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Belize Country Profile

Belize was the site of several Mayan city states until their decline at the end of the first millennium A.D. The British and Spanish disputed the region in the 17th and 18th centuries; it formally became the colony of British Honduras in 1862. Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992 and the two countries are involved in an ongoing border dispute. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. Current concerns include the country's heavy foreign debt burden, high unemployment, growing involvement in the Mexican and South American drug trade, high crime rates, and one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in Central America.

GEOGRAPHY
Full Name

Belize

Geographic Coordinates 17 15 N, 88 45 W
Capital City Belmopan (17,000, 2014 est)
Area 22,966 sq km (8,867 sq miles)
Terrain Flat, swampy coastal plain; low mountains in south
Climate Tropical; very hot and humid; rainy season (May to November); dry season (February to May)
Internet domain .bz
International dialling code +501
MAP
PEOPLE & SOCIETY
Nationality Barbadian(s) or Bajan (colloquial)
Population 360,346 (July 2017 est.)
Annual Growth Rate 0.31% (2015 est.)
Ethnic Groups mestizo 52.9%, Creole 25.9%, Maya 11.3%, Garifuna 6.1%, East Indian 3.9%, Mennonite 3.6%, white 1.2%, Asian 1%, other 1.2%, unknown 0.3%
Major Languages English 62.9% (official), Spanish 56.6%, Creole 44.6%, Maya 10.5%, German 3.2%, Garifuna 2.9%, other 1.8%, unknown 0.3%, none 0.2% (cannot speak)
Major Religions Roman Catholic 40.1%, Protestant 31.5% (includes Pentecostal 8.4%, Seventh Day Adventist 5.4%, Anglican 4.7%, Mennonite 3.7%, Baptist 3.6%, Methodist 2.9%, Nazarene 2.8%), Jehovah's Witness 1.7%, other 10.5% (includes Baha'i, Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, Muslim, Rastafarian, Salvation Army), unspecified 0.6%, none 15.5% (2010 est.)
Adult Literacy 99.7% (2015 est.)
Infant Mortality Rate 19.3 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy Total population - 68.7 years;  male – 67.2 years; female –70.4 years (2016 est.)
GOVERNMENT
Type Parliamentary democracy; independent sovereign state within the Commonwealth.
Independence 21 September 1981 (from the United Kingdom) | Learn more »
Constitution 21 September 1981 (amended several times, last in 2012 (2016) | Learn more »
Executive Branch Governor-General (representing Queen Elizabeth II, head of state), Prime Minister (head of government), Cabinet.
Executive Branch

Chief of State: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor-General Sir Colville YOUNG (since 17 November 1993) | Learn more »

Head of Government: Prime Minister Dean BARROW (since 8 February 2008) | Learn more »

Cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister | Learn more »

Elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition usually appointed prime minister by the Governor-General; Prime Minister recommends the Deputy Prime Minister

Legislative Branch

Bicameral National Assembly consists of the Senate (12 seats; members appointed by the governor general - 6 on the advice of the prime minister, 3 on the advice of the leader of the opposition, and 1 each on the advice of the Belize Council of Churches and Evangelical Association of Churches, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Better Business Bureau, and the National Trade Union Congress and the Civil Society Steering Committee; members serve 5-year terms) and the House of Representatives (31 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 5-year terms) | Learn more »

Elections: House of Representatives - last held on 4 November 2015 (next to be called in November 2020) | Learn more »

Election results: House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - UDP 50%, PUP 47.3%, other 2.7%; seats by party - UDP 19, PUP 12 | Learn more »

Judicial Branch

Highest Court(s): Supreme Court of Judicature (consists of the Court of Appeal with the court president and 3 justices, and the Supreme Court with the chief justice and 2 judges); note - in 2010, Belize ceased final appeals in civil and criminal cases to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (in London) and acceded to the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Judge selection and term of office: Court of Appeal president and justices appointed by the governor general upon advice of the prime minister after consultation with the National Assembly opposition leader; justices' tenures vary by terms of appointment; Supreme Court chief justice appointed by the governor-general upon the advice of the prime minister and the National Assembly opposition leader; other judges appointed by the governor-general upon the advice of the Judicial and Legal Services Section of the Public Services Commission and with the concurrence of the prime minister after consultation with the National Assembly opposition leader; judges can be appointed beyond age 65 but must retire by age 75; in 2013, the Supreme Court chief justice overturned a constitutional amendment that had restricted Court of Appeal judge appointments to as short as 1 year.

