Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a governor-general.
Prime minister: Freundel Stuart
Freundel Stuart first became prime minister when his predecessor, David Thompson, died in office in October 2010.
Mr Stuart, who had been deputy prime minister and attorney general, was appointed by Governor General Sir Clifford Husbands to head the government until the next elections.
These were held in February 2013 and were a close-run race: although polls had predicted a narrow win for the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP), in the event Mr Stuart's Democratic Labour Party (DLP) scraped through to victory with 16 seats in the 30-member House of Assembly.
The BLP is considered to be conservative and pro-business, while the DLP is considered to be more attuned to the needs of working people.
The 2013 victory is the DLP's second consecutive win. In the January 2008 elections, it won 20 parliamentary seats and came to power after 14 years of government by the Barbados Labour Party under the leadership of former Prime Minister Owen Arthur, the current opposition leader.
Mr Stuart said his government would continue with its policies, despite facing very difficult economic circumstances and what he described as "the worst crisis the world has seen in a century".
Barbados suffered several credit rating downgrades in the run-up to the election, and Mr Stuart's government has struggled to stabilise the shaky economy.
Barbados has a two-house parliament comprising the directly-elected House of Assembly and the Senate.