Constitution established a parliamentary system
based on the United Kingdom
model. As chief of state, Queen Elizabeth II
appoints a governor general
, on the advice of the prime minister
, as her representative in Jamaica
. The governor general's role is largely ceremonial. Executive power is vested in the cabinet
, led by the prime minister.
Parliament is composed of an appointed Senate and an elected House of Representatives. Thirteen Senators are nominated on the advice of the prime minister and eight on the advice of the leader of the opposition. General elections must be held within 5 years of the forming of a new government. The prime minister may ask the governor general to call elections sooner, however. The Senate may submit bills, and it also reviews legislation submitted by the House. It may not delay budget bills for more than 1 month or other bills for more than 7 months. The prime minister and the Cabinet are selected from the Parliament. No fewer than two nor more than four members of the Cabinet must be selected from the Senate.
The judiciary also is modeled on the U.K. system. The Court of Appeals is the highest appellate court in Jamaica. Under certain circumstances, cases may be appealed to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. Jamaica's parishes have elected councils that exercise limited powers of local government.
Jamaica's political system is stable. However, the country's serious economic problems have exacerbated social problems and have become the subject of political debate. High unemployment--averaging 15.7% in 1999--rampant underemployment, growing debt, high interest rates, and labor unrest are the most serious economic problems. The migration of unemployed people to urban areas, coupled with an increase in the use and trafficking of narcotics -- crack cocaine and ganja (marijuana) -- contribute to a high level of violent crime, especially in Kingston.
Parts of Kingston, and some slum areas in other towns are controlled by gang leaders, called "dons", who derived their power initially from links to the leadership of the political parties, but over the course of the 1980s and 1990s acquired significant independence due to participation in the transshipment of cocaine from South America to North America and Europe and the export of Jamaican marijuana. In spite of this independence, many gangs continue to maintain links with the political parties in order to obtain protection from state authorities and from the United States government which, unsurprisingly, wishes to reduce the flow of cocaine and marijuana.
The two long-established political parties have historical links with two major trade unions--the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) with the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) and the People's National Party (PNP) with the National Workers Union (NWU). A third party, the National Democratic Movement (NDM), was created in October 1995; it does not have links with any particular trade union, and its leading figures have mostly withdrawn from it or significantly reduced their activity.
For health reasons, Michael Manley stepped down as Prime Minister in March 1992 and was replaced by Percival James Patterson. Patterson subsequently led the PNP to victory in general elections in 1993 and in December 1997. The 1997 victory marked the first time any Jamaican political party has won three consecutive general elections since the introduction of universal suffrage to Jamaica in 1944. The current composition of the lower house of Jamaica's Parliament is 49 PNP and 11 JLP. The JLP won a long-held PNP parliamentary seat in a March 2001 by-election. The NDM, a break away faction of the JLP, failed to win any seats in the 1997 election.
Since the 1993 elections, the Jamaican Government, political parties, and Electoral Advisory Committee have worked to enact electoral reform, with limited success. In the 1997 general elections, grassroots Jamaican efforts, supplemented by international observers, helped reduce the violence that has tended to mar Jamaican elections. Local elections were held in 1998, when the PNP won a decisive victory. Jamaican law requires that local elections be held every 3 years; elections may be delayed through legislation.
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Jamaica
Data code: JM
Government type: constitutional parliamentary democracy
Administrative divisions: 14 parishes; Clarendon, Hanover, Kingston, Manchester, Portland, Saint Andrew, Saint Ann, Saint Catherine, Saint Elizabeth, Saint James, Saint Mary, Saint Thomas, Trelawny, Westmoreland
Independence: 6 August 1962 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day (first Monday in August) (1962)
Constitution: 6 August 1962
Legal system: based on English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor General Sir Howard Felix COOKE (since 1 August 1991)
head of government: Prime Minister Percival James PATTERSON (since 30 March 1992) and Deputy Prime Minister Seymour MULLINGS (since NA 1993)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the prime minister; prime minister and deputy prime minister appointed by the governor general
Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (a 21-member body appointed by the governor general on the recommendations of the prime minister and the leader of the opposition; ruling party is allocated 13 seats, and the opposition is allocated eight seats) and the House of Representatives (60 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 18 December 1997 (next to be held by March 2002)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PNP 50, JLP 10
Judicial branch: Supreme Court, judges appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister; Court of Appeal
Political parties and leaders: Jamaica Labor Party or JLP [Edward SEAGA]; National Democratic Movement or NDM [Bruce GOLDING]; People's National Party or PNP [P. J. PATTERSON]
Political pressure groups and leaders: New Beginnings Movement or NBM; Rastafarians (black religious/racial cultists, pan-Africanists)
International organization participation: ACP, C, Caricom, CCC, CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G-15, G-19, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO (pending member), ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, LAES, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Richard Leighton BERNAL
chancery: 1520 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036
telephone:  (202) 452-0660
FAX:  (202) 452-0081
consulate(s) general: Miami and New York
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Stanley Louis MCLELLAND
embassy: Jamaica Mutual Life Center, 2 Oxford Road, 3rd floor, Kingston
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone:  (809) 929-4850 through 4859
FAX:  (809) 926-6743
Flag description: diagonal yellow cross divides the flag into four triangles - green (top and bottom) and black (hoist side and outer side)
Last updated: 08-17-2005 17:53:17