Government

Trinidad and Tobago is a unitary republic with a non-executive president as head of state. The president is elected for a five year term by an electoral college of both houses of parliament, and is permitted to serve a maximum of two terms. He or she is required to appoint as prime minister the leader of the party with the support of the largest number of members in the House of Representatives, usually the leader of the party with most seats. The prime minister leads the executive and selects the cabinet which is responsible for parliament.

The bicameral parliament consists of the senate, with 31 seats, and the House of Representatives, with 41 seats. The members of the senate are appointed by the president, 16 on the advice of the prime minister, six on advice of the leader of the opposition and nine independents to represent other sectors of civil society. They serve for a maximum of five years. Members of the House of Representatives are elected by direct popular vote for five-year terms.

Tobago has a regional House of Assembly, set up in 1980, with local powers over finances and other delegated responsibilities.

The justice system is based on English Common Law. The Supreme Court of Judicature comprises the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal and has establishments in Port of Spain, San Fernando and Tobago. The Court of Appeal is presided over by the chief justice and hears appeals from the High Court and magistrates’ courts. In some circumstances appeals may be made to the Privy Council in the UK.

The courts of summary jurisdiction and petty civil courts are presided over by magistrates. The courts of summary jurisdiction deal with criminal cases, and the petty civil courts with the less serious civil cases.

The chief justice and judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the president, consulting the prime minister and leader of the opposition in respect of the chief justice, and the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, in respect of the other judges.