Sandra Mason was elected Wednesday evening by a two-thirds vote of a joint session of the country’s Assembly and Senate, an important step, the government said in a statement, on its “path to the republic.”
A former British colony that gained independence in 1966, the nation of just under 300,000 people has long had ties to the British monarchy. But calls for full sovereignty and local leadership have multiplied in recent years.
Mason, 72, will be sworn in on November 30, the 55th anniversary of the country’s independence from the United Kingdom. A former lawyer who has served as governor general of the island since 2018, she was also the first woman to serve on the Barbados Court of Appeal.
The Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, called the election of a president a “turning point” in the course of the country.
“We have just elected from among us a woman who is uniquely and passionately Barbadian, does not claim to be anything else [and] reflects the values of who we are, ”Mottley said after Mason’s election.
Wazim Mowla of the Atlantic Council think tank told Reuters news agency the elections could benefit Barbados both at home and abroad.
The move makes Barbados, a small developing country, a more legitimate player in world politics, Mowla said, but could also serve as a “unifying and nationalist movement” that could benefit its current leaders in the country.
“Other Caribbean leaders and their citizens will likely praise this decision, but I don’t expect others to follow suit,” Mowla added. “This decision will always be considered only if it is in the best interests of each country. “
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.
Barbados was claimed by the British in 1625. It has sometimes been called “Little England” for its loyalty to British customs.
It is a popular tourist destination; before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than a million tourists visited its idyllic beaches and crystal-clear waters each year.
The easternmost island of the Caribbean is also known to be the birthplace of superstar singer Rihanna, who is a Barbados ambassador tasked with promoting education, tourism and investment.