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Politics of the Falkland Islands takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic dependency, whereby the Chief Executive is the head of government.

The islandsmarker, an archipelago in the southern Atlantic Oceanmarker, are a self-governing British overseas territory. Executive power is exercised by the government, whereas legislative power is vested in both the government and the Legislative Council. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

Military defence is the responsibility of the United Kingdom. The politics of the Falkland Islandsmarker is minimal, lacking any political parties and differing little from standard British governmental and legal proceedings. The constitution of the Falkland Islands was established October 3, 1985 and amended in 1997, and the islanders were granted full British citizenship from 1 January 1983 under the British Nationality Act 1983. English common law holds sway. A new constitution came into force on 1 January 2009.

Sovereignty issues

The Falkland Islands are also claimed by Argentinamarker. The loss of the war against Britain over control of the islands led to the collapse of the Argentine military dictatorship in 1983. Disputes over control of the islands continue.

In 2001, British Prime Minister Tony Blair became the first prime minister to visit Argentina since the war. On the 22nd anniversary of the war, Argentina's President NĂ©stor Kirchner gave a speech insisting that the islands would once again be part of Argentina. Kirchner, who was campaigning for the presidential elections in 2003, regarded the islands a top priority. In June 2003 the issue was brought before a United Nations committee, and attempts have been made to open talks with the United Kingdom to resolve the issue of the islands.

Executive branch

Within the executive branch of the Falkland Islands, the chief of state has been Elizabeth II since February 6, 1952. Since May 1999 the viceroy of the British Crown has been Governor Donald Lamont and the head of government has been Chief Executive Michael Blanch. Lamont was succeeded by Howard Pearce on 3 December 2002. He was succeeded in September 2006 by Alan Huckle, then governor of Anguillamarker.

Blanch was succeeded by Chris Simpkins in March 2003. After Chris Simpkins left office in September 2007, Blanch was again appointed as interim Chief Executive. He was followed by Tim Thorogood in January 2008. The cabinet consists of an Executive Council, with three members elected by the Legislative Council, two ex officio members (the chief executive and the financial secretary) and the governor.

Legislative branch

The legislative branch consists of a unicameral Legislative Council, with 10 seats, two ex officio and 8 elected by popular votes. Members serve four-year terms.

Judiciary

The judicial branch consists of a Supreme Court; the chief justice is a nonresident. The Government employs five lawyers - the Attorney General, Principal Crown Counsel, Senior Crown Counsel, Crown Counsel and a Legislative Drafter.

The Falkland Islands does not have its own Bar or Law Society. There is no differentiation between being a barrister or a solicitor here - the private practitioners are called legal practitioners. The Legal Practitioners Ordinance defines who can hold themselves out as being a legal practitioner and therefore have rights of audience before the Falkland Islands courts. Only the Chief Justice of the Falkland Islands can prohibit a legal practitioner from practising.

The court system is fairly straightforward. There is a panel of Justices of the Peace (JPs) who sit in the Summary Court. JPs are all non-lawyers and are made up of "upstanding members of the community". They would hear the most simple of criminal cases (or sit when the Senior Magistrate is not in the Islands) and they also act as the Licensing Justices - Licensing Justices deal with alcohol-related applications, such as extended opening hours, special occasion licences, etc.

Next in line is the Senior Magistrate who presides over the Magistrate's Court. The SM is usually a UK qualified lawyer, with at least 10 years experience as an advocate and, usually, with some judicial experience. The SM holds office for three years maximum and is then replaced. The SM is resident in the Islands and hears the majority of cases from, again, simple criminal and civil matters right up to very serious criminal matters or complex civil cases. The SM hears appeal from the Summary Court.

In both the Summary Court and the Magistrate's Court, both on the criminal and civil side, there is no jury.

The Chief Justice (CJ) presides over the Supreme Court. The CJ is generally a senior barrister or solicitor with a good amount of judicial experience in the UK. The CJ is not resident in the Falkland Islands but travels here if and when necessary to hear cases. The most serious criminal and civil matters are reserved for the Supreme Court. In civil matters, again, generally there is no jury. However, in criminal matters, the defendant can elect trial by judge and jury or judge alone. This is the defendant's choice. There are only a few criminal cases that can, and indeed, must, be heard before the Supreme Court. These are murder, manslaughter, rape, piracy, treason and arson with the intent to endanger life. The CJ hears appeals from the Magistrate's Court.

From the Supreme Court, appeals are sent to the Falkland Islands Court of Appeal. This court is based in the Court of Appeal in London. There are three UK Court of Appeal Judges who are appointed to be the Falkland Islands Court of Appeal. And, finally appeals from the Court of Appeal are sent to the Privy Council, which essentially is exactly the same body as the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords.

Elections and parties

There are no elections for the executive branch in the Falkland Islands. The monarch is hereditary, and the Governor is appointed by the monarch. For other elections, suffrage is universal, with the minimum voting age at 18.

The Falkland Islands elects a legislature on territorial level. The Legislative Assembly has 10 members, 8 of which are elected every 4 years and 2 members ex officio. As of the last elections, 17 November, 2005, only non-partisans have been elected; there are no active political parties in the Falkland Islands. The next elections will be held in November 2009.

References

  • L.L. Ivanov et al., The Future of the Falkland Islands and Its People, Double T Publishers, Sofia, 2003, 96 pp. ( Complete text) ISBN 954-91503-1-3
  1. New Falklands constitution agreed, BBC News, 6 November 2008







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