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.
- In September, reports found that the government had attempted to procure 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from a St. Lucian-registered company that was in no position to purchase or provide the vaccines. The former health minister who would have been responsible denied having knowledge of the contract, but former prime minister Allen Chastanet confirmed the deal, which awarded the company approximately US$2.7 million of government funds.
- The July elections for the House of Assembly were considered competitive and credible, and stakeholders accepted the results. The Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP), formerly the opposition, secured 13 seats by winning over 50 percent of the vote, defeating the former governing party, the United Workers Party (UWP), which took 2 seats and 42 percent of the vote. The remaining seats were won by independents. Voter turnout reached 51 percent.
|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. Phillip Pierre was chosen as prime minister following the July 2021 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 a speaker elected by the members, 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 July 2021. The polls were considered competitive and credible, and stakeholders accepted the results. The SLP, formerly the opposition, secured 13 seats by winning over 50 percent of the vote, defeating the then-governing UWP, which took 2 seats and 42 percent of the vote. The remaining seats were won by independents. Voter turnout reached 51 percent.
|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 more than 24,000 registered voters, the smallest (Dennery South) has only 5,400. Constituency boundaries were last redrawn in 2001. After the 2021 elections the Commonwealth Observer Group criticized the outdated voters’ registry, noting that the Electoral Commission had not consistently removed deceased and ineligible people from the roll since 1979. Further, they noted that arrangements were not made for some groups of eligible voters to cast ballots, specifically those in quarantine or on remand. The Organization of American States (OAS) observer mission highlighted the absence of campaign finance laws and raised concerns that the lack of oversight and accountability in the financing of politics impacts the equity and transparency of elections.
|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. Several small parties operate, 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 Afro-European, East Indian, and other minorities are present.
Women are underrepresented in politics; only two women won House of Assembly seats in 2021; a reduction of one compared to 2016. However, the number of women running for office slightly increased: 11 out of 45 (24 percent) candidates were women. More women have also recently assumed roles 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?||4.004 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 former UWP government’s efforts to attain legislative approval via a curtailed parliamentary process. In September 2020, the UWP introduced the COVID-19 (Prevention and Control) Bill, aiming to pass it in one sitting. 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. However, no such legislative maneuvers occurred in 2021, and the new SLP government has also refrained from manipulating parliamentary procedure.
Score Change: The score improved from 3 to 4 because the previous year’s passage of legislation through irregular parliamentary processes was not repeated.
|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.
In 2018, an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report criticized the operation of the country’s Citizenship by Investment program. In response, St. Lucia has made efforts to improve transparency, the applicant verification process, and the administration of the program.
|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.
In September 2021, reports found that the former UWP government had attempted to procure 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from a St. Lucian-registered company that was in no position to purchase or provide the vaccines. The former health minister denied having knowledge of the contract, but former prime minister Allen Chastanet confirmed the deal, which awarded the company approximately US$2.7 million of government funds. The new SLP government ordered an investigation into the matter.
|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.
|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 systemic disadvantages in practicing 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. Prior to the 2021 elections, both main political parties agreed that campaign rallies could still be held, but they decided to ban motorcades on advice of the health authorities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In October, the government lifted a long-standing state of emergency linked to the pandemic, which had restricted people’s assembly rights.
|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. The London-based Privy Council is the final court of appeal.
|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. The number of homicides was over 70 for 2021, an all-time high.
Police brutality has been seen as a significant problem in St. Lucia, and there is a 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. While an international investigation into the matter was completed in 2014, and RSLPF members were considered culpable, prosecutors took no legal action. The United States consequently cut aid to the St. Lucian government, though this was restored in June 2021 when the US government renewed security cooperation and assistance to some RSLPF units.
|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 societal disadvantages due to 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.
|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.
|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. In June 2021, United and Strong, a local NGO, called instances of domestic violence in the country a “growing epidemic.”
|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 increased efforts to combat human trafficking, investigations and prosecutions are rare. Authorities in St. Lucia have never convicted anyone of trafficking.
On St. Lucia
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Global Freedom Score92 100 free