The two islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis were Britain’s first foothold in the West Indies, colonized in 1623. In 1624, the French also settled, and the ensuing fighting led to a decline in the indigenous Caribbean population. From the 18th century the islands have been British.
In 1967, Saint Kitts and Nevis gained internal autonomy and association agreement with the United Kingdom. The neighboring island of Anguilla also officially belonged to the Associated State until 1980, but was then separated and placed directly under British rule.
In the 1980 elections, the Labor Party, the St. Kitts and Nevis Labor Party (SKNLP), lost the majority in the National Assembly for the first time in nearly 30 years. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of St. Kitts and Nevis. This led to a postponement of the independence process, especially following opposition from the people of Nevis. The disagreement over a new constitution in December 1982 led to social unrest. Independence was therefore further postponed, but implemented in September 1983.
Kennedy Simmonds, who represented the People’s Action Movement (PAM) party, was the prime minister of the island nation from 1980 to 1995 with support from the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP). For the first time after independence, SKNLP won the 1995 election and formed a new government under the leadership of Denzil Douglas. Douglas continued as prime minister after the 2000 elections, re-elected in 2004 and 2010. Following the 2015 election, former Secretary of State Timothy Harris, representative of the outbreak party People’s Labor Party (PLP), was inaugurated as new prime minister.
Politics and economics
A key issue for the SKNLP government under Denzil Douglas was to gain control of drug smuggling, which has become a dominant feature of the country’s economy. Saint Kitts and Nevis are still a debt-ridden nation, but tourism and offshore business provide important growth impetus for the economy. The transition in business was clearly visible when the last factory in the 300-year-old sugar industry was closed down in 2005 – two years after the inauguration of the largest hotel complex in the eastern Caribbean.
In 1996, Nevis made a new push for secession from Saint Kitts. However, in a 1998 referendum, separatists did not achieve the necessary two-thirds majority.