St. Lucia

PR Political Rights 38 40
CL Civil Liberties 54 60
Last Year's Score & Status
92 100 Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

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.

header2 Key Developments in 2022

  • In March, Parliament passed the Domestic Violence Act (DVA), which addresses physical, emotional, and financial forms of abuse. The DVA also prohibits authorities and service providers from discriminating against survivors on a variety of grounds, including sexual orientation.
  • In October, police arrested Senate president Stanley Felix for perverting the course of justice; Felix was accused of telling another individual to withhold evidence of a homicide. Felix’s appointment to the Senate was rescinded after he was charged, with Alvina Reynolds becoming Senate president in November.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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 free and fair July 2021 parliamentary elections.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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.

In the July 2021 House of Assembly elections, the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) won over 50 percent of the vote and secured 13 seats, defeating the then governing United Workers Party (UWP). Voter turnout was 51 percent.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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 applied impartially by the Electoral Commission. However, differences in the sizes of constituencies have resulted in unequal voting power among citizens. According to 2016 enrollment data from the St. Lucia Electoral Department, 20,600 voters were enrolled in the country’s largest constituency, Gros Islet, while only 5,000 were enrolled in Dennery South, the country’s smallest. 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 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.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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 SLP and UWP 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.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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 SLP and UWP regularly alternating in government.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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, with only two women serving in the House of Assembly. However, five women sat in the appointed Senate as of August 2021, and a woman became that chamber’s president in November 2022. More women have recently assumed roles as electoral officials and within party structures.

The LGBT+ community is marginalized, affecting its ability to engage fully in political processes.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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. Under the Special Prosecutor Act, which took effect in August 2022, a special prosecutor is empowered to initiate civil or criminal proceedings against current or former public officials accused of corruption.

In 2018, an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development report criticized the operation of the country’s Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program. In response, St. Lucia has made several improvements. In November 2022, Investment Minister Ernest Hilaire said the government was reviewing the country’s CBI program to bolster its competitiveness but vowed that it would rigorously vet applicants.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 4.004 4.004

The government generally operates transparently. Access to information is guaranteed, and government officials are required to declare their financial assets to the Integrity Commission. However, the commission lacks the enforcement powers necessary to ensure full compliance.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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. Civil suits are more common, however.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 4.004 4.004

Academic freedom is generally respected.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 4.004 4.004

The government generally respects the constitutionally protected right to free assembly.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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 are free to form and operate.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 4.004 4.004

Most workers have the legal right to form and join independent unions, strike, and bargain collectively. Antiunion discrimination is prohibited.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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. In mid-2022, Prime Minister Pierre said that his government would spend more to address the backlog.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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 is a major concern. There were 76 homicides in 2022, an all-time record; the country’s homicide rate per 100,000 people, which stood at 42.3, is among the highest in the Caribbean.

St. Lucia has relied on the Regional Security System (RSS), a security initiative that includes St. Lucia and several other Caribbean states, to support law enforcement efforts. Personnel attached to the RSS were deployed in July 2022.

Police brutality has been seen as a significant problem in St. Lucia. Members of the Royal St. Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) are perceived to enjoy impunity for abusive behavior. In 2013, the United States cut aid to the RSLPF over allegations related to extrajudicial killings. Aid was restored in 2021 when Washington renewed security cooperation and assistance with some RSLPF units. The RSLPF participated in a US military–led regional joint exercise between March and May 2022, the first time it had done so since 2012.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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. Same-sex relations can draw up to 10 years in prison, though this criminal-code provision is reportedly not enforced. LGBT+ people face significant societal prejudice.

Rastafarians face societal disadvantages due to their beliefs, and Muslims have reported harassment.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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 investors to do business in the country.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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 are serious concerns and often go unreported. In March 2022, Parliament passed the DVA, which addresses physical, emotional, and financial forms of abuse. The DVA also prohibits authorities and service providers from discriminating against survivors on a variety of grounds, including sex, marital status, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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 Score

    92 100 free