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Jamaica

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The Politics of Jamaica takes place in a framework of a representative parliamentary democratic monarchy. The 1962 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. Jamaica is an independent country and Commonwealth Realm. It is a parliamentary democracy whose political and legal traditions closely follow those of the United Kingdom. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament. Jamaica's current Constitution was drafted in 1962 by a bipartisan joint committee of the Jamaican legislature. It came into force with the Jamaica Independence Act, 1962 of the United Kingdom Parliament, which gave Jamaica political independence. Constitutional safeguards include freedom of speech, press, worship, movement, and association. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Jurisprudence is based on English common law.

Contents

Political conditions

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.

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, in December 1997 and in October 2002. 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 34 PNP and 26 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.

In 2005, JLP leader Edward Seaga (who had headed the party since 1974), announced his resignation from that position. He was succeeded by Bruce Golding, who had been a government minister under him in the 1980s, but who had broken from the JLP to found the NDM and had subsequently returned to the JLP.

In March 2006, Portia Simpson-Miller was appointed Jamaica's seventh Prime Minister. She is the first woman in the country's history to hold the position of Prime Minister of Jamaica.

On September 11, 2007, Bruce Golding assumed office as Prime Minister of Jamaica.

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.

Executive branch

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
Queen Elizabeth II 6 February 1952
Governor-General Patrick Allen 26 February 2009
Prime Minister Bruce Golding JLP 3 September 2007

The 1962 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 Queen, but exercised mostly by the cabinet, led by the Prime Minister.

Legislative branch

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; as a two-thirds majority of both chambers is needed for major constitutional amendments, this provides a consensus requirement for significant change. General elections must be held within five 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 one month or other bills for more than seven 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.

Political parties and elections

e • d  Summary of the 3 September 2007 Jamaican House of Representatives election results
Parties Votes % +/– Seats +/–
Jamaica Labour Party 405,215 50.14 +2.8 32 +6
People's National Party 402,275 49.77 –1.9 28 –6
National Democratic Movement 540 0.07
Independents 207 0.03 0 ±0
Jamaica Alliance Movement 3 0.00 0 ±0
Imperial Ethiopian World Federation Incorporation Party 0 0.00 0 ±0
Jerusalem Bread Foundation 0 0.00 0 ±0
Total (turnout 60.40%) 808,240     60  
Source: Jamaicaelections.com and Adam Carr

Judicial branch

The judiciary also is modeled on the UK system. The Court of Appeal 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.

Firearms offenses, including possession of unlicensed guns and ammunition, are tried before a dedicated Gun Court established in 1974. The Gun Court hears cases in camera and practices jury trial only for cases of treason or murder. All other cases are tried by resident magistrates or justices of the Supreme Court of Jamaica.

Administrative divisions

Jamaica is divided in 14 parishes: Clarendon, Hanover, Kingston, Manchester, Portland, Saint Andrew, Saint Ann, Saint Catherine, Saint Elizabeth, Saint James, Saint Mary, Saint Thomas, Trelawny, Westmoreland.

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

See also

References

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