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close this book Daughters of Sysiphus
close this folder Jamaica - A background
View the document Population
View the document Natural hazards and disasters
View the document Economy
View the document Politics
View the document Urban kingston
View the document Historical aspects of the household in Jamaica
View the document Shelter policies
View the document The construction labour force


Following independence, Jamaica adopted a parliamentary system of government with two main parties, the Jamaica Labour Party and the People's National Party (PNP). From 1962 to 1972 JLP was in power. Then in 1972 PNP swept to victory under a banner of democratic socialism and the country underwent a major political reorientation. In 1980 JLP returned to power again until February 1989, when Michael Manley of PNP was again sworn in as Prime Minister.

Jamaican political traditions vary considerably from those found in the liberal democracies of Europe and North America. Party feelings are more intense and militant and the low-income areas of Kingston, in particular, are polarized by their allegiance to one party or the other. Housing, jobs, and social benefits accrue to the followers of the party in power with the followers of the opposition being expected to wait until their party is re-elected.

Much of the violence associated with the political factionalism of the urban ghettoes results from the conflicts that arise with this kind of "pork-barrel" politics. Yet a tradition of settlement-based protection has also grown upend low-income households within the ghettoes have access to a form of civil defence that operates in the interests of the settlement as defined by its unofficial political leaders.