Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley has hailed a landslide victory in the Caribbean nation’s first general election since it became a republic last year, as preliminary results showed her governing party won every seat in the national legislature.
Mottley in December called the snap election for January 19, saying it would help promote unity as the island nation battled the coronavirus pandemic, which has damaged its tourist economy.
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Preliminary results released on Thursday indicated Mottley’s Barbados Labor Party (BLP) had secured all 30 seats in the House of Assembly, the lower house of the island’s parliament.
“We stand today on the morning of the 20th of January confident that the people have spoken with one voice – decisively, unanimously and clearly,” Mottley told cheering supporters at the headquarters of the BLP.
The victory gives Mottley, the nation’s first female leader, a second five-year term as prime minister. A majority of 16 seats was required for a win, and Mottley achieved the same sweep when her party won elections in 2018.
“We want to thank each and every one of the people of Barbados for the confidence that they continue to repose in us,” she said in the victory speech, which was broadcast online.
The vote came after Barbados officially became a republic in late November, replacing the British monarch as its head of state and severing its last remaining colonial bonds nearly 400 years after the first English ships arrived on the island.
Barbados faces economic challenges ahead, including rebuilding its damaged tourist economy. Mottley has pledged to focus on financial security, nutrition, renewable energy projects and housing.
She noted that Barbados, an island of more than 300,000 people that has reported more than 37,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections, is still fighting the pandemic that has battered its tourism sector.
“We have done well as a nation, but we are still not out of the woods,” she said after her swearing-in.
Mottley said she would announce her Cabinet on Monday and declined to share details about any upcoming changes to government positions.
Leaders from around the region hailed the election results, including Carla Natalie Barnett, the secretary-general of the Caribbean Community, a 15-member regional trade bloc, who congratulated Mottley on her “resounding victory”.
Mottley’s main opponent, Verla De Peiza of the Democratic Labor Party, conceded defeat.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also congratulated Mottley on her win. “We look forward to deepening our partnership with Prime Minister [Mottley] and her administration,” Blinken wrote on Twitter.
Congratulations to the people of Barbados on their first elections as a republic. We look forward to deepening our partnership with Prime Minister @miaamormottley and her administration. Our strong relationship is rooted in trust, respect, and abiding friendship.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) January 20, 2022
Mottley’s call for a snap vote had moved up the election by about a year and a half from mid-2023.
Opposition leaders had criticised Mottley for holding the election at a moment when some people were infected with coronavirus and could not leave their homes.
“We’ve lost our democracy without intending it,” De Peiza told local media, calling the voter turnout “depressive”. She added, “It was a reckless time to call an election.”
More than 266,000 people were eligible to vote and preliminary information suggested that 50 percent participated.