Barbados elects first president as it prepares to drop Queen as head of state


Barbados has elected its first president in a pivotal step towards cutting ties with Queen Elizabeth as its head of state.


Dame Sandra Mason, 72,was elected late on Wednesday by a two-thirds vote of a joint session of the country's House of Assembly and Senate and is set to be sworn in on 30 November, which will mark the country's 55th anniversary of independence from Britain.


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


The prime minister, Mia Mottley, hailed her victory as a historic landmark for the island.


"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," said Mottley.


Barbadians have long wanted to remove the Queen's status -- and with it, the lingering symbolic presence of imperialism over its governance.


Barbados will not be the first former British colony in the Caribbean to become a republic. Guyana took that step in 1970, less than four years after gaining independence from Britain. Trinidad and Tobago followed suit in 1976 and Dominica in 1978.


Jamaica has in the past hinted that it might also consider the change.


The Queen is still head of state in more than a dozen other countries that were formerly under British rule, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand.