The people of Barbados have elected the first president in the history of the country. The office will be taken over by a woman, 72-year-old Sandra Mason, who will succeed Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom as head of state. The island, a former British colony, is about to be transformed from a monarchy into a republic.
72-year-old Sandra Mason is due to be sworn in as president on November 30, the 55th anniversary of Barbados independence from Britain. Mason, the first woman to sit on the Barbadian Court of Appeal, served as the country’s general governor since 2018.
The historic presidential elections took place after a joint session of both houses of the Barbados parliament. Prime Minister Mia Mottley called the vote a “turning point” for Barbados.
Change of the regime
Barbados gained independence from Great Britain in 1966. Until now, the British Queen has remained a constitutional monarch and head of state. In 1998, the Barbados constitutional review commission recommended republican status. Last year, the island authorities announced a plan to change the country’s political system.
– It’s time to completely leave our colonial past behind. We want a Barbados head of state, said Governor General Sandra Mason in September last year, reading a speech by Prime Minister Mia Mottley. – This is the final confirmation of faith in who we are and what we are able to achieve. Therefore, Barbados will take another logical step towards full sovereignty and become a republic before the celebration of the 55th anniversary of independence, she announced. The island authorities emphasized then that they wanted to achieve these goals by November 2021.
Following the others
Barbados, with a population of 285,000, is one of the most populous and wealthy islands in the Caribbean.
It is not the first former British colony in the Caribbean to become a republic. Guyana took a similar step in 1970, less than four years after independence from Great Britain. Trinidad and Tobago followed suit in 1976, and the Dominican Republic in 1978. The possibility of changing the system from a constitutional monarchy to a republic was also signaled in the past by Jamaica.
After independence, most Caribbean countries formally ties with the British monarchy.
Main photo source: PAP / PA