Subordinate courts: Magistrate Courts; Family Court

ELECTORAL SYSTEM
Legislature Parliament of Belize | Learn more »
Parliament Name National Assembly of Belize | Learn more »
Structure of Parliament Bicameral | Learn more »
Members of Parliament 31 members elected at least every five years by universal adult suffrage
Electoral Law Belize Constitution (1981); Representation of the People's Act (2000) | Learn more »
Constituencies 31 single-member constituencies. | Learn more »
Voting System In the Senate 12 members are appointed by the governor-general to serve a 5-year term. In House of Representatives 31 members are elected by direct popular vote to serve a 5-year term. The Speaker may be designated from outside parliament and becomes a member of parliament by virtue of holding the office of Speaker.
Term of Office 5 years
Voter Requirements

- Age:18 years
- Belize or British Commonwealth citizens who are domiciled or have resided in the country for at least one year immediately before polling day.
- Disqualifications: insanity, undischarged bankruptcy, electoral fraud, sentence to death or imprisonment exceeding one year

Suffrage Universal at 18 years of age
Candidate Eligibility and Requirements - Qualified electors
- Age: 18 years
- Belize citizenship
- Residence in the country for at least one year immediately prior to nomination.
- Ineligibility: allegiance to a foreign State
Electoral Authority Belize operates with two distinct electoral management bodies: the Elections and Boundaries Commission and the Elections and Boundaries Department. Each is a separate legal entity.
Last Parliamentary Election 4 November 2015 | Learn more »
Next Parliamentary Election November 2020
Number of Register Electors Approximately 196,588 (2015)
PARTIES IN ELECTION 2013
Party Code Political Leader Candidates in 2015 Election Seats in Parliament
2015 2012
  People's United Party PUP Juan BRICENO 31 12 14
  United Democratic Party UDP Dean BARROW

31

19 17
ECONOMY
GDP (purchasing power parity) USD 3.088 billion (2016 est.)
GDP Growth Rate 0% (2015 est.)
GDP Per Capita USD 6,00 (2016 est.)
Inflation Rate 0.9% (2016 est.)
Unemployment 12.9% (2014 est.)
Main Exports Sugar, bananas, citrus, clothing, fish products, molasses, wood, crude oil
Monetary Unit 1 Belizian dollar (BZD)  = 100 cents
Official Exchange Rate BZD 2.00 = USD 1.00
 SEARCH CARIBBEAN ELECTIONS
 VOTER EDUCATION learn more
   Belize Country Profile
   Belize Government Structure
   Belize Election Basics
   The Parliament of Bermuda
   Political History and Dynamics
   Belize Heads of Government
   Electoral Legislation
   Belize Timeline
   Teacher Resources
   Glossary of Election Terms
 POLITICAL PARTIES learn more
  People's United Party
  United Democratic Party
 PARTY 2015 MANIFESTOS learn more
Download PUP 2015 Manifesto
Download UDP 2015 Manifesto
 POPULAR RESOURCES learn more
Download Belize Knowledge Centre
Learn more Belize Heads of State
Learn more Belize Heads of Government
Learn more Belize Leaders of the Opposition
 ABOUT CARIBBEAN ELECTIONS learn more
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Key
PUP = People's United Party; UDP=United Democratic Party; IND = Inpendent candidate; * Incumbent; ** Political Leader
Sources
Elections & Boundaries Department, Government of Belize
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