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Trinidad and Tobago Political System

Political system

Trinidad and Tobago is a parliamentary republic. The president is head of state but has a mainly ceremonial role while the government has the executive power. The smaller island of Tobago has been self-governing since 1987. Party politics is largely divided by ethnic divides, with one party representing Indotrinidadians and one having its main support among Afrotrinidadians.

The country is a member of the Commonwealth that consists of Britain and the former British colonies. The British monarch was head of state until 1976, when a new constitution transformed Trinidad and Tobago into republic. The President is appointed for a term of five years by an electoral college consisting of members from both chambers of Parliament.

  • Countryaah: Total population and chart of Trinidad and Tobago for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.

The Senate, Parliament's first chamber, has 31 members, 9 of whom are elected by the president, 16 are elected by the prime minister and 6 by the opposition leader. The House of Representatives, the Second Chamber, has 41 members who are elected in general elections. Previously, elections would be held at a maximum of five years apart - the head of government could freely choose an opportunity - but after a constitutional change in 2014, the term of office should be five years. The voting age is 18 years.

The constitutional reform in 2014 also means that a prime minister may not sit for more than two terms of office. In addition, a second round of elections was introduced when no candidate for a parliamentary seat receives more than half of the votes in the first round. The second round is then held between the two candidates who received the most votes, or between three candidates if the third received more than 25 percent of the votes and is no more than 5 percentage points after the second. In addition, the voters' opportunities to dismiss a member of parliament prematurely were expanded.

Political System of Trinidad and TobagoThe government has the executive power and is led by a prime minister who appoints other ministers. The government is responsible to Parliament.
Since 1980, Tobago has its own House of Assembly and in 1987 gained full internal autonomy. The Tobago Legislative Assembly has 15 members, appointed over four years. Twelve of them are elected and three are elected by the largest political party.

Political parties

Party politics has long been characterized by ethnic affiliation. The People's National Movement (PNM) has its main support among blacks, especially in the cities, while the United National Congress (United National Congress, UNC) has traditionally had its base among voters of Indian origin. PNM counts as a center-right party, while UNC is more left-wing. UNC has emerged from a trade union movement for Indian workers on the sugar plantations (see Population and Languages).

Abandoned UNC members formed in 2006 a new party, the People's Congress (Congress of the People, COP), which tried to attract all communities. The COP did not enter parliament in the 2007 elections but since 2010 has been part of the People's Partnership (PP) dominated by UNC.

Administratively, Trinidad and Tobago are divided into nine regions, three boroughs, two cities (cities) and one district (ward - Tobago).


The legal system is based on British law and practice. The regional organization Caricom inaugurated in 2005 the Caribbean Court (Caribbean Court of Justice, CCJ) based in Trinidad and Tobago's capital Port of Spain. CCJ decides cases between different Caricom states and is also intended to replace the British Privy Council as the highest court for the Caricom countries. Trinidad and Tobago belong to the majority of Caricum members who have not yet switched to CCJ as the highest authority; there is some disagreement about how the change should be implemented.

Despite strong international criticism, the death penalty was reinstated in 1999, after a period when the violent crimes increased sharply, and in the same year ten men were hanged. Since then, no one has been executed, though death sentences, according to Amnesty International, are delivered at an alarmingly rapid rate.

Since 1999, impunity can also be imposed for, among other things, rape. Increasing crime related to drugs in recent years has prompted increased support for stricter sentences. The murder rate, as in much of the Caribbean, is among the highest in the world and kidnappings have become a major problem.

According to the Constitution, Trinidad and Tobago have an independent legal system, but it is ineffective with high burden on the courts and long waiting times. The prisons are overcrowded and the conditions have been called "cruel and inhuman" by Amnesty International. There are many reports of abuses by police and prison guards. There is a general view that corruption in the police and government is extensive and that leading politicians are often corrupt.

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