Historic Saint Helena Election

By Jonathan Kitto, jonathan.kitto@fotbot.org

This month has seen a very historic election take place on Saint Helena, a British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic.

Saint Helena’s government was dissolved by the Governor of the Territory on Monday 2nd August to bring into effect a constitutional amendment. This amendment provides for a new ministerial form of government in the territory and was passed by way of referendum in March 2021. In this referendum, the people of Saint Helena voted for governance on the island to change from a committee to a ministerial system.

The islanders headed to the polls on 13th October, with this being the first election under the new ministerial system. The territory’s Legislative Council consists of 15 members, of which 12 are elected directly by the population and three appointed by the Governor. Elections are called every 4 years in the territory.

29 candidates stood for election, all of whom were independents. Since 1976 there have been no active political parties on the island, making Saint Helena a non-partisan democracy.

In total 1296 valid votes were cast, representing a voter turnout of 60%. This is a promising improvement on the 49% turnout at the 2017 election. A mere 5 invalid ballots were cast.

On 25th October, at the inaugural meeting of the Legislative Council, Councillor Julie Thomas (pictured below) was elected as Chief Minister – the first person to ever hold this position. Mr Cyril Gunnell and Mrs Cathy Cranfield were voted in as Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively.

Everyone at Friends of the British Overseas Territories would like to convey their congratulations to Chief Minister Julie Thomas, as well as to all Members of the Legislative Council that have been elected to serve the people of St Helena.