Antigua & Barbuda (which consists of a cluster of Caribbean islands in the eastern Caribbean, including Antigua, Barbuda and Redonda) is a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state. The queen is represented by a governor-general who is appointed on the advice of the prime minister.
Government is by parliamentary democracy with a bicameral legislature. The directly elected House of Representatives has 17 members elected for a five-year term. However, the governor-general, acting in accordance with the advice of the prime minister, may at any time dissolve parliament. A general election of members of the House must be held within three months of parliament’s dissolution.
The Senate has 17 members appointed by the governor-general, one at his own discretion, 11 on the advice of the prime minister, including one inhabitant of Barbuda, four recommended by the leader of the opposition and one on the recommendation of the Barbuda Council.
Legislation is initiated by the House of Representatives subject to review and approval by the Senate.
Government is presided over by the prime minister and the cabinet, which is collectively responsible for the general direction and control of the Government. The cabinet is collectively responsible to Parliament. As leader of the majority party of the House of Representatives, the prime minister appoints other members of parliament to be his cabinet ministers.
The Barbuda Council is responsible for local government on Barbuda.
The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court is responsible for the administration of justice in its member states, including Antigua & Barbuda. It comprises the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal.
The high court has 16 judges, two of whom are permanently resident in the country and sit in the court of summary jurisdiction. Less serious cases are heard in the magistrates’ courts. The court of appeal is itinerant. The high court’s jurisdiction includes fundamental rights and freedoms, and constitutional issues.
The constitution guarantees individual rights and freedoms, regardless of race, place of origin, political opinions or affiliations, colour, creed or sex.
Human habitation of Antigua & Barbuda stretches back to at least 2400 BC. Christopher Columbus, who sighted the larger island in 1493, named it after a church in Seville, Santa Maria de la Antigua (‘Antigua’ means ‘ancient’ in Spanish). Unsuccessful attempts at colonisation by the French and the Spanish were followed by the successful colonisation of Antigua by the British in 1632. Barbuda had been annexed by the British four years previously.
Under the West Indies Act of 1967, Antigua became an associated state with internal self-government, the United Kingdom retaining control of foreign affairs and defence. Having achieved full independence from the United Kingdom in 1981, Antigua & Barbuda joined the freshly minted Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States in the same year.
The flag of Antigua & Barbuda, designed by Mr. Reginald Samuel in 1966, is highly symbolic of the aspirations of Antigua & Barbuda during this process towards independence. According to the official government website of Antigua & Barbuda, the seven point golden sun evokes the dawn of a new era and the red symbolises the dynamism of the people and the lifeblood of enslaved ancestors.
The Antigua Labour Party (ALP) and the Progressive Labour Movement (PLM), both of which had their roots in the labour movement, were both formed before the advent of independence. The first elections under universal adult suffrage took place in 1951 and were won by the ALP. The ALP was defeated by the PLM in the 1971 elections, but in the late 1970s and 1980s it returned to power.
In 1992 three opposition parties merged to form the United Progressive Party (UPP). In 2004 Baldwin Spencer, leader of the UPP, became prime minister. His party went on to win the general elections of 2009.