The Bahamas is an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is a parliamentary democracy with regular elections. As a Commonwealth country, its political and legal traditions closely follow those of the United Kingdom. The Bahamas recognizes the British monarch as its formal head of state, while an appointed Governor General serves as the Queen's representative in The Bahamas. A bicameral legislature enacts laws under the 1973 constitution.
The House of Assembly consists of 40 members, elected from individual constituencies for 5-year terms. As under the Westminster system, the government may dissolve the parliament and call elections at any time. The House of Assembly performs all major legislative functions. The leader of the majority party serves as Prime Minister and head of government. The cabinet consists of at least nine members, including the Prime Minister and ministers of executive departments. They answer politically to the House of Assembly.
The Senate consists of 16 members appointed by the Governor General, including nine on the advice of the Prime Minister, four on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, and three on the advice of the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.
The Governor General appoints the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The Governor General appoints the other justices with the advice of a judicial commission. The Privy Council of the United Kingdom serves as the highest appellate court.
For decades, the white-dominated United Bahamian Party (UBP) ruled The Bahamas, then a dependency of the United Kingdom, while a group of influential white merchants, known as the "Bay Street Boys," dominated the local economy. In 1953, Bahamians dissatisfied with UBP rule formed the opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). Under the leadership of Lynden Pindling the PLP won control of the government in 1967 and led The Bahamas to full independence in 1973.
A coalition of PLP dissidents and former UBP members formed the Free National Movement (FNM) in 1971. Former PLP cabinet minister and member of parliament Hubert Ingraham became leader of the FNM in 1990, upon the death of Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield. Under the leadership of Ingraham, the FNM won control of the government from the PLP in the August 1992 general elections. Winning again in March 1997, the ruling FNM controls 35 seats in the House of Assembly, while the PLP controls four seats and serves as the official opposition. A PLP member of Parliament split from the party and created the Coalition for Democratic Reform (CDR). The CDR holds one seat in Parliament.
The principal focus of the Ingraham administration has been economic development and job creation. Many of his government's policies are aimed at improving the image of The Bahamas and making it an attractive place for foreigners to invest. In 2000, in response to multilateral organizations concerns, the government passed stronger measures to prevent money laundering in the country's banking sector.
The FNM has made considerable progress in rebuilding the infrastructure, revitalizing the tourism industry, and attracting new investment to The Bahamas. A good start has been made to mitigate crime and provide for social needs.
Remaining challenges are to privatize The Bahamas' costly, inefficient national corporations, provide job retraining for hundreds of workers who will be affected by the change, and to continue creating jobs for new entries in the employment market. Currently, Bahamians do not pay income or sales taxes. Most government revenue is derived from high tariffs and import fees. A major challenge for Bahamians as the next century approaches will be to prepare for hemispheric free trade. Reduction of trade barriers will probably require some form of taxation to replace revenues when the country becomes a part of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The advantages may be hard for the government to sell since The Bahamas exports so little.
Principal Government Officials
Governor General--Dame Ivy Dumont
Prime Minister--Perry Christie
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Fred Mitchell
High Commissioner to the United Kingdom--Basil O'Brien
High Commissioner to Canada--Mr. Philip Smith
Ambassador to the United States and to the OAS--Joshua Sears
Ambassador to the United Nations--Dr. Paulette Bethel
Ambassador to CARICOM--Leonard Archer
Ambassador to Japan--Sir Sidney Poitier
Ambassador to Haiti--Dr. Eugene Newry
Consul General, Miami--Alma Adams
Consul General, New York--Ed. Bethel
Permanent Representative to the FAO--Mr. Godfrey Eneas
Permanent Representative to UNESCO--Sir Sidney Poitier
The Bahamas maintains an embassy in the United States at 2220 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel: 202-319-2660) and Consulates General in New York at 767 Third Ave., 9th Floor, New York, NY 10017 (tel: 212-421-6925/27), and in Miami at Suite 818, Ingraham Building, 25 SE Second Ave., Miami, FL 33131 (tel:305-373-6295/96).
conventional long form: Commonwealth of The Bahamas
conventional short form: The Bahamas
Data code: BS
Government type: constitutional parliamentary democracy
Administrative divisions: 21 districts; Acklins and Crooked Islands, Bimini, Cat Island, Exuma, Freeport, Fresh Creek, Governor's Harbour, Green Turtle Cay, Harbour Island, High Rock, Inagua, Kemps Bay, Long Island, Marsh Harbour, Mayaguana, New Providence, Nicholls Town and Berry Islands, Ragged Island, Rock Sound, Sandy Point, San Salvador and Rum Cay
Independence: 10 July 1973 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 10 July (1973)
Constitution: adopted 10 July 1973
Legal system: based on English common law
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor General Dame Ivy Dumont
head of government: Prime Minister Perry Gladstone CHRISTIE (since March 2002)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the prime minister's recommendation
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; prime minister and deputy prime minister appointed by the governor general
bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (16-member body appointed by the governor general upon the advice of the prime minister and the opposition leader for a five-year term) and the House of Assembly (40 seats; members elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held March 2002
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PLP 29, FNM 7, Independent Candidates 4
Judicial branch: Supreme Court; Court of Appeal; magistrate's courts
Political parties and leaders: Free National Movement or FNM [Hubert Alexander INGRAHAM]; Progressive Liberal Party or PLP [Perry CHRISTIE]
International organization participation: ACP, C, Caricom, CCC, CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ITU, LAES, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO (applicant)
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Joshua Sears
chancery: 2220 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone:  (202) 319-2660
FAX:  (202) 319-2668
consulate(s) general: Miami and New York
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador J. Richard Blankenship
embassy: Queen Street, Nassau
mailing address: local or express mail address: P. O. Box N-8197, Nassau; stateside address: American Embassy Nassau, P. O. Box 599009, Miami, FL 33159-9009; pouch address: Nassau, Department of State, Washington, DC 20521-3370
telephone:  (242) 322-1181
FAX:  (242) 356-0222
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of aquamarine (top), gold, and aquamarine, with a black equilateral triangle based on the hoist side