Thursday, October 05, 2006

Regime Change the British Way

Europe's last feudal state has finally turned itself into a democracy.

Residents on the tiny island of Sark, which measures 3 miles by 1 1/2, voted this week to change its system of government to an elected council, bringing it in line with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The island of Sark (population 500) lies off the northern coast of France but is part of the UK Channel Islands and has been a self-governing feudal state since 1533 when Queen Elizabeth I gave the island to the ancestor of the current island's inhabitants.

The next election on Sark will see one person-one-vote for the first time as its residents elect a new governing body - known by its ancient title of the Chief Pleas.

With no written constitution, the governing structures of the British Isles have evolved over centuries, with the Channel Islands (Guernsey, Jersey, Aldernay and Sark) occupying a unique constitutional position. Each island is self governing and technically independent, yet intricately linked to the United Kingdom through history, language and shared culture. Although Channel Island residents have no restrictions on living on the mainland, the same is not true for Britons wishing to reside on the islands. Strict financial and ancestral qualifications have made these enigmatic lumps of rock havens for tax exiles and the super rich, as well as holiday destinations for British and French tourists.

At least now, the residents of Sark, which has no cars on it, will be able to formerly influence their tiny island government for the first time in 450 years.

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