The Return to Elected Government, 1936-53

The Return to Elected Government, 1936-53

Resenting the pressure that had been brought to bear upon them to grant reserve powers, the unofficial members of the Legislative Council successfully lobbied for the inclusion of elected members, as had been offered when the council agreed to grant the governor reserve powers. In 1936 five of the seven unofficial posts of the twelve-member council became elected ones. In 1939 the council expanded to thirteen, the new member being an elected one. The mix of official and appointed members was shuffled several times before the council was replaced in 1954.

The institution of elections for council members, however, did not bring mass political participation. Property requirements for voters and candidates effectively excluded nonwhite people from government. And until 1945, women could not vote before the age of thirty, while men could vote when they turned twenty-one. In the 1936 election, only 1,035 voters--1.8 percent of the population-- cast ballots. Even as late at 1948, only 2.8 percent of the population voted. After World War II, the cause of self-rule in British Honduras benefited from the growing pressure for selfgovernment and decolonization throughout the British Empire. The labor movement and the PUP, which was founded in 1950, called for greater political participation. In 1947 the Legislative Council appointed a commission of enquiry to make recommendations for constitutional reforms. The commission issued its report in 1952 and recommended moving slowly ahead with reforms, paving the way for an opening of the political system to greater popular participation.

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