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Belize Government Structure

Belize operates with a parliamentary democracy modeled on the Westminster system. The Belize Constitution
divides the government into three branches: executive, legislature, and judiciary.

Executive Branch

The constitutional head of the Belizean state is Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, who is represented in the
country by a Governor-General. The Governor-General, who must be a citizen of Belize, serves at the pleasure of the British monarch and is not subject to a fixed term of office. According to the constitution, the Governor-General is appointed on the recommendation of the Prime Minister and must “act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet or a Minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet” except in cases in which the constitution or law specifically states otherwise.

The executive branch is made up of a Prime Minister and Cabinet. The constitution states that “the Cabinet shall be the principal executive instrument of policy with general direction and control of the Government and shall be collectively responsible to the National Assembly for any advice given to the Governor General by or under the general authority of the Cabinet and for all things done by or under the authority of any Minister in the execution of his office.” Both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance must be elected members of the House of Representatives, while the remainder of cabinet members may come from either the House or the Senate. Typically, cabinet ministers are members of the majority political party who concurrently hold seats in the assembly. Ministers are formally appointed
and assigned portfolios within the cabinet by the Governor- General in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister.

Legislative Branch

The Belizean legislative branch is a bicameral National Assembly composed of a 31-member elected House of Representatives and a 12-member appointed Senate. As stipulated in chapter six of the Belize Constitution, the
National Assembly is responsible for making "laws for the peace, order and good government of Belize." The National
Assembly has a maximum life span of five years following general elections, and must meet for at least one session each year. The Prime Minister has the right to advise the Governor- General to dissolve the National Assembly at any time in this period and thus determine the date of the general elections.

The qualifications to hold office as a National Assembly representative and as a Senator are similar. To be eligible for either chamber, one must be a citizen of Belize, at least 18 years old, and have resided in Belize for at least one year immediately prior to his or her nomination or appointment. Both chambers bar members of the armed forces and the police from serving as representatives.

All 31 members of the House of Representatives are popularly elected to terms that are not to exceed five years.
The 12 members of the Senate are each appointed by the Governor-General: six in accordance with the advice of the
prime minister and three with the advice of the leader of the opposition. Additionally, The Belize Council of Churches and the Evangelical Association of Churches; the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Business Bureau; and the National Trade Union Congress and the Civil Society Steering Committee each advise the Governor-General on the appointment of one senator. The Senate is headed by a nonvoting president who is appointed by the governing party.

Judiciary

The Belizean legal system establishes the judiciary as an independent branch of government. Each of the six districts
(Belize, Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek and Toledo) has a Summary Jurisdiction Court that hears criminal cases as well as a District Court that hears civil cases. Both of these courts are referred to as magistrates’ courts, and may impose fines and prison sentences of up to six months. These courts have jurisdiction in less serious civil and criminal cases, but must refer to the Supreme Court more serious criminal cases, as well as any substantive legal questions.

The Supreme Court has unlimited original jurisdiction in both civil and criminal proceedings, and hears appeals from magistrates courts. The Chief of Justice is appointed by the Governor-General, "in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister given after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition." The Governor-General is also responsible for appointing the other justices, called puisne judges, "in accordance with the advice of the judicial and legal services section of the Public Service Commission and with the concurrence of the Prime Minister given after consultation
with the Leader of the Opposition."

Appeals of Supreme Court decisions are handled by the Court of Appeal, which is headed by a President. The
President, along with the two other justices who serve on the court, is appointed by the Governor-General in "in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister given after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition." Though the Belize Constitution sets no fixed term of office for these justices, it stipulates that terms of office be fixed in their instruments of appointment.

Regional Authorities

The territory of Belize is divided into six administrative districts: Belize, Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek
and Toledo. Each district is administered by a locally elected council from that district’s capital city, called a “district
town.” Additionally San Pedro, in the Belize district, Benque Viejo del Carmen and the national capital of Belmopan, both geographically located within the Cayo district, operate with their own town councils. While the Belize City council is composed of nine members (a mayor and eight councilors), the remaining eight town councils are made up of seven
members (a mayor and six councilors).

As per the Town Councils Act, the chief executive officer of every town council is the mayor, who is responsible
for providing effective leadership and direction for the council. Their responsibilities include “developing sister-city or sistertown relations with other cities or towns within and outside Belize and supervising the town administrator and ensuring that the town administrator implements the decisions of the Council.” The councils have jurisdiction over various areas of town affairs such as: environmental protection, revenue collection, town zoning, planning and urban infrastructure, town sanitation, public health and market management, tourist promotion and development, coordination of public utilities, crime and drug reduction and prevention, recreational planning and development, development of
sports and culture, traffic control and management, and coordination of relations and activities between the town, the
Government of Belize, non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations.

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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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