Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II
Prime minister: Portia Simpson-Miller
The opposition People's National Party (PNP), led by Portia Simpson-Miller, won a closely-fought general election in December 2011 by a wide margin.
The snap poll was called by the incumbent leader, Andrew Holness from the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), who was seeking a new mandate after replacing Bruce Golding as party leader in October.
Jamaica's deep economic problems dominated the election. Mrs Simpson-Miller has vowed to appeal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to extend the period Jamaica has to repay its loans.
On taking up office in January 2012, she said she intended to make Jamaica a republic, and that 50 years after the country gained its independence from Britain, the time had come for it to break with the British monarchy and have its own president.
Portia Simpson-Miller was Jamaica's first female prime minister in 2006, but was narrowly defeated in elections in 2007, when Golding led the JLP to victory and ended 18 years of PNP rule.
A political veteran, Mrs Simpson-Miller is known for her plain-spoken style and portrays herself as a champion of the poor. She was born in rural poverty and grew up in a Kingston ghetto.