, the law does not provide full protection to LGBT+ people. The labor code prohibits dismissal of employees based on sexual orientation. Under an ECSC directive, murders committed when sexual orientation is a motive can be punishable with a life sentence. However, same-sex relations can draw up to 10 years in prison, and LGBT+ people face significant societal prejudice.
Rastafarians face disadvantages because of their beliefs, and Muslims have reported harassment.
|Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?||4.004 4.004|
There are no serious impediments to freedom of movement in St. Lucia, and individuals are generally free to change their place of residence, employment, or education. While external borders were closed in response to COVID-19 in March 2020, travel restrictions were loosened beginning in June. External travel was still subject to pandemic-related measures as of December.
|Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?||4.004 4.004|
The legal and regulatory framework is supportive of property rights and private business activity. The government has actively encouraged both domestic and foreign investors to do business in the country. St. Lucia performs well in World Bank assessments of business conditions in comparison with its neighbors.
|Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance?||3.003 4.004|
The law largely guarantees individual rights with respect to personal status issues like marriage and divorce, but the civil code distinguishes between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” children, which can lead to discrimination against unmarried women and their children in civil and family law cases. Domestic and gender-based violence (GBV) are serious concerns and often go unreported. The law only criminalizes spousal rape when a couple is separated or when a court has issued a protection order.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?||3.003 4.004|
Safety rules and other protections against worker exploitation are typically upheld.
While the government has made some efforts to combat human trafficking, investigations and prosecutions are rare. In its 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report, the US State Department reported that the first trafficking survivor since 2015 was identified during the reporting period. However, no prosecutions were reported, and law enforcement officers did not consistently follow procedures on identifying trafficking survivors.
On St. Lucia
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