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Prime Minister Kenny Anthony’s government struggled to tackle the country’s high rates of unemployment and crime during 2012. Critics also highlighted the government’s inability to control government spending, borrowing, and public debt.
Saint Lucia, a member of the Commonwealth, achieved independence from Britain in 1979. Kenny Anthony led the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) to victory in the 1997 legislative elections, defeating the United Workers’ Party (UWP). As prime minister, Anthony attempted to improve the economy and address official corruption. In the 2001 general elections, the SLP retained a majority of seats in the House of Assembly, and Anthony returned to the premiership.
John Compton, Saint Lucia’s first prime minister after independence, came out of retirement to lead the UWP to an unexpected victory in the December 2006 elections by winning 11 seats in the House of Assembly. Compton was sworn in again as prime minister at the age of 81. However, he soon became ill and died in September 2007. He was replaced by Stephenson King, a UWP cabinet member who had served as acting prime minister for several months before Compton’s death.
During 2008, the opposition SLP repeatedly threatened to mount public demonstrations and called for King’s resignation. The SLP was particularly critical of the government’s intention to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, while opting out of a drug interdiction agreement with Britain. The Rome Statute was eventually ratified in August 2010.
In 2009, King reshuffled his cabinet for the second time since taking office in an effort to regain political momentum in the face of a deteriorating economic situation. Damage inflicted by Hurricane Tomas in 2010 adversely affected agriculture and tourism and contributed to Saint Lucia’s budget deficit.
Weak economic growth, an unemployment rate of 20 percent, and a substantial rise in violent crime were major factors in the November 2011 general elections, in which the SLP unseated the UWP, giving it an 11-to-6 seat majority in the House of Assembly. Anthony was returned to the position of prime minister in late November.
As Anthony and his new government struggled to reduce the country’s high rates of unemployment and crime in 2012, the opposition complained of increasing government spending, borrowing, and public debt. A value added tax was introduced in October in an attempt to encourage investment and prompt economic growth.
Saint Lucia is an electoral democracy. A governor-general represents the British monarch as head of state. Under the 1979 constitution, the bicameral Parliament consists of the 17-member House of Assembly, elected for five years, and an appointed 11-member Senate. The prime minister is chosen by the majority party in the House of Assembly. Six members of the Senate are chosen by the prime minister, three by the leader of the parliamentary opposition, and two in consultation with civic and religious organizations. The island is divided into 11 quarters (districts), each with its own elected council and administrative services.
Political parties are free to organize, but two parties—the UWP and the SLP—dominate politics.
Saint Lucia has low levels of corruption and was ranked 22 out of 176 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index. Access to information is legally guaranteed, and government officials are required by law to present their financial assets annually to the Integrity Commission. Prime Minister Anthony announced in September 2012 that the government would continue to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, despite earlier accusations that the former Taiwan Ambassador Tom Chou had been meddling in the country’s politics by giving millions of dollars to local UWP politicians during the King administration and leading up to the 2011 elections.
The constitution guarantees freedom of speech, which is respected in practice. Libel offenses were removed from the criminal code in 2006. The media carry a wide spectrum of views and are largely independent. While there are no daily newspapers, there are numerous privately owned newspapers that publish three issues per week. In addition to privately held radio and television stations, the government operates Radio Saint Lucia and a television station. Internet access is not restricted.
The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and that right is respected in practice. Academic freedom is generally honored.
Constitutional guarantees regarding freedoms of assembly and association are largely upheld. Civic groups are well organized and politically active, as are labor unions, which represent the majority of wage earners. However, the Trade Union Federation faced lengthy governmental delays in its attempts to negotiate a salary increase for public sector workers for the 2010–2013 period. Negotiations finally began in November 2012 but were immediately halted when union representatives walked out after being offered a zero percent increase and a one-time holiday bonus of EC$1,000 (roughly US$370) per worker. Negotiations were ongoing at year’s end. The long-awaited Labour Act, which was finally implemented in August, will govern the enforcement of the country’s labor laws.
The judicial system is independent and includes a high court under the Saint Lucia–based Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. In recent years, the record of Saint Lucia’s police and judicial system has been blemished by a series of incidents, including the severe beatings of inmates by police and cases of police assault and unlawful killings that have gone unpunished.
Citizens have traditionally enjoyed a high degree of personal security, though rising crime levels has caused widespread concern. High rates of violence continued in 2012, largely attributed to gang-related crimes, such as drug-trafficking, drive-by shootings, and armed robbery. Prison overcrowding remains a problem, with major backlogs in the judicial system leading to prolonged pretrial detentions.
Women are underrepresented in politics and other professions; there are currently three women serving in Parliament and two women represented in the Senate. Domestic violence is a serious concern and often goes unreported. Same-sex sexual relations are criminalized, with punishments of up to 10 years in prison.