Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Politics of Bermuda
Bermuda is the oldest self-governing British Overseas Territory and has a great degree of internal autonomy. Its 1968 Constitution provided the island with formal responsibility for internal self-government, while the British Government retained responsibility for external affairs, defense, and security. The Bermudian Government is always consulted on any international negotiations affecting the territory. Bermuda participates, through British delegations, in the UN and some of its specialized and related agencies.
The Premier is head of government and leader of the majority party in the elected House of Assembly. The Cabinet is composed of 14 members selected by the Premier from among members of the bicameral parliament consisting of the nominated Senate and the House of Assembly.
The Senate, called the Legislative Council until 1980, is the revising chamber and serves concurrently with the House of Assembly. There are 11 Senators: five appointed by the Governor in consultation with the Premier; three in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition; and three at the Governor's discretion.
The House of Assembly was originally composed of 40 members from 20 electoral districts (two representatives from each district) for a term not to exceed 5 years. As the districts, based on the old parish boundaries, contained significantly differing numbers of voters, that body was replaced in 2002 with a 36-member House elected from single-seat electoral districts of roughly equal population.
The judiciary is composed of a Chief Justice and associate Judges appointed by the Governor. For administrative purposes, Bermuda is divided into nine parishes, with Hamilton and St. George considered autonomous corporations.
Bermuda's first political party, the Progressive Labour Party (PLP), was formed in May 1963 with predominantly black adherents. In 1965, the two-party system was launched with the formation of the United Bermuda Party (UBP), which had the support of the majority of white voters and of some blacks. A third party, the Bermuda Democratic Party (BDP), was formed in the summer of 1967 with a splinter group from the PLP as a nucleus; it disbanded in 1970. It was later replaced by the National Liberal Party (NLP) which currently holds no parliamentary seats.
Bermuda's first election held on the basis of universal adult suffrage and equal voting took place on May 22, 1968; previously, the franchise had been limited to property owners. In the 1968 election, the UBP won 30 House of Assembly seats, while the PLP won 10 and the BDP lost the three seats it had previously held. The UBP continued to maintain control of the government, although by decreasing margins in the Assembly, until 1998 when the PLP won the general election for the first time; in 2003, the PLP won a second term in office, although by a reduced margin, with Alex Scott as Premier.
Unsatisfied aspirations, particularly among young blacks, led to a brief civil disturbance in December 1977, following the execution of two men found guilty of the 1972-73 assassinations of Governor Sir Richard Sharples and four others. In the 1980s, the increasing prosperity of Bermudians, combined with limited land area, caused severe pressure in housing. Despite a general strike in 1981 and poor economic conditions worldwide during 1981-83, Bermuda's social, political, and economic institutions showed resilience and stability.
Bermuda's positive experience with internal self-government has led to discussions of possible complete independence by both parties. However, an independence referendum called by a sharply divided UBP in the summer of 1995 was resoundingly defeated and resulted in the resignation of the Premier and UBP leader, Sir John Swan. Just over 58% of the electorate voted in the independence referendum, which had to be postponed one day due to disruptions caused by Hurricane Felix . Of those voting, over 73% voted against independence, while only 25% voted in favor. The vote may not have been a true test of support for independence, however, as the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) urged its membership to boycott the referendum.
This was in spite of the fact that independence had been one of the PLP's central principles since the party's inception in 1963. In 1968, the PLP election platform stated that, "No government can be either responsible or democratic while under the rule of another country. Colonialism is a cancer....Therefore we shall return to London to examine with the British Government what arrangements can be made for our independence."
It was ironic, therefore, that independence was absent from the PLP's general election platform both in 1998, when the PLP first triumphed at the polls, and again in 2003. In fact, Premier Jennifer M. Smith stated that she would not pursue independence during her first term. Again, in 2001, she made the following statement: "As I have stated repeatedly, consistently and unequivocally since assuming the leadership of the Bermuda Progressive Labour Party, I shall state once again for the record-independence is not an issue that we will address in our first term and probably not in our second term....We believe that there are a number of areas that need addressing before Bermuda heads down this road."
