Antigua and Barbuda is a country located in the region of North America. Since independence in 1981, Antigua and Barbuda have been a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth, consisting of Britain and the former British colonies. The head of state, British Queen Elizabeth II, is represented within the country by a native general governor. This is appointed on the advice of the Head of Government (Prime Minister).
The government is responsible to the country’s parliament. The prime minister, usually the leader of the largest party or the largest party alliance in parliament, is appointed by the governor-general, who also appoints other ministers, on a proposal by the prime minister.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Antigua and Barbuda, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
Parliament has two chambers: the Senate with 17 seats and the House of Representatives with 17 members. Eleven senators (one of whom must be a resident of Barbuda) are appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister and four on the recommendation of the opposition leader. The elected council on the island of Barbuda (see below) nominates a senator and the seventeenth is appointed directly by the Governor-General. The members of the House of Representatives are appointed through general elections in one-man constituencies. Elections must be held at least every five years. The voting age is 18 years.
At Barbuda there is a local governing council made up of the island’s representatives in the national parliament as well as nine elected members.
Parties and the judiciary
The country’s largest party is the Labor Party (Antigua Labor Party, ALP) which is dominated by the Bird family. Despite its name, it is described as bourgeois. For many years, the Labor Party was seen as a guarantor of the prosperity that the country had achieved under the party’s rule from 1951 onwards. After ten years in opposition, the Labor Party returned to power in the 2014 election. The government benefited in the coming years from steady economic growth, and the 2018 election became yet another success for the Labor Party, which won another mandate.
The United Progressive Party (UPP), formed by some left and center parties, held government power between 2004 and 2014. The party collapsed from nine to three terms in the 2014 election and lost another 1 in the 2018 election.
The Barbuda People’s Movement (Barbuda People’s Movement, BPM), which is advocating increased self-government for Barbuda, resigned from Parliament in 2014 but won a mandate in the 2018 election.
The legal system is based on the British. The lowest instance is a number of local courts. Next, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), based in Saint Lucia, follows the appeal. The last court is the British Privy Council in London, but a discussion is underway to replace it with the Caribbean Cooperation Court (Caribbean Court of Justice, CCJ) in Trinidad (see below).
Crime has continued to be a problem during the Labor Party’s term of office, although the level of violence in the country is not so high by regional measures. Like other countries in the Caribbean, Antigua is being used as a transhipment station for drug traffic from South America to the US and Europe, which is a source of crime. The country’s only prison is overcrowded and permeated by gang violence and corruption.
The government has launched plans to hold a referendum to replace the British Privy Council with the Caribbean Court (see above) as the country’s last appeal body. The Labor Party and UPP have reached an agreement on this, but the referendum has not taken place, partly because the public interest in a court change is not considered sufficiently large. There is no current date for the referendum.
The issue of increased self-government remains an important issue for the two percent of the country’s residents who live in Barbuda. Among those who believe that the central government neglects Barbuda, some want Antigua and Barbuda to be transformed into a federation, with Barbuda as a state.
Relationship with the outside world
Antigua and Barbuda are members of the regional cooperation organization Caricom, whose 15 members, among other things, strive to create a common economic market. In 2006, the first step was taken when six members introduced common customs duties and allowed capital and labor to move freely between countries. In the long term, a common currency will be introduced. Antigua and Barbuda have joined the united market.
The country is also part of the Eastern Caribbean cooperation organization OECS, whose ten members have the ambition to become a counterpart to the EU. Among other things, the OECS countries have the same currency and a common central bank. Citizens of the Member States can also travel freely within the OECS area and trade barriers between countries have been torn down. Antigua is the seat of the regional parliament established by the OECS .
Antigua is subject to favorable trade agreements with the US and the EU (see Finance)). Western countries with the United States and Britain at the forefront have demanded increased oversight of Antigua and Barbuda’s liberal financial sector, as criminals can exploit the secrecy in the country’s banking world for “money laundering”, that is, hidden transactions to turn illegal income into legal. Antigua and Barbuda stood for a long time on the Western Economic Cooperation Organization’s OECD “gray list” of states that did not do enough to stop money laundering. After Antigua and Barbuda implemented more tax reform, the country was removed from the list, but remains on the US list of countries suspected of facilitating money laundering. In 2015, Antigua and Barbuda were also included in the EU list of countries that do not cooperate adequately against tax violations.
With the US, a dispute about gaming sites is ongoing on the Internet. A large number of sites are domiciled in Antigua and Barbuda, and the government is turning to an American law that makes it illegal for Americans to play on such sites. Antigua and Barbuda, which has the World Trade Organization (WTO) on its side, argue that the US ban is an unfair trade barrier and has demanded compensation from the United States for loss of income of tens of millions of US dollars and for having lost around 2,800 jobs. In 2013, the WTO ruled that Antigua and Barbuda have the right, as a countermeasure, to stop respecting copyright laws on American film and music up to a certain value each year. Despite continued negotiations at the highest political level, no solution to the dispute has yet been reached.
Antigua and Barbuda have diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, but not with Taiwan. The government receives loans and assistance from Beijing, not least to improve infrastructure such as airports and ports. A number of cooperation agreements have been concluded between the two countries. Antigua and Barbuda, in international context, support Japan’s demand for increased electoral hunting and the country receives some Japanese assistance.
Of the countries in South America, Antigua and Barbuda have the closest links with Venezuela. Antigua and Barbuda participate in both of the regional cooperation initiated by Venezuela: the Petrocaribe initiative (which provides access to oil on favorable terms) and Alba (free trade cooperation). Relations have remained good even during the political turmoil that arose in Venezuela after President Hugo Chávez’s resignation in 2013, and the Browne government has urged, among other things, the regional cooperation organization OAS not to intervene in Venezuela’s internal affairs.
Antigua and Barbuda have a smaller defense force of a total of 180 men. The main tasks of the force are to monitor internal security and fight drug trafficking. The country participates in the US-backed regional defense cooperation Regional Security System, and the United States leases two military bases in Antigua. The country has been pressured by the outside world to fight the growing drug traffic through the country, and US drug fighters have been granted the right to intervene in antiguan territory.
FACTS – POLITICS
Antigua and Barbuda / Antigua and Barbuda
monarchy, unitary state
Head of State
Queen Elizabeth II 1
Head of government
Prime Minister Gaston Browne (2014–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
Labor Party 15, United Progress Party 1, Barbuda People’s Movement 1 (2018)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
Labor Party 14, United Progress Party 3 (2014)
76.5% in the March 2018 parliamentary elections
parliamentary elections 2023 2
130 men (2017)
50 men (2017)
1.represented by Governor General Rodney Williams (2014–)
2. most recently; election should be held at least every five years