As head of state, Queen Elizabeth II is represented in Belize by a governor general who acts on the advice of the prime minister and the cabinet.
Belize is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary, its democracy is based on the Westminster model. Belize is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Queen Elizabeth II is head of state and is represented in the country by Governor General Dr. Colville N. Young, Sr., a Belizean and Belize’s second governor general.
The primary executive organ of government is the Cabinet led by a Prime Minister (head of government). Cabinet Ministers are members of the majority political party in Parliament and usually hold elected seats in the National Assembly concurrently with their Cabinet positions.Cabinet members can also be drawn from the Senate.
Current Members of the Executive:
- Prime Minister — Hon. Dean Barrow
- Deputy Prime Minister — Gaspar Vega
- Dean Barrow, Finance
- Gaspar Vega, Natural Resources, Environment
- Erwin Contreras, Economic Development, Commerce, Industry and Consumer Protection
- Carlos Perdomo, Defence and Immigration
- Patrick Faber, Education, Youth
- Anthony “Boots” Martinez, Works
- Pablo Marin, Health
- Wilfred Elrington, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade
- Gabriel Martinez, Labour, Local Government and Rural Development
- Melvin Hulse, NEMO, Transport and Communications
- Eden Martinez, Human Development and Social Transformation
- John Saldivar, Public Service, Governance Improvement and Elections and Boundaries and Sports
- Manuel Heredia, Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture
- Rene Montero, Agriculture and Fisheries
- Michael Finnegan, Housing and Urban Development
- Doug Singh, Minister of Police
- Bernard Q Pitts, Attorney General
Ministers of State
- Michael Hutchinson, Labour, Local Government and Rural Development
- Elvin Penner, Information, Broadcasting and Public Utilities
- Edmond Castro, Works
- Arturo Roches, Health
- Juan Coy, Human Development and Social Transformation
- Marco Pech, Natural Resources
The National Assembly of Belize is a bi-cameral body which consists of a House of Representatives and a Senate. The 31 members of the House of Representatives are popularly elected to a maximum five-year term of office.
The Senate currently consists of 12 Senators plus the President of the Senate. The Senators are appointed by the Governor General as follows: six (6) on the advice of the Prime Minister, three (3) on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, one (1) member on the advice of the Belize Council of Churches and the Evangelical Association of Churches, one (1) on the advice of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Business Bureau and one (1) on the advice of the National Trade Union Congress of Belize and the Civil Society Steering Committee.
The President of the Senate is then selected by the 12 Senators, either from amongst themselves or from the general populace. The President presides over the sessions of the Senate but ordinarily has no voice nor vote in the proceedings (as would an appointed Senator), except in the cases of the passing of bills (legislation) where he/she has a casting vote.
Where the President is selected from amongst the twelve, the powers of Senator and President of the Senate are vested in this one person. Otherwise, the President has no powers as would ordinarily be vested in a Senator.
Over the past few years, there has been much debate over whether the members of the Senate should be appointed or elected. This discussion continues as Belizeans continue to weigh the pros and cons of an elected versus appointed senate.
As of 8 February 2008, the Government of Belize is controlled by the United Democratic Party (Belize) (UDP) which has a confirmed majority in the House of Representatives after general elections of 7 February 2008.
The former government, the People’s United Party (PUP) is now in Opposition, after having governed Belize from 28 August 1998 to 8 February 2008.
The UDP previously governed Belize from 30 June 1993 to 27 August 1998; the PUP had governed from 4 September 1989- 30 June 1993; and the UDP from 14 December 1984-September 4, 1989. Before 1984, the PUP had dominated the electoral scene for more than 30 years and was the party in power when Belize became independent on 21 September 1981.
Members of the independent judiciary are appointed. The judicial system includes local magistrates grouped under the Magistrates’ Court which hears less serious cases, the Supreme Court (Chief Justice) which hears murder and similarly serious cases, and the Court of Appeal, which hears appeals from convicted individuals seeking to have their sentences overturned.
Cases may under certain circumstances be appealed to the Privy Council in London. However, in 2001, Belize joined with most members of CARICOM to campaign for the establishment of a “Caribbean Court of Justice”.
The country is divided into six districts: Corozal District, Orange Walk District, Belize District, Cayo District, Stann Creek District, and Toledo District. Court cases are also heard in the capital city of Belmopan.
The Supreme Court holds hearings from January to December of each year, starting in Belize City and then going to the districts; Magistrates’ Court hears cases on most weekdays.
A special Family Court has been set up to hear cases regarding child maintenance, domestic violence and spousal abuse, and other similar cases. This court is located in downtown Belize City. A Quick Trial Court processes selected cases especially speedily.