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Cablegate: One-Sided Victory?: St. Kitts and Nevis Adopts

VZCZCXRO5092
PP RUEHGR
DE RUEHWN #1548/01 3522121
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 182121Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5937
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0094
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUMIAAA/USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEHCV/USDAO CARACAS VE
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM J5 MIAMI FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BRIDGETOWN 001548

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

WHA/CAR FOR ALAIN NORMAN
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL SOCI EAID SC XL VE CU
SUBJECT: ONE-SIDED VICTORY?: ST. KITTS AND NEVIS ADOPTS
ELECTORAL REFORM


1. (U) Summary: In early December 2007 the St. Christopher
(St. Kitts) and Nevis Parliament approved major changes to
the country's election laws, the first changes since 1984.
Reforms in the current law include the introduction of a
national voter identification card and new regulations
allowing for nationals living abroad to register and then
return to the Federation to vote in elections. While the
official Opposition Party (the Nevis-based Concerned
Citizen's Movement) reports that the reforms are generally
acceptable, the People's Action Movement complains bitterly
that the process was one-sided and has resulted in a flawed
law that facilitates potential irregularities and corruption.
Now that the reforms have become law, the country will begin
the equally contentious task of debating how to redistrict
the boundaries of each constituency. End Summary.

SKN Electoral Reform Reaches Its Zenith
---------------------------------------

2. (U) After years of independent studies, commissions, and
public debates, the St. Kitts and Nevis Parliament passed
legislation meant to improve the country's election laws.
Sparked by allegations of corruption following the ruling St.
Kitts/Nevis Labour Party's (SKNLP) election victory in
October 2004, the electoral reform process began with a
report compiled by a Commonwealth Assessment Mission that
visited the country in August 2005. Shortly afterwards, the
government formed the Electoral Reform Secretariat and
appointed Raphael Archibald, former Permanent Secretary in
the Ministry of Agriculture, as chairman. The Secretariat's
Advisory Committee presented its recommendations to the
Parliamentary committee earlier this year.

3. (U) After the rather exhaustive bureaucratic exercise, the
final electoral reform measures were debated in the St. Kitts
and Nevis Parliament this November and December. While the
eventual law boasts two major reforms--the implementation of
a national voter ID card and rules for allowing overseas
nationals to vote--the opposition People's Action Movement
(represented by only one member of Parliament) withdrew from
the debates once a proposal to require voter fingerprints was
dropped from the legislation.

Some Opposition Says Reform Efforts Corrupted
---------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) People Action's Movement's (PAM) leader Lindsay
Grant complained to PolOff that the "majority of persons in
this country are unhappy with the legislation." According to
Grant, the legislation is not acceptable because it does not
require fingerprints and also because it did not require a
"re-registration" of the Voter's List, which he claims has
long been corrupted. Grant lamented that the voter
identification card will still allow corrupt practices,
whereas fingerprints would have offered an "almost
fool-proof" solution. As noted by the Commonwealth
Assessment Mission's 2005 report, Grant continued to allege
that the Voter's List includes duplicate entries and deceased
individuals, which could have been fixed by re-constituting
the entire list. Grant noted that the law provides for no
campaign finance regulations and therefore would allow
foreign nationals and governments (including Cuba and
Venezuela) to legally influence an election through campaign
contributions.

5. (SBU) In contrast, the Official Leader of the Opposition
Mark Brantley, and former Nevis Premier Vance Amory, both of
the Concerned Citizen's Movement (CCM) expressed confidence
that the electoral reform process has been transparent and
democratic. They stated that while not every reform the CCM
would have wanted included made it into the final
legislation, the party is generally satisfied with the
reforms, and confident that the law will ensure free and fair
elections. They dismissed Grant's concerns as political
maneuvering.

Remittances Come in Votes, Not Just Cash
----------------------------------------

6. (U) Among the most curious and controversial reforms are
the sections of the law that allow nationals living abroad to
vote in elections. Previously, the law only allowed

BRIDGETOWN 00001548 002 OF 002


"residents" and nationals "domiciled" in the Federation to
vote in elections. The new legislation allows SKN nationals
living abroad to register with Embassies and Consulates, and
then to return to the Federation to vote. According to
Chairman of the Electoral Advisory Committee Raphael
Archibald, political parties will not be prohibited from
paying for the transportation costs of SKN nationals living
abroad to return for the elections. Since the St.
Kitts/Nevis diaspora is estimated to possibly exceed the
population of the country, the new regulation means that
future elections could be swayed by the overseas population,
and by the abilities of the political parties to mobilize
that population.

7. (U) Now that the electoral reform legislation has passed,
the Electoral Reform Secretariat is turning its attention to
re-districting. The Boundaries Technical Committee is
expected to offer its recommendations to the Secretariat for
the new boundaries before the end of December 2007. The
Secretariat's subsequent recommendations will then be sent to

SIPDIS
Parliament in mid-2008. As expected, the PAM has already
raised serious concerns about the motives and methods of the
re-districting efforts.

COMMENT
-------

8. (SBU) The results of St. Kitts and Nevis's Electoral
Reform exercise are a mixed bag. The formalized system of a
voter ID card is certainly far superior to the informal
system where poll workers relied on personally knowing and
recognizing each voter; however, as the PAM notes, the new
system will likely not be foolproof, and corrupt election
practices in future SKN elections are not out of the
question. More disconcerting, however, are the new laws
allowing citizens living abroad to vote in elections. The
end result of this part of the legislation, especially given
the lack of financing regulations, could be expanded
manipulation of election results if the political parties or
other interest groups begin funding campaign drives to "bus"
these voters in for elections. End comment.
OURISMAN

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