Under the leadership of Smith, the Government of Bermuda began to systematically address the issues that it believes are fundamental prerequisites for independence. It very quickly enacted legislation providing for voter registration every 5 years instead of annually. In 2001, the government began taking steps to amend Bermuda's constitution in order to abolish the island's system of parish-based, dual-seat constituencies which favored voters in parishes of small, predominantly white populations. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) prepared an Order in Council empowering the Constituency Boundaries Commission to recommend to the Governor the number and boundaries of single-member constituencies into which Bermuda should be divided. The Commission held meetings with the public and concluded its deliberations. The Governor then submitted the commission's report to the UK's Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, together with the views of the House of Assembly. Finally, the FCO prepared a second Order in Council for presentation to the Privy Council to effect the proposals made by the commission, including constitutional amendments relating to electoral boundaries and representation.
The possibility of independence has relevance to newly enacted UK legislation entitling citizens of Britain's Overseas Territories, including Bermuda, to British citizenship. The UK's Overseas Territories Act, passed in February 2002, provides automatic acquisition of British citizenship, including automatic transmission of citizenship to their children; the right of abode, including the right to live and work in the U.K. and the European Union; the right not to exercise or to formally renounce British citizenship; and the right to use the fast track EU/EEA channel at the airport, free of U.K. immigration controls.
A poll conducted by the Bermuda Sun, a local semiweekly newspaper, reveals support for British citizenship. The March 2002 poll revealed that of the 356 persons surveyed, 66.9% were interested in accepting British citizenship, and only 18% said that they would refuse it. There are no conditions attached to the granting of British citizenship to the Overseas Territories, a fact of particular importance to Bermuda where the issue of independence lies dormant. The white paper specifically states, "The new grant of British citizenship will not be a barrier, therefore, to those Overseas Territories choosing to become independent of Britain....Our Overseas Territories are British for as long as they wish to remain British. Britain has willingly granted independence where it has been requested; and we will continue to do so where this is an option."
Much of the material below comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Bermuda
Data code: BD
Dependency status: overseas territory of the UK
Government type: parliamentary British overseas territory with internal self-government
Administrative divisions: 9 parishes and 2 municipalities*; Devonshire, Hamilton, Hamilton*, Paget, Pembroke, Saint George*, Saint Georges, Sandys, Smiths, Southampton, Warwick
Independence: none (overseas territory of the UK)
National holiday: Bermuda Day, 24 May
Constitution: 8 June 1968, amended 1989
Legal system: English law
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
chief of state: Queen Elizabeth II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor Sir John Vereker (since April 2002)
head of government: Premier Alex SCOTT (since July 29 2003)
cabinet: Cabinet nominated by the premier, appointed by the governor
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; governor appointed by the monarch; governor invites leader of largest party in Parliament to form a government as premier
bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (an 11-member body appointed by the governor) and the House of Assembly (36 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve terms of up to five years)
elections: last held 24 July 2003 (next to be held NA July 2008)
election results: percent of vote by party - PLP 51.6%, UBP 48.0%, independents 0.3%; seats by party - PLP 22, UBP 14
Judicial branch: Supreme Court
Political parties and leaders: National Liberal Party or NLP Charles Jeffers ; Progressive Labor Party or PLP Alex Scott; United Bermuda Party or UBP Grant Gibbons
Political pressure groups and leaders: Bermuda Industrial Union or BIU [Derrick BURGESS]; Bermuda Public Services Association or BPSA [Betty CHRISTOPHER]
Diplomatic representation in the US: none (overseas territory of the UK)
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Consul General Lawrence OWEN
consulate(s) general: Crown Hill, 16 Middle Road, Devonshire, Hamilton
mailing address: P. O. Box HM 325, Hamilton HM BX; American Consulate General Hamilton, Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-5300
telephone:  (441) 295-1342
FAX:  (441) 295-1592
Flag description: red, with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and the Bermudian coat of arms (white and blue shield with a red lion holding a scrolled shield showing the sinking of the ship Sea Venture off Bermuda in 1609) centered on the outer half of the flag
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details