Week 1 Bahamas: Opening of Parliament

I had planned to sunbathe in the country where the sun always shines as the sea breezes cool the shores. But alas, for the duration of my entire trip to the Bahamas the island of New Providence will be drenched in rain!

The rain, however, forms no impediment for the need of a government to carry out business, as witnessed earlier this week with the Opening of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.

The Sovereign

The Bahamas is a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as sovereign. Her Majesty is represented in the Bahamas by the Governor General, His Excellency Sir Arthur Foulkes. At the Opening of Parliament, the legislative agenda of the newly elected and formed government is read by the Sovereign (or her representative) from the Throne, where every reference to the government is made as “My government.” Explaining how one natural person can hold more than one legal personality is confusing to many, especially those from outside of countries with such monarchies. In short, however, it may be said that the Monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is simultaneously Monarch of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, and Monarch of Canada, etc. In relation to each country she is a separate legal entity. As such, the laws of the United Kingdom have no effect in the former UK dominions (vis-a-vis Statute of Westminster). It is the prerogative of the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister to call for a general election at any time. This has usually corresponded with the 5-year term limits of Members of Parliament (MPs).

The Branches of Government

In a Westminster-styled parliamentary system like that of the United Kingdom and throughout the Commonwealth, although the sovereign in parliament is sovereign, the separation of powers associated with democracy are still present. Subsequently, in the Bahamas, there is a Judiciary an Executive (Prime Minister and Cabinet), and a Legislature (appointed Senate and elected House of Assembly). Differing from other democratic systems, like the US presidential one, the executive and the legislature are fused, as the former is primarily chosen from the latter.

 

Lower House
  • The House of Assembly
  • 38 Members called Members of Parliament
  • 5-Year terms
  • Membership by constituency majority election
  • Majority party (or coalition) selects the Prime Minister
Upper House
  • The Senate
  • 16 Members called Senators
  • Membership by appointment by Governor General (on advice from Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition)
  • May amend and block (two times) bills of, and refer bills to the Lower House

For photo credit hover over the photo. Yontalay Bowe, http://www.thebahamasweekly.com, and The Bahamas Weekly.

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