Central America

The Mayans dominated the early history of the area we now know as Belize and were present from 1500 BC to 200 AD and beyond.

The first European settlers were, by all accounts, shipwrecked British sailors who established a small colony in 1638 which grew over the next 150 years.

In 1840 the colony was established as British Honduras and in 1862 it became a Crown Colony.

In 1859 the British and Guatemalans signed a treaty, part of which was to build a road between Belize City and Guatemala. The road was never built and the Guatemalans, in the 1940’s, laid claim to what was then called British Honduras as part of their territory. This was to start a long standoff between the two countries which has led to the stationing of British troops and a small RAF presence in Belize ever since.

In 1954 Belize held its first elections. The People’s United Party (PUP) won 66.3% of the vote and eight of the nine seats in the House of Representatives. The large support for PUP with its agenda for self government was to lead to internal self government by 1964.

PUP swept the board in 1957 and again in 1961 when the House of Representatives was enlarged to 18 seats. In 1964 self government was granted, with the British still responsible for defence, foreign affairs, internal security and key public service appointments.

In 1973 British Honduras changed its name to Belize and on 21st September 1981 the country was granted full independence. The first prime minister of Belize was George Cadle Price, a founder of PUP, who was later to be called the Father of the Nation.

PUP went on to win every election except for three. In 1984 they lost to the United Democratic Party, dropping to just seven of 28 seats in the House of Representatives. In 1993 they lost to an alliance of the United Democratic Party and the National Alliance for Belizean Rights, but only narrowly, taking 13 of the 29 House of Representatives seats. The last time they lost was in 2008 when the United Democratic Party took 25 of the 31 seats in parliament.

In February 2011 Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced that new elections would take place on 7th March, nearly a year earlier than required by the constitution.

Queen Elizabeth II is Head of State

The bicameral parliament consists of the Senate or upper house and House of Representatives.

The Senate has 12 members appointed by the governor general; 6 on the advice of the prime minister, 3 on the advice of the leader of the opposition and 1 each on the advice of the Belize Council of Churches and Evangelical Association of Churches, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Better Business Bureau, and the National Trade Union Congress and the Civil Society Steering Committee. They serve five year terms.

The House of Representatives has 31 members elected by direct popular vote to serve five year terms.

There is no data available from Transparency International concerning their Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2011 for Belize.