But before islanders are able to observe that one year anniversary, the two political parties are heading back to the courtroom today Friday 5th July, 2012, to continue the drama that erupted last year.
Following the 11th July elections in 2011, it all seemed like the opposition party, the Concerned Citizens Movement, CCM, was set to return to office, with the count in the final constituency going their way, until the very last numbers came in for the now famous “Cox Box”, in the St. John Constituency.
At the end, CCM was said to have lost to the Nevis Reformation Party, NRP, by only 14 votes, with 14 ballots that were said to been spoilt. In addition, the CCM was complaining that over 200 voters, whom they claimed were properly registered, were mysteriously and illegally removed from the voters list and denied the opportunity to cast their ballots.
Therefore, shortly after the elections were declared in favour of the incumbent NRP, the CCM protested and eventually legal action was initiated, with CCM also claiming that there were other electoral irregularities; and a denial of access to the government’s media resources, while the NRP’s campaign was being covered.
Finally getting their day in court, CCM was successful on 21st March, 2012, in convincing the presiding judge that the irregularities were sufficient to warrant the election in one constituency, St. John’s, to be declared null and void. This led to a storm of political debate and wrangling between the two parties. The court’s decision meant that Deputy Political Leader of NRP and Deputy Premier, Hensley Daniel’s seat was made vacant. His challenger, Mark Brantley, who himself is the Deputy Leader of CCM and also the Opposition Leader in the Federal Assembly of St. Kitts and Nevis, embraced the decision as vindication of his party’s claims.
NRP appealed the judge’s ruling, minutes after the decision was handed down and eventually got a stay of execution on the decision. However, in a strange move some time after, Brantley too lodged an appeal against one main aspect of the overall ruling; one that failed to restore the names of the aggrieved voters back unto the Voters List.
Now today, Thursday 5th July, 2012, they are all heading back to the courtroom to begin hearings on the motions of appeal from both sides. No immediate decision is expected however, and it may be months before a final decision is known. If the appeal of NRP is unsuccessful, a new by-election would become mandated within 90 days, thereby making the seat now occupied by Daniel, vacant. Observers are of the view however that NRP would move to a general election rather than simply a poll in one constituency.
Political and legal observers throughout the Caribbean are keeping their eyes on the case, because of its landmark implications.