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Brief History - Jamaica


The evolution of our electoral process

In 1944 Jamaica adopted a new constitution. Representative Government replaced Crown Colony Government. Instead of a semi- representative one chambered legislature there were two chambers, one elected and one nominated. For the first time in the history of Jamaica , the franchise was extended to all adults of twenty-one years old and over.

The Constitution provided for an executive council of five nominated members and five elected members. It provided for greater representation of the people's interest.

The abolition of Crown Colony Government and the adoption of Universal Adult Suffrage necessitated the creation of a government body mandated to administer subsequent elections. Thus, the Electoral Office of Jamaica was established in 1943 to administer Parliamentary and Local Government Elections.

In 1962 Jamaica gained its sovereignty from Britain. The present system of government is based on the British Westminster model where there is a House of Representative made up of elected members and a Senate made up of selected members.

Election as a political institution is the principal means of choosing the representatives of the executive and legislative offices of the country. It is this important process that the Electoral Office of Jamaica administers.


1944 - Jamaica's first truly National voting experience took place on December 12, 1944. At this time, the country had been granted full adult suffrage for the election of members to the House of Representatives. Led by Alexander Bustamante, the JLP won 22 seats, the PNP. won 5 and the Independents won 5 seats. It's of historic importance to note that Bustamante won his seat in Kingston but the PNP leader, Norman Manley lost his in St. Andrew. 55.15% of the electorate voted. The second arm of the Bi-cameral Legislature was the Legislative Council which had 3 official members and 13 unofficial members appointed by the Governor. The House of Representatives elected 5 of its members to the Executive Council which advised the Governor on National Policy and prepared the Budget. Other Council Members were the Colonial Secretary, the Attorney General, the Financial Secretary, and 2 Unofficial Members appointed by the Governor from among the members of the Legislative Council. The Governor presided over meetings and had a casting vote. The 5 Members elected by the House of Representatives were given administrative responsibility for (1)Finance (2)Communications (3)Agriculture, Land and Commerce (4)Education and (5)Social Welfare.

1949 - This the 2nd General Parliamentary Elections was held on December 20, 1949. The J.L.P. won this election with 42.7% of the vote even though the P.N.P.'s 43.5% accounted for a larger number of voters. 63.80% of the electorate voted. The important thing to note here is under this system of "first pass the post", the P.N.P. who had a larger majority of the votes, won only 13 seats while the J.L.P. won 17 seats. Independents along with two then emerging parties - The Agricultural Industrial Party and the United Party of Jamaica had candidates contesting, but won no seats. In 1953 the Ministerial System of Government was formally introduced as part of the Executive Arm of Government and the Hon. Alexander Bustamente became the first Chief Minister by the approval of the House of Representative and as such was responsible to nominate 7 other Ministers to be appointed by the Governor who served as part of the Executive Council.

1955 - The 3rd General Parliamentary Elections was contested on January 12, 1955. The P.N.P. won for the first time, with a poll of 50.5% of the vote and a total of 18 seats compared to the J.L.P.'s 39.1% of the vote and 14 seats. 63.93% of the electorate voted. Eleven independents ran along with four minor parties. The Hon. Norman Manley became the second person to become Chief Minister. In 1957 the Executive Council was replaced by the Council of Ministers which had 12 members, 10 of whom were chosen from the elected members and 2 from the Legislative Council and was presided over by the Chief Minister.

1958 - Norman Manley took the country into the West Indies Federation with the other British islands in the Caribbean. In the federal election of the 17 seats allotted to Jamaica, the J.L.P. won 12 compared to the P.N.P.'s 5. Neither party leader ran for the Federal Parliament.

1959 - The 4th General Parliamentary Elections was strictly between the two parties. The election which was held on July 28, had 45 established constituencies. Of the 45 seats the P.N.P. took 29 with 64.4% of the votes and the J.L.P. the remaining 16 seats with 35.6% of the votes. 65.35% of the electorate voted. Jamaica having gained Internal Self Government abolished the Council of Ministers and this was replaced by the Cabinet headed by the Premier the Hon. Norman Manley and 11 other Ministers chosen by the Premier and appointed by the Governor. The position of Parliamentary Secretary was also introduced. The Legislative Council was restructured to comprise 2 to 3 persons appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Premier and 18 other persons appointed at the discretion of the Governor to represent differing political views in the House of Representatives. During this time the J.L.P. began agitation for Jamaica to withdraw from the Federation.

1961 - The country's first Referendum was held to determine Jamaica's position on the Federation as the P.N.P. supported membership, and the J.L.P. was in support of a withdrawal. On September 19th, Jamaica voted 54.1% answering "No" to the question "Should Jamaica remain in the West Indies Federation?". 45.9% voted "Yes". 62% of the electorate voted.

