Barbados elects its first-ever president as it sheds colonial past

October 21, 2021

Barbados has elected its first-ever president as it takes the first steps to becoming a republic.

Dame Sandra Mason, 72, was elected on Wednesday by a two-thirds vote of a joint session of the Caribbean country's House of Assembly and Senate.

Last year, Barbados announced its intention to remove Britain's Queen Elizabeth as its head of state and become a republic, shedding its colonial past.

The country of 300,000 gained its independence from Britain in 1966, though the Queen remained its constitutional monarch.

Dame Sandra will be sworn in on 30 November - the country's 55th anniversary of independence from Britain.

The former jurist has been governor-general of the island since 2018, and was also the first woman to serve on the Barbados Court of Appeals.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said the election of a president was "a seminal moment" in the country's journey.

She added: "We have just elected from among us a woman who is uniquely and passionately Barbadian, does not pretend to be anything else (and) reflects the values of who we are."

Ms Mottley also said the country's decision to become a republic was not a condemnation of its British past.

"We look forward to continuing the relationship with the British monarch," she said.

The election could benefit the country both at home and abroad, according to Wazim Mowla of the Atlantic Council think-tank.

She said the move makes the small developing country a more legitimate player in global politics, but could also serve as a "unifying and nationalistic move" that may benefit its current leadership at home.

Ms Mowla added: "Other Caribbean leaders and their citizens will likely praise the move, but I don't expect others to follow suit.

"This move will always be considered only if it is in the best interest of each country."

Barbados said last year it wanted "full sovereignty" by the time it celebrated its 55th anniversary of independence from the UK in November 2021.

In 1998, a Barbados constitutional review commission recommended republican status, and in 2015 Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said "we have to move from a monarchical system to a republican form of government in the very near future".

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