POLITICS OF BERMUDA

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The State House,
the home of Bermuda's parliament 1620–1815

Politics of Bermuda
Executive authority in Bermuda is vested in the monarch and is exercised on her behalf by the Governor. The governor is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the British Government. The current governor is Sir Richard Hugh Turton Gozney KCMG CVO; he was sworn in on 12 December 2007. There is also a Deputy Governor (currently Mark Andrew Capes JP). Defence and foreign affairs remain the responsibility of the United Kingdom, which also retains responsibility to ensure good government. It must approve any changes to the Constitution of Bermuda. Bermuda now exists as an overseas territory of Britain, but it is the oldest British colony. In 1620, a Royal Assent granted Bermuda limited self-governance, thus making the Parliament of Bermuda the fifth oldest in the world, behind only the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the Tynwald of the Isle of Man, the Althing of Iceland and Sejm of the Republic of Poland. Of these, it is the only one to have met continuously as a legislature since its inception through to today.

The Constitution of Bermuda came into force on 1 June 1967 and was amended in 1989 and 2003. The head of government is the premier. A cabinet is nominated by the premier and appointed officially by the governor. The legislative branch consists of a bicameral parliament modelled on the Westminster system. The Senate is the upper house consisting of 11 members appointed by the governor on the advice of the premier and the leader of the opposition. The House of Assembly, or lower house, has 36 members elected by the eligible voting populace in secret ballot to represent geographically defined constituencies. Elections must be called at no more than five-year intervals. The Progressive Labour Party won the most recent general election held on 18 December 2007, winning 22 of 36 seats in the House of Assembly.

Following her victory at the Progressive Labour Party delegates' conference in October 2010, the current premier is Paula Cox. The United Bermuda Party serves in opposition. The Progressive Labour Party leadership favours independence from the United Kingdom, although polls have indicated that this is not supported by the population. While a referendum in 1995 on independence was defeated by a substantial margin, the Bermuda Industrial Union and the Progressive Labour Party (then in the Opposition) had called for a boycott of the referendum, having an unquantified impact on the result.

There are few accredited diplomats in Bermuda. The United States maintains the largest diplomatic mission in Bermuda, comprising both the United States Consulate and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Services at the Bermuda International Airport. The current U.S. Consul General is Grace Shelton, who replaced Gregory W. Slayton as the U.S. Chief of Mission in Bermuda in August 2009. Given that the United States is by far Bermuda's largest trading partner (providing over 71% of total imports, 85% of tourist visitors, and an estimated $163 billion of U.S. capital in the Bermuda insurance/re-insurance industry alone, and the fact that an estimated 5% of Bermuda residents are U.S. citizens, which represents 14% of all foreign-born persons), American diplomatic presence is seen as an important element in the Bermuda political landscape.

A General Election must be held in Bermuda every five years. Following the PLP's re-election in 2007, the next election must be held no later than 2012.

Role in international relations
As an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, Bermuda has no seat in the United Nations and is represented by Britain in matters of foreign affairs. To promote its economic interests abroad Bermuda maintains representative offices in key influential cities such as London and Washington D.C..

Bermuda's proximity to the United States has made it the site of past summit conferences between British Prime Ministers and U.S. Presidents. The first summit was held in December 1953, at the insistence of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, to discuss relations with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Participants at the conference included Churchill, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and French Premier Joseph Laniel. In 1957, a second summit conference was held; this time British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan arrived earlier than President Eisenhower, to make it clear that they were meeting on British territory, as tensions were still high regarding the previous year's conflict over the Suez Canal. It was said the two discussed the general situation of the world. Macmillan returned in 1961 for the third summit with President John F. Kennedy, who was familiar with Bermuda, having made numerous personal visits. The meeting was called to discuss Cold War tensions arising from construction of the Berlin Wall. The most recent summit conference in Bermuda between the two powers occurred in 1990, when British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher met U.S. President George Bush.

Direct meetings between the President of the United States and the Premier of Bermuda have been rare. The most recent meeting was on 23 June 2008, between Premier Ewart Brown and President George W. Bush. Prior to this, the leaders of Bermuda and the United States had not met at the White House since a 1996 meeting between Premier David Saul and President Bill Clinton.

Asylum offered to four former Guantánamo detainees
On 11 June 2009, four Uyghurs who had been held in extrajudicial detention in the United States Guantánamo Bay detention camp, in Cuba were deported to Bermuda. The four men were among 22 Uyghurs who claimed to be refugees, who were captured in 2001 in Pakistan after fleeing the American aerial bombardment of Afghanistan. They were suspected of training to assist Taliban's military. They were cleared as safe for release from Guantánamo in 2005 or 2006. But U.S. domestic law prohibited deporting them back to China, their country of citizenship, because the U.S. government determined that China was likely to abuse their human rights.

In September 2008 the men were cleared of all suspicion, and Judge Ricardo Urbina in Washington ordered their release. However domestic opposition to their admittance to the United States was very strong, and, until Bermuda and Palau agreed to accept them in June 2009, the U.S. had failed to find a home for them.

The secret bilateral discussions that led to prisoner transfers between the U.S. and the devolved Bermuda government sparked diplomatic ire from the United Kingdom, which was not consulted on the move despite Bermuda being a British territory. The British Foreign Office issued the following statement: "We've underlined to the Bermuda Government that they should have consulted with the United Kingdom as to whether this falls within their competence or is a security issue, for which the Bermuda Government do not have delegated responsibility. We have made clear to the Bermuda Government the need for a security assessment, which we are now helping them to carry out, and we will decide on further steps as appropriate."

Caribbean Community
Despite its location well north of the Caribbean, Bermuda became an associate member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in 2003 . This is a socio-economic bloc of nations in the Caribbean, or near the Caribbean—such as the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, the Republic of Suriname, and Belize in Central America as full members. Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos Islands which are in the Atlantic Ocean as Associate members of CARICOM, and the same goes for the Commonwealth of The Bahamas which is a full member of the Caribbean Community and also in the Atlantic. Among scholars, “the Caribbean” can be a socio-historical category, commonly referring to a cultural zone characterised by the legacy of slavery and the plantation system. It embraces the islands and parts of the adjoining mainland—and may be extended to include the Caribbean Diaspora overseas.