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Commonwealth Chairperson-in-Office

IncumbentKamla Persad-Bissessar
Incumbentsince26 May 2010
Termlength2 years
Formation12 November 1999
InauguralThabo Mbeki

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The Commonwealth Chairperson-in-Office (CIO) is the Chairperson-in-Office of the Commonwealth of Nations, and is one of the main leadership positions in the Commonwealth. It is held by the host chairperson of the previous Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), and is maintained until the next CHOGM.

The primary responsibility of the Chairperson-in-Office is to host the CHOGM, but their roles can be expanded. For example, after the 2002 CHOGM, the incumbent, previous, and next Chairpersons-in-Office formed a troika in an attempt to resolve the ongoing dispute over Zimbabwe's membership of the Commonwealth.

The position was created after the 1999 CHOGM, with Thabo Mbeki becoming the first Chairperson-in-Office. However, Mbeki did very little to develop the position, leaving it virtually vacant until the next CHOGM, in 2002, when the troika was created. Even after John Howard became Chairperson, the troika's first meeting was in London, in the presence of the Commonwealth Secretary-General, whose office drafted the troika's statement: leaving little role for the troika itself, but potentially increasing the power of the Secretary-General. The third Chairperson, Olusegun Obasanjo, did more to revive the role of the position after taking over in 2003.

Perhaps the most active Chairpersons have been the Prime Ministers of Trinidad and Tobago, Patrick Manning and Kamla Persad-Bissessar. For the first time, a single country produced two chairpersons for a single CHOGM, after Manning lost a snap general election he called more than two years before polls were due.

Since the assumption of the role at the 2009 CHOGM, representatives from Trinidad and Tobago, including the Prime Ministers, have attended Commonwealth meetings, including 2011 Commonwealth Day celebrations where Persad-Bissessar, the first female to chair the Commonwealth, gave the keynote address. Trinidad and Tobago is also slated to host the much anticipated Commonwealth Economic Forum in 2011.

It is expected that following the 2011 CHOGM, Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia, will succeed Persad-Bissessar as the second female Chairman. It also naturally follows that this would be the first time that successive female heads of government will Chair.

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