Queen Elizabeth II makes first state visit to Barbados

Written by Staff Writer

Barbados have pushed back to 2019 the date of their general election, in a bid to ensure two-thirds of its members of Parliament vote to form a new government. The former home of Barbados 2 is holding a celebratory ceremony today marking the birth of its new republic. Queen Elizabeth II becomes the 22nd woman head of state in the Commonwealth, and the first since India’s Indira Gandhi, who resigned in May 1972, and died in December.

The country opened fire with champagne and drums when the Queen arrived to represent the Commonwealth, due to take place on April 12, to mark 50 years since she ascended to the throne. After 50 years, she no longer wears crowns, and has announced that she’ll stop wearing the gowns that accompanied the ceremonial ceremonies.

Wearing a turquoise blue gown, the Queen arrived by helicopter and looked relaxed in the island’s capital, Bridgetown. The island’s succession system, wherein one MP automatically becomes the first female leader, was confirmed, as the country’s president, David Thompson, swore in Prime Minister Mia Mottley — elected at a by-election in August — and her cabinet.

Queen Elizabeth II in a turquoise blue dress and crown during her tour of Antigua and Barbuda in 2007, and at Parliament in Bridgetown. Credit: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images

Prime Minister Mottley laid a wreath for her grandmother — before continuing on to address the crowd of an estimated 300,000, who all shouted “we love you” as the Queen left. The Queen will become an honorary member of the Barbados Tricolor, when she heads to the island on a state visit next May.

Barbados is a tiny oasis in a sea of island race which stretches for more than 2,000 miles from Australia, through the Bahamas, and past Brazil to North and South America. The country’s 5.5 million inhabitants have a very mixed history, with locals representing at least two thousand nationalities.

A woman puts up party masks of Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana in celebration of the Queen’s diamond jubilee in 2011. Credit: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 drew many overseas visits by ambassadors and officials, but Barbados was already proud to claim the mantle of being the last island in the British Commonwealth that hadn’t lost its independence. Some locals think it’s time for a switch to democracy.

“It’s been very unfortunate, how the people of Barbados as a whole have lived through the last few years and it’s going to take quite a while for all the pieces to fall in place,” said US-born politician and entrepreneur, Jerome Smith.

Smith was the only elected candidate in the August 2016 election, when a win for Prime Minister Mottley would have replaced the self-described “temporary party” of the last twenty years, when only 34% of Barbadians voted. Mottley lost to incumbent Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, who was previously warned by the Supreme Court to accept 48 legislators from 36 seats, including 10 independents, if he wished to form a majority.

Prime Minister Mottley and her cabinet watching a video from a previous election on their arrival at Parliament. Credit: Christopher Kitrosser/AFP/Getty Images

Mottley hopes the current national deal will encourage more citizens to participate in democracy and allow for more stable and lasting government. Having been promised special privileges, the Prime Minister is keen to avoid making too many changes on the basis of an 80-year tradition.

The Queen is 87 years old. The New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is 43.

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