Europe's last feudal state debates moves towards democracy
Sark is currently ruled by the chief pleas - a body of 40 unelected local landholders which dates back to the 16th century - plus 12 elected deputies
LONDON, Feb 22, 2008 - The body which runs a remote and tiny island
between England and France is meeting Thursday to discuss the introduction of
democracy to Europe's last fully feudal state.
Sark is currently ruled by the chief pleas -- a body of 40 unelected local
landholders which dates back to the 16th century -- plus 12 elected deputies.
This is all set to change: in 2006, residents voted in favour of a fully
elected government and the island has signed the European Convention on Human
Rights, which affirms the need for "an effective political democracy".
But the chief pleas have expressed concerns about the reforms and an
extraordinary meeting is being held Thursday to decide if they will finally
accept the changes with elections looming by December.
The island -- population 600 and lying 80 miles (130 kilometres) off the
southern English coast and 20 miles from northern France -- is not technically
part of Britain but is a British crown dependency.
It is just three miles long by 1.5 miles wide and has no tarmac roads or
water mains. Cars are banned and residents get around on foot or by bicycle.