Politics of the Bahamas

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politics and government of
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Foreign relations

The politics of the Bahamas takes place within a framework of parliamentary democracy, with a Prime Minister as the head of government. The Bahamas is an independent country and - as a former British colony - a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Political and legal traditions closely follow those of the United Kingdom. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state, but executive power is exercised by the cabinet. Legislative power is vested in the two chambers of parliament. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature and jurisprudence is based on English common law. The multi-party system is dominated by the Progressive Liberal Party and the Free National Movement. The constitution protects freedom of speech, press, worship, movement, and association.

Political developments[edit]

In the first half of the 20th century, the Bahamas was largely controlled by a group of influential white merchants known as the "Bay Street Boys", who dominated both the economy and the legislature. Executive power rested with the British governor-in-council.

The Progressive Liberal Party was formed in 1953 to represent the disenfranchised black majority and this led to the formation of the United Bahamian Party by the Bay Street Boys. In 1964 the British gave the Bahamas internal self-governance and the white UBP leader Roland Symonette became the country's first premier. In 1967, under the leadership of a young black lawyer named Lynden Pindling, the PLP were elected and went on to lead The Bahamas into independence in 1973.

A coalition of PLP dissidents and former UBP members formed the Free National Movement (FNM) in 1971 under the leadership of Cecil Wallace Whitfield. After Whitfield's death in 1990, another ex-PLP, Hubert Ingraham, became leader of the FNM and took the party to victory in the 1992 general election. The FNM was re-elected by a landslide in 1997, but lost to a resurgent PLP, under the leadership of his former law partner Perry Christie, in 2002. Ingraham turned the party leadership over to Tommy Turnquest in 2002, but in 2007 he returned to lead the FNM to victory again by a five-seat margin.

Among the country's biggest challenges are the privatization of costly and inefficient state-owned corporations, the retraining of hundreds of workers who will be affected by the change, decisions on ways to diversify tax revenues away from import tariffs and license fees, and opening the economy to international trade agreements.

Executive branch[edit]

The Bahamas is a constitutional monarchy based on the Westminster system of parliamentary government. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state. She is represented ceremonially by a Bahamian governor-general who acts on the advice of the prime minister and the cabinet.

The leader of the majority party in parliament serves as prime minister and head of government. The cabinet consists of at least nine members, including the prime minister and ministers of executive departments. They answer politically to the lower House of Assembly.

The governor-general appoints the chief justice of the Supreme Court on the advice of the prime minister and leader of the opposition. Other justices are appointed on the advice of a judicial commission. The Privy Council in London serves as the highest appellate court for the Bahamas.

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
Queen Elizabeth II 6 February 1952
Governor-General Arthur Foulkes 14 April 2010
Prime Minister Perry Christie Progressive Liberal Party 8 May 2012

Legislative branch[edit]

Bahamian Parliament, located in downtown Nassau

The House of Assembly consists of 38 members, elected from individual constituencies for five-year terms. As under the Westminster system, the government may dissolve the parliament and call elections at any time. The House of Assembly performs all major legislative functions.

The Senate consists of 16 members appointed by the governor-general, including nine on the advice of the prime minister, four on the advice of the leader of the opposition, and three on the advice of the prime minister after consultation with the leader of the opposition.

Political parties and elections[edit]

e • d Summary of the 7 May 2012 General Election of the Bahamas
Parties Total Seats Votes Percentage
Before After ±
Progressive Liberal Party 19 29 Increase 10 75,815 48.62%
Free National Movement 21 9 Decrease 12 65,633 42.09%
Democratic National Alliance 1 0 Decrease 1 13,225 8.48%
Bahamas Constitution Party 0 0 Steady 0 96 0.06%
Independent 0 0 Steady 0 1,177 0.75%
Total 41 38 Decrease 3 155,946 100%
Source: [1]

International organization participation[edit]