Wales profile

  • 15 January 2013
  • From the section Europe

Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II

Prime Minister: David Cameron

First Minister (Prif Weinidog): Carwyn Jones

Image caption Carwyn Jones increased his Labour Party's support at the 2011 Assembly elections

The Government of Wales Act set up the National Assembly, which opened in 1999. Of the 60 members, 40 are elected under the First Past the Post system, with an addition 20 elected through a proportional Additional Member System of regional lists in five regions. The First Minister of Wales heads the executive Welsh Assembly Government, to which the Assembly delegates most of its powers.

Labour, the largest party in Wales since before the Second World War, has led all governments since 1999 under Alun Michael, Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones, either ruling alone or in coalition with the Liberal Democrats or Plaid Cymru.

A Welsh-speaking barrister born in Swansea, Mr Jones has represented industrial Bridgend in the Assembly since 1999, and took over the important agriculture portfolio the following year. He became minister of education in 2007 and leader of the House in the subsequent coalition with Plaid Cymru.

When Rhodri Morgan stepped down as first minister and Labour leader, Mr Jones convincingly saw off two other challengers for the posts in December 2009.

His confident stewardship of the coalition and success in winning the referendum on greater powers were rewarded with a surge in support at the May 2011 Assembly elections, leaving Labour only one seat short of an overall majority.

Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats suffered losses, widely attributed to the compromises they made in the coalition governments in Cardiff and London respectively, and the Conservatives became the second-largest party for the first time.

Mr Jones said he would form a minority government without Plaid or Liberal Democrat ministers, although both parties indicated their willingness to cooperate with Labour issue-by-issue.