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Barbados - Government

Not surprisingly, as a society composed mostly of the descendants of former slaves and slave owners, Barbados values the ideals of democracy, human rights, and the personal freedoms as highly as any of the larger democracies in the world. Yet, Barbados also recognises that freedom is unsustainable if it is not tempered by responsibility. Accordingly, the countrys Constitution and laws reflect this delicate balance.

Barbados is an independent state within the Commonwealth. Under its constitution, Barbados is a parliamentary democracy modeled on the British system. The country's judicial, political and administrative institutions are patterned on the British. The governor general represents the monarch. Control of the government rests with the cabinet, headed by the prime minister and responsible to the Parliament. Barbados has had uninterrupted parliamentary government since 1639 and has been a sovereign independent state within the Commonwealth since 1966.

The bicameral Parliament consists of the House of Assembly and Senate. The 30 members of the House are elected by universal suffrage to 5-year terms. Elections may be called at any time the government wishes to seek a new mandate or if the government suffers a vote of no-confidence in Parliament. The Senate's 21 members are appointed by the governor general--12 with the advice of the prime minister, two with the advice of the leader of the opposition, and seven at the governor general's discretion to represent segments of the community.

The Parliament of Barbados is the national legislature of Barbados. It is accorded legislative supremacy by Chapter V of the Constitution of Barbados. The Parliament is bicameral in composition and is formally made up of: Elizabeth II, Queen of Barbados (represented by the Governor-General), an appointed Senate (Upper house), and an elected House of Assembly (Lower house).Both houses sit in separate chambers in the Parliament Buildings (commonly known as "The Public Buildings"), in the national capital Bridgetown in Saint Michael.

The Senate is made up of twenty-one Senators and The Queen (therein represented by the Governor-General), while the House consists of thirty Members of Parliament (MPs) in addition to the Honourable Speaker of the House. Members to serve in the Cabinet of Barbados may be chosen by the Prime Minister from either the House of Assembly or Senate, (the Prime Minister alone who must be chosen by the Governor-General must come from the House of Assembly.)

In theory, supreme legislative power is vested in the Queen-in-Parliament; in practice during modern times, real power is vested in the House of Assembly, as the Governor-General generally acts on the advice of the Prime Minister and the powers of the Senate have been limited.

The Parliament of Barbados is originally patterned after the Parliament of England, so the structure, functions, and procedures of the parliament are based on the Westminster system of government. Sittings of both House and Senate are usually held once per month, with other meetings called as necessary. The House sits on Tuesdays beginning at 10:30am, and are broadcast live on the local radio station. Sittings of the Senate take place on Wednesdays.

Barbados has an independent judiciary composed of magistrate courts, which are statutorily authorized, and a Supreme Court, which is constitutionally mandated. The Supreme Court consists of the high court and the court of appeals, each with four judges. The Chief Justice serves on both the high court and the court of appeals. The court of last resort is the Caribbean Court of Justice.

The Caribbean Court of Justice is the regional judicial tribunal, established in 2001 by the Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice. The Caribbean Court of Justice has original jurisdiction to interpret and apply the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. In 2005, Barbados became a full member of the Caribbean Court of Justice; thus making the Caribbean Court of Justice its final court of appeal and original jurisdiction.

The island is divided into 11 parishes and the city of Bridgetown for administrative purposes. There is no local government.

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