Barbados to hold first election since becoming a republic

FILE PHOTO: Presidential Inauguration Ceremony as Barbados becomes a republic, in Bridgetown
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By Brian Ellsworth

(Reuters) - Barbados on Wednesday will hold general elections called by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the Caribbean nation's first vote since it became a republic last year by removing the British Queen as its sovereign.

Mottley, whose Barbados Labor Party now controls 29 of the legislature's 30 seats, in December said the vote would help promote unity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, which has heavily hit the country's tourism-focused economy.

Barbados in November removed Queen Elizabeth as head of state and replaced her with President Sandra Mason in a ceremony coinciding with its independence day that included the presence of Britain's Prince Charles.

Mottley in a campaign speech in the community of Pie Corner on the northeast end of the island on Monday made little mention of the pandemic, focusing instead on public works carried out under her party and berating rivals' lack of leadership.

Verla De Peiza of the opposition Democratic Labor Party has called the snap election - called a year and a half before the law requires - "alarming to our democracy" and raised questions about the public health risks of the vote and limitations on suffrage of those infected with COVID-19.

Some 5,000 people of a population just under 300,000 were in isolation after being infected with coronavirus, according to official figures.

Mottley on Monday said the opposition had filed a court injunction seeking to stop the election.

The lawsuit alleges that the exclusion of people quarantined due to the coronavirus is a violation of voting rights, according to local media reports.

(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Caracas; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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