Jamaica is a parliamentary democracy with a Westminster-style government characterised by a ceremonial head of state and a powerful executive composed only of members serving in a bicameral Parliament.

The Queen of Jamaica and head of state is Elizabeth II. The Queen is represented by a governor-general, who is nominated by the prime minister and who serves a largely ceremonial role.

The bicameral Parliament of Jamaica consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The 60 members of Parliament are directly elected by universal adult suffrage, and the leader of the majority party becomes prime minister. The 21 senators are appointed by the governor-general, 13 of them on the advice of the prime minister and eight on the advice of the leader of the opposition.

The cabinet (prime minister and at least 11 ministers) has executive responsibility. Elections are held at intervals not exceeding five years.

In February 2006, Portia Simpson-Miller of the People’s National Party became the first female prime minister in Jamaican history.

The judicial system is based on English Common Law, and comprises the Supreme Court (including the Commercial Court, Gun Court and Revenue Court); the Court of Appeal, the magistrates’ courts (including the traffic courts); the family courts and the courts of petty sessions. The Privy Council in the UK is the final court of appeal.