Barbados elects president to replace Queen Elizabeth as head of state

Sandra Mason will be sworn in on November 30 as Caribbean island marks 55th anniversary of independence from Britain

Sandra Mason, right, former governor general of Barbados, will replace Queen Elizabeth as the Caribbean country's head of state after being elected president on October 21, 2021. AFP
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Barbados has elected its first president to replace Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state in a decisive step towards shedding the Caribbean island's colonial past.

Sandra Mason was elected late on Wednesday by a two-thirds vote of a joint session of the country's House of Assembly and Senate. The government described it as a milestone on its "road to republic".

A former British colony that gained independence in 1966, the nation of just under 300,000 had long maintained ties with the British monarchy. But calls for full sovereignty and homegrown leadership have become louder in recent years.

Ms Mason, 72, will be sworn in on the country's 55th anniversary of independence from Britain. A former jurist who has been governor general of the island since 2018, she was also the first woman to serve on the Barbados Court of Appeals.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley called the election of a president “a seminal moment” in the country’s journey.

"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 said.

Wazim Mowla of the Atlantic Council think tank told Reuters the election could benefit Barbados at home and abroad.

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

"Other Caribbean leaders and their citizens will likely praise the move, but I don’t expect others to follow suit," he said. "This move will always be considered only if it is in the best interest of each country."

Ms Mottley 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.

Updated: November 30, 2021, 11:28 AM