Government and Politics
The Governmental System
At independence in November 1966, Barbados formally adopted the
Westminster parliamentary system of government, with a governor
general representing the British monarch. Rights and privileges
accorded to the governor in 1652 by Britain formed the basis for
the Constitution of 1966, which provides for a bicameral
parliamentary system headed by a prime minister and cabinet.
Under the Constitution, Parliament consists of the British
monarch, represented by the governor general, the Senate, and the
House of Assembly. The governor general is appointed by the monarch
and serves at the monarch's pleasure. Although the governor general
must act in accordance with the advice of the cabinet or one of its
ministers, the governor general has considerable influence and is
responsible for appointing judges, commissioners, and senators and
for voting in the Senate if there is a tie. The governor general
presides at all meetings of the Privy Council for Barbados, an
appointed body whose duties include the right to review punishments
and grant pardons.
Executive authority in Barbados rests with the governor
general, the prime minister, and a cabinet of at least five
ministers. The prime minister is by far the most powerful figure in
the executive and within the cabinet. The prime minister chooses
the cabinet ministers and may dismiss them at will. The cabinet,
which is responsible to Parliament, is the principal instrument of
policy and is charged with direction and control of the government,
but the personality, style, and popularity of the prime minister
largely determine the direction of government.
The Constitution provides for a House of Assembly of twentyfour members or as many as Parliament may prescribe. The number was
increased to twenty-seven before the 1981 elections. Members are
elected by universal suffrage and must be over twenty-one years of
age. The leader of the majority in the House of Assembly is
appointed prime minister by the governor general. The minority
leader becomes leader of the opposition. The term of office is five
years, but elections may be called at any time by the ruling party,
and an election must be called in case of a vote of no confidence.
During the first twenty years of Barbadian history, all of its
governments remained in power until the five-year limit.
The Senate is a wholly appointed body. Senators must be
citizens of Barbados over the age of twenty-one; twelve are
appointed on the advice of the prime minister, two on the advice of
the leader of the opposition, and the remaining seven at the
governor general's discretion. The Senate elects its own president
and deputy president and has a quorum of eight plus the presiding
Bills may be introduced in either house with the exception of
money bills, which must be introduced in the elected House of
Assembly. A bill becomes law after it has passed both houses and
has been signed by the governor general.
Barbados' judiciary includes the Supreme Court, which consists
of the High Court and the Court of Appeal. The chief justice is
appointed by the governor general after consultation with the prime
minister and the leader of the opposition; the other judges who
make up the court are appointed on the advice of the Judicial and
Legal Service Commission. Judges serve until the age of sixty-five;
in case of vacancies, the governor general has the authority to
appoint acting judges who serve until the appropriate consultations
have been made. Appeals from decisions made by the High Court may
be made to the three-judge Court of Appeal. The highest appeal is
to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.
Under the Constitution, a number of public service commissions-
-including the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, the Public
Service Commission, and the Police Commission--oversee government
acts. All of the commissioners are appointed by the governor
general after consultation with the prime minister and the leader
of the opposition.
Data as of November 1987