Jamaica - Political background

According to historical records, the country was first settled by the Ciboneys who migrated from Florida and later the Amerindian people who sailed from the Orinco region of South America. In 1509, Spaniards established the first European settlement. After 161 years of Spanish domination, the island was captured by the British in 1655.

Jamaica won its independence from Britain in 1962 and enjoys a democratic form of government. It functions through a governor general, appointed by Queen Elizabeth II of Britain and a prime minister, who normally leads the majority party. A bicameral legislature is made up of 60 elected members of the House of Representatives and 21 members in the Senate. Members are nominated by the government and the opposition parties are appointed by the governor general.

Jamaica's political life is dominated by three political parties: the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), the People's National Party (PNP), and the newly formed National Democratic Movement (NDM). Both the JLP and the PNP evolved from the trade union movement, which developed in the 1930s throughout the English-speaking Caribbean. To date both parties get substantial support from their affiliated trade unions. The NDM was formed in 1995 as a result of party conflicts between the leader of the JLP, Edward Seaga, and former party chairman, Bruce Golding.

Under the Jamaican Constitution, general elections are held every five years or Phen Parliament is dissolved. Provision is also made for the election of a local government for each of the 13 parishes. The prime minister must be an elected official. The voting age is 18 years.

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