The Bahamas is a constitutional monarchy recognising Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. She is represented by a Governor-General chosen on the advice of the cabinet. The country is a parliamentary democracy with a bicameral legislature. The Senate has 16 members, nine appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister, four on the advice of the opposition leader, and three after joint discussions. The House of Assembly (presently of 38 elected members, 41 before the 2012 elections, 40 before the 2007 elections and 49 before the 1997 elections) is directly elected on a district basis for a term not exceeding five years; elections are on the basis of universal adult suffrage.
A commission meets at intervals of not less than five years to review the constituency boundaries. The constitution allows for three distinct types of legislation: the ‘specially entrenched’ provisions relating to parliament itself and the judicial system require a three-quarters majority in both houses and a popular referendum; ‘entrenched’ provisions require a two-thirds majority in both houses; and other legislation a simple majority vote.
In January 2012, the government introduced changes in the Bahamas Parliamentary Elections Act that allowed limited overseas voting for nationals and permitted independent observers to observe the election process.
The March 1997 elections were won by the Free National Movement (FNM), led by Hubert Ingraham, securing 34 seats, the remaining seats being taken by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). After the elections Sir Lynden Pindling, who had led the PLP for 32 years, stood down and was replaced by Perry Christie.
In May 2002, the PLP won a landslide victory, taking 29 seats and Christie became Prime Minister. The FNM took seven and independents four.
Tommy Turnquest, who had succeeded Ingraham as FNM leader before the elections, lost his seat, but was subsequently appointed to the Senate.
Three years after stepping down as leader of the FNM, Hubert Ingraham returned to head the party in November 2005, subsequently leading it to victory in the general elections of May 2007 – FNM taking 23 seats and PLP 18. The turnout was 91 per cent of registered electors.
On the retirement of Arthur Dion Hanna in April 2010 Sir Arthur Foulkes succeeded him as Governor-General.
In the May 2012 general election the PLP won 29 seats and the FNM nine, and PLP leader Perry Christie was sworn in as Prime Minister. After the election Ingraham resigned as leader of the FNM.
Governor-General Sir Arthur Foulkes retired on 8 July 2014 and was succeeded by Dame Marguerite Pindling, the widow of the country’s first Prime Minister, Sir Lynden Pindling.