Bahamas Government and Politics

According to, since 1973, the Bahamas has been an independent, parliamentary-democratic unitary state within the British Commonwealth. The British Queen is the head of state and is represented by a Governor General. This is appointed on the suggestion of the Prime Minister and plays no independent political role. The supreme executive power lies with the government and the prime minister, who is at the same time responsible for the House of Assembly, which is elected by Parliament, which has 40 members. The House of Assembly is elected for five years, but the government can print new elections at any time. Parliament also includes a politically less important 16-member senate, who is appointed by the Governor-General on a proposal from the Prime Minister and the opposition leader.

Bahamas Country Flag

Reference: Bahamas Flag Meaning

The Bahamas has a relatively stable democracy dominated by two parties, the Free National Movement (FNM) and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of BS and its meanings of Bahamas. FNM is dominated by European-born, while PLP is characterized by citizens of African background. The country has the highest per capita income in the Caribbean and a relatively well-developed welfare state; economic policy is market oriented. Stability is threatened by corruption and the dominant unofficial economy; The Bahamas has been and is a major transit country for drugs and illegal immigration from Latin America to the United States.

Administratively, the Bahamas is divided into 21 districts.


The courts are independent and include magistrates’ courts, the Supreme Court, an appeals court and, ultimately, the Judicial Committee of the British Privy Council. All courts judge in criminal cases as well as in civil cases. The legislation is based on British common law.

Weights and Measures

British measuring and weight units are in use.

Bahamas defense

The Bahamas defense force is a maritime force with patrol and surveillance tasks in the special waters of the archipelago. The Defense Force has 21 patrol vessels, three light aircraft for transport and surveillance, one aid vessel, and a staff of 1300 active personnel (2018, IISS)

Guyana has a naval base at New Providence.

History and Politics

The first residents of the Bahamas

The Bahamas were first settled around 400. It is not known who these people were, but individual fishing settlements have been found. Then in the 9th and 10th centuries came the Lucayan, an Arawak tribe who are counted among the Taino. The Lucayan came from the Lesser Antilles. From there they fled from the island Caribs, which advanced north. Gradually, the population on the islands grew to around 40,000 people.

Columbus discovers America – and lands in the Bahamas

On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed in America while searching for the sea route to India, as we know today. The first country he and his men saw and then entered after the crossing was an island in the Bahamas. The locals named their island Guanahani, Columbus baptized it San Salvador. He called the residents Indians because he thought he was in India.

Which island Columbus actually landed on is not exactly clear. It was probably today’s San Salvador, but other islands like Samana Cay would also be possible.

Extermination of the inhabitants

Columbus took possession of the island for the Spanish crown. However, the Spaniards did not settle on San Salvador or any of the other islands. The soil was barren and there was no gold, silver or other valuable raw materials. But the inhabitants of the islands abducted the invaders – to Hispaniola (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic). There they had to work as slaves in the mines. As early as 1520, the inhabitants of the Bahamas were exterminated. The Bahamas remained uninhabited.

British settlers and pirate stronghold

In 1629, the British King Charles I finally claimed the islands of the Bahamas. It took more years for the first settlers to arrive: in 1649, British Puritans who were persecuted in Bermuda arrived on one of the islands. They called her Eleuthera, which is Greek and means “free”. They soon had to give up their settlement again because the soil was not fertile enough. Some sailed back to Bermuda, others settled in New Providence and other islands. Nassau was founded as Charlestown in 1656.

At the same time, many pirates used the islands as hiding places and starting points for their raids. Many ships, especially the Spaniard, sailed with their valuable cargo through the strait between Florida and Cuba. Other ships ran aground in the shallow waters of the Bahamas and were easy prey.

To drive away the pirates, Spanish and French fleets repeatedly destroyed settlements such as Charlestown, which had since been renamed Nassau. But the pirates kept rebuilding the city. In 1706 they even took control of the islands.

In 1717 the Bahamas were finally raised to a colony by Great Britain. In order to finally get the piracy under control, a former pirate named Woodes Rogers was appointed governor. He arrived in Nassau in 1718 and granted pirates impunity if they renounced piracy. Ten captains refused and fled, but were all caught. That was the end of piracy in the Bahamas.

British colony (1717-1973) – and smuggling paradise

The Bahamas has been a popular hub for contraband since the 18th century. The proximity to the USA gave it a favorable location, for example during the American Revolutionary War, the American Civil War or the time of Prohibition.

At the end of the War of Independence (1775-1783), new settlers also came to the Bahamas. They were so-called loyalists who were on the side of Great Britain and were now looking for a new home. They brought their slaves and planted them.

When slavery was outlawed in 1807 and the slaves were finally released in 1834, the economy in the Bahamas collapsed. Many plantation owners left the islands, some gave their land to their former slaves.

From the 1950s onwards, tourism became more and more important. The first political parties were founded to campaign for black rights. In 1962 women were allowed to vote for the first time. Calls for independence grew louder. In 1964 the Bahamas was allowed internal self-government. In the first elections, Roland Symonette was elected the first Prime Minister. In 1967 he was replaced by Lynden O. Pindling, who led the country to independence in 1973.

From independence until today

On July 10, 1973, the Bahamas gained independence from Great Britain. They remained in the Commonwealth, so that the British Queen continues to be head of state, represented by a governor.

Lynden Pindling remained Prime Minister until 1992. Tourism continued to flourish and low taxes made the Bahamas a popular financial center. The country also became a hub for drugs on the way from South America to the USA. Pindling and his government were accused of corruption.

From 1992 two prime ministers took turns in office: Hubert Ingraham from the conservative Free National Movement and Perry Christie from the social liberal PLP (Progressive Liberal Party). In 2018 Hubert Minnis became Prime Minister. Drug trafficking, corruption and high unemployment of 15 percent are problems the Bahamas continues to grapple with.

Bahamas Head of Government

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