Government

The Bahamas is a constitutional democracy with Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state, represented by a governor-general who is chosen on the advice of the cabinet.

The cabinet consists of the prime minister and at least nine members who all hold seats in parliament. The cabinet is appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the prime minister. The prime minister is appointed by the governor-general, and is usually the leader of the majority party or coalition in the House of Assembly.

The Bahamas has a bicameral legislature. The Senate has 16 members. Nine are appointed on the advice of the prime minister, four by the opposition and three after joint discussions. The House of Assembly has around 40 elected members who are directly elected by district for a term of five years.

There is universal adult suffrage and an electoral commission reviews constituency boundaries every five years.

The constitution allows for three distinct types of legislation: the ‘specially entrenched’ provisions relating to parliament itself and the judicial system require a three-quarters majority in both houses and a popular referendum; ‘entrenched’ provisions require a two-thirds majority in both houses; and other legislation requires a simple majority vote.

The Bahamas Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and the magistrates’ court all have civil and criminal jurisdiction. The Supreme Court is staffed by a chief justice and eight justices and sits in Nassau on New Providence island and Freeport on Grand Bahama.

The magistrates’ courts are presided over by magistrates in New Providence and Grand Bahama, and by the island administrators in the Family Islands. Since 2006 when the coroners’ court was closed, the magistrates are empowered to hear inquests.

The Privy Council in the UK is the final court of appeal.