1962 - The 5th General Parliamentary Elections took place on April 10. Two major parties contested all constituencies (45 at the time). The People's Political Party polled in 16 constituencies and Independents in 8 constituencies. The J.L.P. won with 26 seats and 50.04% of the votes, and the P.N.P. 19 seats with 48.6% of the votes. 72.29% of the electorate voted and The Rt. Hon. Sir Alexander Bustamante became the first Prime Minister of Independent Jamaica.


1967 - The 6th General Parliamentary Elections was contested on February 12th. Constituencies were increased to 53. The J.L.P. won 33 seats with 62.3% of the votes, while the P.N.P. took 18 seats with 37.7% of the votes. 81.46% of the electorate voted. The Rt. Hon. Donald Sangster became the second Prime Minister. In March he became seriously ill and died in April. The Rt. Hon. Hugh Shearer succeeded him as the third Prime Minister. The P.N.P. in 1969 chose Michael Manley, son of Norman Manley as the new leader of the party.

1972 - The 7th General Parliamentary Elections was held on February 29th. The P.N.P. won 37 seats with 69.8% of the vote and the J.L.P. took 16 seats with 30.2% of the votes. 78.20% of the electorate voted. The Rt.Hon. Micheal Manley became the fourth Prime Minister.

1976 - The 8th General Parliamentary Elections were held. Constituencies were increased to 60 seats. The P.N.P. took 47 seats with 78.3% of the votes while the J.L.P. won 13 seats with 21.7% of the votes. 84.50% of the electorate voted. The Rt.Hon. Micheal Manley again became Prime Minister. This election was held during a National State of Emergency.

1979 -The Electoral Advisory Committee created by Parliament.

1980 - The 9th General Parliamentary Elections were held on October 30, 1980. The J.L.P. took 51 seats with 85% of the votes while the P.N.P. won 9 seats with 15% of the votes. 86.10% of the electorate voted. The Rt.Hon. Edward Seaga who was chosen Leader of the J.L.P. in 1974 became the fifth Prime Minister.

1983 - The 10th General Parliamentary Elections were held on December 15, 1983. The P.N.P. boycotted these elections, consequently J.L.P. represented all 60 constituencies. 28.94% of the electorate voted.

1989 - The 11th General Parliamentary Elections were held on December 9, 1989, these elctions were won by the P.N.P. with 45 seats and 75% of the votes, to the J.L.P.'s 15 seats and 25% of the votes. 77.59% of the electorate voted. At the end of March 1992, Michael Manley retired from active Political Life, and leadership of the P.N.P. was won by P.J. Patterson.

1993 - The 12th General Parliamentary Elections were held in February. 669,164 persons voted, representing 66.74% of the electorate. The P.N.P. secured 86.7% of the votes and 52 seats compared to the J.L.P.'s 13.3% and 8 seats. The Independents and the Republican party had some votes, but no seats. The Rt. Hon. P.J. Patterson became Prime Minister.

1997 - The 13th General Parliamentary Elections were held on December 17, 1997. The P.N.P. won 50 seats with 83.3% of the votes while the J.L.P. won 10 seats with 16.7% of the votes. The National Democrat Movement contested elections for the first time and secured 36,707 votes. 65.22% of the electorate voted. The Rt. Hon. P.J. Patterson was returned as Prime Minister.

2002 - The 14th General Parliamentary Elections were held on October 16, 2002. The P.N.P. won 34 seats with 51.6% of the votes while the J.L.P. won 26 seats with 46.9% of the votes. The Imperial Ethiopian World Federation Inc (IEWP) party, the United Peoples Party (UPP) , the National Democratic Movement (NDM) and a few Independents all contested the elections and achieved 4,057 votes all together. 59.06% of the electorate voted. The Most Hon. P.J. Patterson was returned as Prime Minister for a historic third time and P.N.P. a historic fourth term.

2006 – The senate passed the Electoral Commission (Interim) Act 2006 on October 20th, 2006, clearing the way for the creation of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (E.C.J.). Its responsibility is to protect the electoral process from the immediate direction, influence and control of the Government, which may influence its functioning to the detriment of persons with opposing views who may wish to participate in the process.

2007 - The 15th General Parliamentary Elections was held September 6, 2007. The JLP won 32 seats with 49.98% of the votes while PNP won 28 seats with 49.35% of the votes. The national Democratic Movement, Imperial Ethiopian World, Jerusalem Bread Foundation and independent candidates all contested the elections and achieved 5,532 votes all together. 61.46% of the electorate voted. The Hon. Bruce Golding became Jamaica’s eighth Prime Minister since Independence.