Jamaica’s First General Election

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Jamaica was granted full adult suffrage on November 20, 1944. Prior to that, the right to vote was determined by the amount of wealth or property a man held, and women were not allowed to vote at all. The new system extended voting rights to adults irrespective of their race, sex, or social class. A new constitution was granted that year, providing for an elected and nominated executive council responsible for determining the country’s policy. The executive council was chosen from the party that won the majority in the Legislative Council.

Jamaica’s first truly national voting experience took place less than a month later on December 12. The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), led by Sir Alexander Bustamante, won 22 seats. The People’s National Party (PNP), led by his cousin Norman Manley, won five seats and the Independents also won five. Those who won seats were voted into office by 55.15 per cent of the electorate.

The second arm of the Bi-cameral Legislature was the Legislative Council, which had three official members and 13 unofficial members appointed by the Governor. The House of Representatives elected five 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 two 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 five Members elected by the House of Representatives were given administrative responsibility for:

  1. Finance
  2. Communications
  3. Agriculture
  4. Land and Commerce
  5. Education
  6. Social Welfare