By James Moules
ANTI-monarchy movements across the Commonwealth of Nations have commended Barbados as it removes Queen Elizabeth II as head of state to become the world’s newest republic.
On November 30, 2021, the Caribbean island nation completed its transition to a republic following its government’s announcement in September 2020 that Barbados would abandon the monarchy.
Barbados had been a constitutional monarchy since independence from the UK in 1966, recognising Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state.
Sandra Mason, who previously held the office of governor-general, has assumed the new office of President of Barbados.
As a result of Barbados’ new republic, there are now 15 Commonwealth countries that recognise Elizabeth II as head of state – including the UK.
Graham Smith, a spokesperson for the UK campaign Republic – which seeks to remove the monarchs as heads of state in Britain – said: “A huge congratulations to Barbados for this historic moment in their nation’s story.
“Barbados isn’t just doing themselves a favour, but are showing the way for the other 15 Commonwealth realms.”
Smith also lauded Barbados’ adoption of a parliamentary republic – in which the remaining political system largely remained intact but replaced the monarch with a ceremonial president.
“Barbados answers one of the most common questions we hear: what’s the alternative? The alternative is simple, a parliamentary system with a largely ceremonial head of state.”
“Barbados has also shown how simple it is to change a constitution, and how smooth the transition can be.”
Support for abolition of the monarchy is currently low in the UK, with a Redfield & Wilton Strategies poll for the New Stateman in July 2021 suggesting only 18 per cent of respondents favour a republic compared to 53 per cent backing the monarchy.
Queen Elizabeth II herself also holds high popularity ratings, with an August 2021 YouGov poll finding that 80 per cent have a positive opinion of the reigning monarch – including 51 per cent with a ‘very positive’ opinion.
Only 13 per cent expressed a negative view of the Queen.
Smith believes that the Queen’s personal popularity is what holds the institution of the monarchy together in Britain.
He said: “The Queen is the monarchy for most people. After she dies the future of the institution is in serious jeopardy. Charles may inherit the throne, but he won’t inherit the deference and respect afforded the Queen.”
Polling suggests that Prince Charles’ popularity is lower than that of the Queen, with the same YouGov survey suggesting 54 per cent hold a positive view of him and 37 per cent a negative opinion.
Barbados has not been the only Caribbean nation to consider the issue of republicanism.
Jamaica’s opposition leader Mark Golding voiced calls for the country to follow Barbados in abolition of the monarchy earlier this month, and Prime Minister Andrew Holness has also previously expressed his support for such a move.
Republicanism also has strong support in Australia, with a March 2021 Essential poll showing 48 per cent of respondents backing a republic and just 28 per cent in favour of keeping the monarchy.
Australia held a referendum on abolishing the monarchy in 1999 in which voters rejected a republic by 55 per cent to 45 per cent. However, debate over the monarchy’s future in Australia remains ongoing, with the main opposition Labor Party supporting the change.
New Zealand Republic, which campaigns for New Zealand to abolish the monarchy, also welcomed Barbados’ move.
“Congratulations Barbados for successfully making the transition to a republic,” Lewis Holden, campaign chair of New Zealand Republic said.
“The focus now moves to who will be next to become a republic, of the remaining 15 Commonwealth members with the British monarch as head of state.
“Of course, our campaign for Aotearoa to make that change continues.”
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