Grenada - Political background



Anglo-French rivalry during the eighteenth century was reflected in Grenada's numerous changes of ownership between Britain and France. In 1763, the island was ceded to Britain. It became a crown colony with limited self-government in 1877. Universal suffrage was introduced after World War II, largely as a result of pressure from labor groups. In 1967, full internal self-government was granted to Grenada and other Eastern Caribbean islands under a specially devised status that made these nations "Associated States" of Britain. Under this arrangement, Britain was responsible for external affairs and defense. In 1974, despite widespread social unrest and opposition to the prevailing leadership, Britain granted independence to Grenada. Two main political parties had emerged: the working class-oriented Grenada United Labor Party (GULP) and the Grenada National Party (GNP), which appealed to the middle and upper classes. GULP dominated the political scene until 1979 when its autocratic leader was removed in a coup staged by the socialist and youth-oriented New Jewel Movement (NJM). The NJM's People's Revolutionary Government (PRG) lasted until 1983 when internal factionalism led to the execution of its leader, Maurice Bishop, and several colleagues. After an appeal by the neighboring Eastern Caribbean states, the United States sent troops to restore order, paving the way for elections in 1984.

Until 1979, Grenada had been a parliamentary democracy, patterned along the lines of the British Westminster system. The PRG replaced this with rule by a Political Bureau supported by parish councils. In 1984, the Constitution was restored.

The legislature (Parliament) is bicameral, and the head of government (prime minister) is the leader of the majority party in Parliament. The head of state (governor general) performs mainly ceremonial and procedural duties. The country has retained its links with the British Commonwealth and the British monarchy. Between 1984 and 1995, Grenada's former two-party system was replaced by a vigorous multiparty democracy that engendered unstable coalition governments. This was changed in June 1995 when the New National Party (NNP) won a majority of eight (out of 15) seats in the House of Representatives. The opposition was formed by the National Democratic Congress (NDC), holding five parliamentary seats, and the GULP, with two seats. The NNP leader, Keith Mitchell, became prime minister. In December 1998, the country's foreign minister, Raphael Fletcher, resigned from the government, citing concerns about governmental integrity and disenchantment with the prime minister's leadership style. His resignation was preceded by an unsuccessful vote of no-confidence brought by the opposition. Fletcher's resignation left the government without a parliamentary majority, and fresh elections were called as required by the constitution. In January 1999, the NNP, led by Mitchell, was returned to power, winning 14 of the 15 parliamentary seats (GULP held the single remaining seat). Five parties and two independent parties contested the results. The NNP gained 62.2% of the vote while its nearest rival (GULP) gained only 24.9%. The next elections were scheduled for October 2004, but amid political and economic turmoil in 2003, Mitchell planned to call early elections.

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