Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation

Quick Facts - EOM Electoral Observation Mission in Jamaica - December 29, 2011

The forthcoming Election, scheduled for December 29, 2011, is expected to be contested mainly between the two major political parties of Jamaica, the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), led by Andrew Holness and the Portia Simpson-Miller-led opposition People's National Party (PNP). The major change since the last election is that the number of seats has been increased to an odd number, 63, from 60. The close results of the 2007 general election spurred the change as the Electoral Commission concluded that a tie would not be resolved.

In Jamaica, every person who is qualified to be registered as an elector, and is so registered, has the right to participate in free and fair elections based on the Constitution and the Fundamental Rights (Additional Provisions) (Interim) Act 1999. A person shall be qualified to be registered as an elector if he is a citizen of Jamaica; or is a Commonwealth citizen who is resident in Jamaica at the date of registration and who has been resident for at least twelve months immediately preceding that date; and has attained the age of eighteen years.

Jamaica is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy with the monarch being represented by a Governor-General. It gained its Independence with the adoption of a Constitution on August 6, 1962. As part of the British Commonwealth, the head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who officially uses the title "Queen of Jamaica" when she visits the country or performs duties overseas on Jamaica's behalf.

The Parliament of Jamaica is bicameral, consisting of the Senate or Upper House (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 8 seats) and the House of Representatives or Lower House (63 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)

Jamaica has traditionally had a two-party system, with power often alternating between the People's National Party (PNP) and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). Over the past decade a new political party called the National Democratic Movement (NDM) emerged in an attempt to challenge the two-party system. Jamaica is a full and participating member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Population and Demographics
Jamaica’s population is 2,847,232. According to the 2001 census, the majority of Jamaica's population is of African descent (referring to those who have origins mainly in Africa). The most common ethnic groups among all Africans taken to Jamaica were the Akan (known as the "Coromantee") and the Igbo. Multiracial Jamaicans form the second largest racial group many of whom also have some Irish ancestry although most mixed-race people on the island self-report simply as "Jamaican".

The official language of Jamaica is English. Jamaicans primarily speak an English-African Creole language known as Jamaican Patois, which has become known widely through the spread of Reggae music. Jamaican Patois was formed from a base of mainly English words with elements of re-formed grammar, together with a little vocabulary from African languages and Native American words. Some archaic features are reminiscent of Irish English.

As of 2010, Jamaica’s GDP was $23.716 billion. Jamaica is a mixed economy with both state enterprises and private sector businesses. Major sectors of the Jamaican economy include agriculture, mining, manufacturing, tourism, and financial and insurance services. Tourism and mining are the leading earners of foreign exchange. Half the Jamaican economy relies on services, with half of its income coming from services such as tourism. An estimated 1.3 million foreign tourists visit Jamaica every year.