Essex's political system is democratic and tiered. Though this enables issues on a local and regional level to be dealt with quickly and efficiently, smaller issues that require national attention often get bogged down and lost as they reach higher strata. External critics have noted that, where necessary, it gets the job done, but could prove to be easily subverted. The system has evolved organically since its inception in 1992.
The High Minister is the Head of State and Head of Government. He or she is expected to be the face of the nation in international politics and holds three votes in the Parliament. The High Minister can choose to delegate any desired task to a representative in Parliament, or a named external source provided he or she receives five votes of agreement from a randomly-selected council.
The Parliament is the senior decision making body. Regional councils (of which there are fifteen) all elect three Ministers into Parliament. Ministers hold a single vote each and are expected to voice the concerns of their region; though not strictly a rule, it is a rule of etiquette for at least one of the ministers to speak on behalf of the minority view in the region.
The Assembly is the regional decision making body and has a single representative from each council. Representatives are expected to debate issues of regional importance, which vary depending on the urbanisation/ruralisation rate of the region and other such factors. Representatives vote for Ministers and are expected to devote roughly equal time to debating the finer points of Parliamentary edicts and to the needs of the region. It is often said that 'the lone voice stops here', as it is nearly unheard of for a single person's opinion to be spoken in an Assembly.
The Council is roughly equivalent to a parish council. Councillors, of whom one from each commune are elected, debate issues here that involve cooperation between communes. Due to the indistinct nature of a Council's borders, they are often found to cooperate with immediate neighbours.
Communes are the basic operative division in Essex. They have populations from as low as ten up to a hundred and fifty. Communes are based around farms or factories and exist to ensure that all participants have an equal voice in running an efficient operation. Most communes choose their chairs by lottery and vote for their Councillors, but this is not universal. For instance, communes with a strong family will often be led by their resident patriarch or matriarch regardless of vote or lottery. Some large, powerful families have manifested themselves; for example the Woolner family leads ten separate communes and is able to pool its collective wealth. Communes generally also double as independent businesses unless they choose to remain nationalised, but members from one are fully able to work in another. Every family in Essex has at least one member in a commune.
The post of High Minister is determined by the person with the greatest number of votes from the entire electorate of the Essex population. Assembly members run for election into the parliament and parliament members run for re-election every three years; the highest-voted of the Ministers, whether or not they are experienced in parliament affairs, automatically becomes High Minister.
The current High Minister is Jim Barker-McCardle. Born in Southend-on-Sea in 1962 he became an officer in the Kent police in 1981. Following Doomsday he and a number of other officers attempted to hold law and order together; failing that, they retreated to help a small community. In 1987 a large turf war began in the area, with Barker-McCardle's community caught in the crossfire. In 1988 he led his group northwards and after a firefight on the Isle of Grain - which resulted in the destruction of an abandoned oil refinery - he and his community managed to escape across the Thames Estuary and landed in Stanford-le-Hope. Barker-McCardle accepted a place in the military, but found the orders he had to follow increasingly difficult to comply. When revolution occurred in 1990 he was one of the first to defect. In 1992, a local legend for his fighting reputation, he was elected Representative for Wickford, launching his political career. After becoming mayor of Southend in 2000 Since then Barker-McCardle's reputation has grown as a sharp-witted and sharp-mouthed character who supports the military and the growth of Essex's power. His daughter, Laura Barker-McCardle, joined the army at 16 and, having practiced with her father, became an excellent shot. Having fought as a sniper in the War of 2008 and the 2010 Invasions Laura was suggested for taking part in the Europa Games, and won gold for shooting. This drew further increased the attention to the Barker-McCardles.
Barker-McCardle was the commander of Essex's rapid and successful invasion of Kent. He forged an alliance with local communities, such as the walled city of Canterbury, and with the survivalist Ray Mears, and managed to use technology and allies to quickly establish control over the area. His rapid success made him extremely popular, compared to the incumbent Lee Evans, whose military actions were seen as cumbersome and costly. The news of his successful invasion propagated primarily in southern Essex where he already had a large amount of support, having been the former mayor of Southend. As the news spread amongst troop columns moving to the Thames Estuary and from them to the locals, he practically assured his victory. Control over the populous south of Essex ensured he would have a majority of votes and, on June 21st 2011, Jim Barker-McCardle was elected High Minister.
