Barbados presidential election: Bertie Beckles is elected

Image copyright Darren Robert Roberts Image caption Barbadian High Commissioner Nadine Phillips concedes defeat in Barbados’ presidential election Barbados has elected its first president in more than two centuries, replacing Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II…

Barbados presidential election: Bertie Beckles is elected

Image copyright Darren Robert Roberts Image caption Barbadian High Commissioner Nadine Phillips concedes defeat in Barbados’ presidential election

Barbados has elected its first president in more than two centuries, replacing Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

Bertie A Beckles was awarded the office by consensus on Tuesday, while holding cabinet portfolios as finance minister and human resource and social development minister.

Mr Beckles, an 80-year-old historian and lawyer, defeated his two challengers by a slim margin.

The Caribbean island’s last president, Ralph Tweedie, died in November.

The three other candidates had no opposition, and had been nominated by their respective political parties.

Mr Beckles succeeds Sir James Dunn, who was Britain’s first head of state in Barbados, and who served for 28 years.

Image copyright FIONA HORNSBY/POLITICS PHOTO LIBRARY Image caption Workers at the Barbados parliament fixed the two golden crowns atop their statues in the Bruyere Gardens for Sir James Dunn’s final performance as head of state.

The rare sight of a single candidate running for president of Barbados had been hinted at on the eve of the election, BBC News politics editor Laura Kuenssberg reports.

On Sunday, 19 supporters of Mr Beckles’ Eide+al party – which holds seven of the 15 seats in the state legislature – held a peaceful rally outside the parliament to urge voters to back a change of regime.

The crowd numbered about 200, but barbed wire and police were quickly at the gates and allowed the rally to pass.

“Things are going in the right direction, there has been some progress but no one ever stays in the job forever,” retired nurse Ingrid, 68, told the BBC.

Image copyright NORVAJITAND BETTS/CC BY 2.0 Image caption The setting sun casts a shadow on the statue of Sir James Dunn

But Britain’s role in the Caribbean has changed significantly in recent years, as Caribbean states have sought to get closer to their political, economic and social needs.

Concerns have been raised about a potential trade war between the UK and the US, which could slow overseas travel to Barbados and further reduce investment.

And Britain’s ongoing withdrawal from the European Union – which affects the island’s lucrative overseas territories – will be discussed at its upcoming high-level Brexit summit.

Image copyright NORVAJITAND BETTS/CC BY 2.0 Image caption Sir James Dunn served as Barbados’ head of state for 28 years

Delegates have estimated that a further 1,000 UK jobs will be lost as a result of Brexit and that every Barbadian’s livelihood could be affected.

“The fallout of Brexit will have a serious impact on our prosperity,” Matthew Norman, general secretary of the Barbados Trades Union Congress, told BBC News.

Image copyright NORVAJITAND BETTS/CC BY 2.0 Image caption Over the years, the Caribbean country’s high commissioner in the UK has met the Queen numerous times

Sir James Dunn’s entire 28-year reign, which was criticised by some for not facing up to the nation’s high unemployment and failing to eradicate poverty, is considered to be the longest in Barbados’ history.

Sir James Dunn often used his annual visit to the UK to raise awareness about Barbados’ problems, but was never held responsible for any failure.

His successor, Mr Beckles, has promised to “renew” the country’s priorities.

“Our country has experienced a great deal of change in the past 25 years,” he said.

“We have had an elected prime minister, president, prime minister and parliamentary speaker.

“We now need someone who will be able to devote his life to the well-being of Barbados.”

Image copyright NORVAJITAND BETTS/CC BY 2.0 Image caption Banneker Blake, 83, at his picketing post on the steps of parliament

Banneker Blake, 83, a civil servant from Port Royal, joined colleagues on the steps of parliament on Tuesday to sign a petition calling for Mr Beckles to be rejected by the people.

“To hear it one day you are happy, then you are angry. You then think why are we angry when we know he’s not a bad man,” Mr Blake said.

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