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Belize Politics

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Belize's political framework is a parliamentary representative democratic monarchy, whereby the Prime Minister is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Parliament of Belize. The party system is dominated by the People’s United Party and the United Democratic Party. Constitutional safeguards include freedom of speech, press, worship, movement, and association. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Jurisprudence is based on English common law.

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.

The National Assembly of Belize 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 as of the 2008 general elections.

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, 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. 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.

The Belize Defense Force (BDF), established in January 1973, consists of a light infantry force of regulars and reservists along with small air and maritime wings. The United Kingdom continues to maintain the British Army Training Support Unit Belize (BATSUB) to assist in the administration of the Belize Jungle School. The BDF receives military assistance from the United States and the United Kingdom.

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