Independence: September 21, 1981.
Constitution: September 21, 1981.
Branches: Executive--British monarch (head of state), represented by
a governor general; prime minister (head of government, 5-year term). Legislative--bicameral
National Assembly. Judicial--Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, district
Subdivisions: Six districts.
Political parties: People's United Party (PUP), United Democratic Party (UDP),
National Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR), People's Liberation Front (PLF).
Suffrage: Universal adult.
Belize is a parliamentary democracy on the Westminster
model and is a member of the Commonwealth. Queen Elizabeth II is head of state
and is represented in the country by Governor General Dr. Colville N. Young, Sr.,
a Belizean and Belize's second governor general. The primary executive organ of
government is the Cabinet led by a prime minister (head of government). Cabinet
ministers are members of the majority political party in Parliament and usually
hold elected seats in the National Assembly concurrently with their Cabinet positions.
The National Assembly consists of a House of Representatives
and a Senate. The 29 members of the House are popularly elected to a maximum 5-year
term. Of the Senate's eight members, five are elected by the prime minister, two
by the leader of the opposition, and one by the governor general on the advice
of the Belize Advisory Council. The Senate is headed by a president who is a non-voting
member appointed by the governing party.
Currently, the Belize Government is controlled
by the People's United Party (PUP) which won 26 of the 29 seats in the House of
Representatives on August 27, 1998. The United Democratic Party (UDP) won the
other three seats. Dean Barrow is the leader of the opposition. The UDP governed
Belize from 1993-98; the PUP had governed from 1989-93; and the UDP from 1984-89.
Before 1984, the PUP had dominated the electoral scene for more than 30 years
and was the party in power when Belize became independent in 1981.
Prime Minister Said Musa has an ambitious plan
to encourage economic growth while furthering social-sector development. Belize
traditionally maintains a deep interest in the environment and sustainable development.
A lack of government resources seriously hampers these goals. On other fronts
the Government is working to improve its law enforcement capabilities. A long-running
territorial dispute with Guatemala continues although cooperation between the
two countries has increased in recent years across a wide spectrum of common interests,
including trade and environment. Seeing itself as a bridge, Belize is actively
involved with the Caribbean nations of CARICOM, and also has taken steps to work
more closely with its Central American neighbors as a new member of SICA.
Members of the independent judiciary are appointed.
The judicial system includes local magistrates, the Supreme Court, and the Court
of Appeal. Cases may under certain circumstances be appealed to the Privy Council
in London. However, in 2001, Belize joined with most members of CARICOM to campaign
for the establishment of a "Caribbean Court of Justice." The country is divided
into six districts: Corozal, Orange Walk, Belize, Cayo, Stann Creek, and Toledo.
The Belize Defense Force (BDF), established in
January 1973, consists of a light infantry force of regulars and reservists along
with small air and maritime wings. The BDF, currently under the command of Brig.
Gen. Cedric Borland, assumed total defense responsibility from British Forces
Belize (BFB) on January 1, 1994. The United Kingdom continues to maintain the
British Army Training Support Unit Belize (BATSUB) to assist in the administration
of the Belize Jungle School. The BDF receives military assistance from the United
States and the United Kingdom.