So far he has introduced sweeping reforms into the Essex. Recognising that Essex's chances for territorial expansion are limited, he has directed the nation towards establishing itself as an economic powerhouse in lieu of any real strategic advantage. His 'Resolution Policy' is geared towards three main areas: military, economic, and social.
His current term will end on June 21st, 2014.
Unlike many other survivor nations, Essex and its associated territories are run in a (technically) non-party democracy. Communes are all expected to run councils to maximise efficiency and cooperation, and elect or place lots for members to join regional assemblies, whose control generally is over a single borough. These assemblies administer the passage of subsidized supplies throughout the boroughs and also mediate disputes and coordinate actions between the communes. Members of these assemblies can then run for election on the Essex parliament, or if there are not enough volunteers selected in a lottery. The parliament focuses on issues of national importance, such as holidays, military exploits, and (recently) the creation of a standard currency.
As said, there are no distinct parties within the Essex government, as ministers are expected to act within the interests of their electorate rather than a broader party. Nonetheless, loose affiliations of common interests are formed at the assembly and parliament level resulting in a small number of clearly distinguishable groups: the Progressives, who favour expansion; the Corporatists, who wish to accelerate the rate of free market development and are pushing strongly for establishing a currency; and the Socialists, who wish to subsidize the supply of food and water.
Under new government for the first time in nine years, Essex is quickly finding its footing. Under the direction of Jim Barker-McCardle's Resolution Policy the nation is quite rapidly adapting. Over a dozen chartered companies were established between the introduction of simplified setting up of such organisations on July 2nd and September 30th. Many of these have established themselves in the recently-conquered East Midlands, in Kent, and along the Thames. Barker-McCardle is extremely keen to increase the number of chartered companies so as to secure resources for Essex without having to directly involve the government. He has also introduced the Friendly Trade Statute, which pressures small communities trading with Essex into buying Essaxon goods along with food; the alternative for these are higher tariffs. The communities, or 'dependents', in Essaxon legal phraseology, have yet to establish organised resistance to these efforts.
Essex remains a vocal member of the Organisation of British Nations, and represents the largest power of the member states both in terms of population and industrial capacity. Despite this it is still very dependent on its neighbours, particularly Woodbridge for the supply of military equipment, and East Britain which is one of the main buyers of Essex-produced agricultural equipment. Essex's suggestion to found the OBN came following the 2008 War, when it was felt that had the countries cooperated they would have finished the campaign faster, and perhaps could have managed to prevent it from beginning (especially with air support from Woodbridge, though Essex now fields an air force). As such Essex is the strongest supporter of a unified military force for the OBN, with conviction that has only slightly lessened since Jim Barker-McCardle came into power.
One issue between Essex and Woodbridge is the border territory of Babergh, which lies between Colchester and Ipswich. Being located right between the countries it has remained a talking point for several years, with numerous suggestions for its administration registered. Though a 'split down the middle' option was popular, it was proposed for usage as either a wildlife sanctuary (given the destruction of many areas reserved for wildlife in the rush of farm construction post-Doomsday) or as a huge power generation facility, with both countries helping to construct a large system of wind turbines and hydroelectric dams along the Stour and Orwell rivers that run on either side of the territory. However, official government representatives announced that Woodbridge would formally relinquish any claims over Babergh when Essex agreed to hand over complete control of West Suffolk to Woodbridge, at some point between 2013 and 2015. Though its future still remains in doubt, Babergh is nonetheless being extensively colonised by Woodbridgers and Essaxons keen to gain a stake in the future development of the area.
Although initially being keen in expanding Essex's territory, High Minister Barker-McCardle has mostly abandoned plans for expansion in favour of letting chartered companies do the legwork, with minimal state intervention. Essex plans to extend economic control over the rivers Thames and Great Ouse but only by sponsoring a brownwater navy controlled by the chartered companies. Road and rail repairs outside of the state have to be paid for by the communities they will service. Reflecting his voting base, Barker-McCardle has plans for a large and sweeping urban redevelopment program on the area around Southend, to create a lasting and working infrastructure in the 18-mile urban corridor from Basildon to the coast - an area he wishes to transform into 'a British Venice', the centre of shipping to the East Anglian nations. He also has indicated a desire to reclaim and rebuild the northern portion of Colchester which was mostly undamaged by the bomb, rebuilding it back into a garrison town, at some point in the near future. Analysts suggest this is primarily a political move to win him votes in the north.
Barker-McCardle, amongst other points of the Resolution Policy, has also pledged to roll out parliamentary representation to all of Essex's recently acquired territories.