That sentiment was expressed by Opposition Leader Dr. Denzil Douglas, Leader of the St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Party, who is alleging dishonorable motives behind Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris’ attempt to implement a residency clause for voter registration.
The National Assembly Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was given its first reading in March 2018, and seeks to amend Section 37A, replacing the expression “ordinarily resident on the registration date” with the words “ordinarily resident for at least six months before the registration date.”
This would mean that nationals would have to reside in the Federation for at least six months prior to registration in order to be eligible to vote, a move the Labour Party says would disenfranchise nationals living overseas.
Nevis Premier Mark Brantley said in 2018 that he expected the Federal government to have robust discussions both at home and abroad about the proposed amendment and that “We ought not to take decisions on the basis that ‘this is going to hurt one party and not the other”.
Dr. Douglas, speaking on Tuesday’s edition of Ask the Leader, posited his views on why the government is moving to have the legislation passed in the parliament ahead of the general elections due in the first half of 2020.
“Clearly there seems to be a strategic plan on the part of Harris in attempting to, it would appear, to undermine- I want to use that term specifically- the Premier of Nevis.
“You’re saying that the Premier of Nevis has expressed very clearly that he’s uncomfortable and does not support any attempt of the government of which he’s a part to disenfranchise the voters who are living overseas but who have the right to vote because they are duly and properly registered so to do, yet we are hearing that Harris is deliberately pursuing a path of disenfranchising those voters which definitely will affect Mark Brantley.
“We are aware that when you would have done the statistical analysis, looking at the the votes that would have been had in the last Nevis Island Election and also in the federal elections, you would recognize it would appear Mr. Brantley because of the overwhelming support from his overseas voters, was able to succeed in his constituency. Now, if he is part of the government and Harris is continuing to insist that he is going to go along this path, then isn’t it clear that Harris is attempting to undermine Mark Brantley?”
Dr. Douglas went on to explain why he felt the Prime Minister was attempting to undermine Premier Brantley, whose party, the Concerned Citizens Movement holds 2 of the 7 seats in the Team Unity Coalition. The People’s Action Movement holds 4 seats in the present administration while Prime Minister Harris holds the lone seat for his two-candidate People’s Labour Party.
“And if he is attempting to undermine Mark Brantley the question must be “why?”.
“It is very obvious, because I believe it is well known all over- St. Kitts and Nevis and abroad, that there is no surety that Harris will receive the support by the PAM or the Nevis CCM in being the Prime Minister after the elections if the opportunity arises. Harris, by pursuing this particular method of removing names of persons who are living overseas from the voters’ register, he has calculated that it would hurt Mark Brantley, who it would appear, has become one of his rivals and competitors for Prime Minister-ship of the Unity concoction. There is much more, I believe, to be heard on this matter and we need therefore to pay close attention there seems to be an increasing gulf as a result of the fall out that we are having between Brantley and Harris.”
The government recently announced that it intends return to parliament in the near future to move forward with the amended Bill. The Opposition has stated that if elected in the upcoming elections, they would repeal any such legislation.