Secession in Saint Kitts and Nevis

Another less well known, but equally interesting case of admission of the right to secession is to be found in the federal republic of Saint Kitts and Nevis, comprising those two homonymous islands in the Caribbean.

The 1983 Constitution grants the smaller island —Nevis— the unilateral right to secede. The rule specifies that independence must be supported by the people of Nevis in a referendum by a two-thirds majority (article 113).

Nevis has organized two independence votes so far. The first one, in 1977, was held before the adoption of the Constitution, and was nullified by the central government of the federation, albeit more than 99% of voters supported separation.

At that time, the pro-independence movement argued that, from the moment that the two islands had become a UK associated, semi-independent state, Nevis had found itself turned into a de facto colony of Saint Kitts, the Nevisian islanders’ quality of life having fallen in the meantime.

The second referendum took place in 1998, after the current Constitution had already been passed and the Federation was completely freed from UK rule. The Assembly of Nevis called the referendum. 62% of voters said “yes” to independence.

The share therefore felt short of the required threshold, and independence was not achieved.

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