From the Guardian: Is democracy finally coming to Sark after 500 years?
Trouble is brewing in Europe’s last fiefdom. Sark’s parliament is holding a vote on Wednesday on whether to bring democracy to this Channel Islands outpost. Despite a historic referendum last October, in which 56% of the island’s 600-strong population voted for universal suffrage, change has been slow in coming. Now the final decision rests with 40 hereditary land-holders, or "tenants", and just 12 elected deputies.
Nobody has tried to change things on Sark for some time. Its arcane system dates back to Elizabethan times, with the head of the feudal government, or seigneur, owning everything, including anything that gets washed up on the island’s shores. The present incumbent, Michael Beaumont, has held the position for more than 30 years. Sark’s tenants are required to own a musket — a relic of the time Elizabeth I sent 40 Jersey men there to quell debauchery and piracy in the 16th century. There are no paved roads or cars, and bucolic harmony has reigned pretty much unchallenged (bar occupation by the Nazis) for more than 500 years. [continue]