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Montserrat: Political Systems
Country Study > Chapter 1 > Regional Overview - Commonwealth of Caribbean Islands > Political Independence > Political Systems


Despite generally similar political traditions throughout the region, there are marked differences among the political systems in the various countries. For example, in the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Barbados, a strong two-party political system has developed, and the performance of third parties has been dismal in elections. Trinidad and Tobago has a multiparty system, which, between 1956 and 1987, was dominated by the People's National Movement, first under the leadership of Eric Williams (party leader, 1956-81) and then under George Chambers (party leader, 1981-87). Furthermore, in Trinidad and Tobago, ethnic politics constitutes a significant part of the political equation, as Hindu and Muslim East Indians compete and form coalitions with black Trinidadians.

In the smaller islands, a number of factors have coincided to make dual-party, democratic politics a difficult achievement. In some cases the populations are simply too small to provide the critical mass of diversity and anonymity. Family and kin relations make secret balloting and privacy elusive. The associations and cooperative organizations that were so important in Jamaica, Barbados, or Trinidad did not exist in the smaller societies. As a result, political stability and coherence of the type found in the larger countries have been difficult to achieve in smaller countries. For example, between 1979 and 1983, the government of Grenada was taken over by a band of self-avowed Marxists led by Maurice Bishop and Unison Whiteman. The People's Revolutionary Government, as it called itself, tried to create a new type of politics in the British Caribbean -- namely, a populist government ruling without the benefit of elections.

Data as of November 1987

Last Updated: November 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Montserrat was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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