The island is divided into three counties: Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey. These counties (whose designations are used infrequently) are then divided into 14 parishes (whose designations you will often hear). The parishes of Jamaica are Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Thomas, Portland, St. Mary, St. Ann, Trelawny, St. James, Hanover, Westmoreland, St. Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon and St. Catherine. Each of these parishes has a capital city to handle local governmental matters.

Since 1962, Jamaica is an independent nation in the British Commonwealth. Jamaica’s government is a parliamentary democracy based on that of Great Britain, with a Governor-General appointed by the Crown. An appointed Privy Council advises the Governor-General on matters pertaining to the Crown, while much of the real power of the government resides in the office of the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister is appointed by the Governor-General, as are the various Ministers of the Cabinet who are recommended for appointment by the Prime Minister.

The Jamaican legislature is composed of two houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House is composed of 60 members elected to five-year terms, while the Senate consists of 21 members appointed by the Governor-General on advice of the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition.

Jamaica’s high court is the Supreme Court, with justices appointed by the Governor-General upon recommendation of the Prime Minister. Its legal system is based on English Common Law.

At present there are three main political parties: The People’s National Party (PNP), the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the National Democratic Movement (NDM). Voting age is 18 years.