As a part of his party’s programme for government, Jamaican Prime Minister Andre Holness has announced that the country will seek to become a republic. Holness was keen to emphasise that Jamaica will maintain its links with the Commonwealth, but it would seem that the residual influence of Britain in other countries is finally declining. As a republican I welcome this news and I think that with the fanfare of the Queen’s 90th Birthday still in the forefront of people’s minds, I believe that more and more countries will start demanding their own heads of state.
No decision has been made on this important constitutional question however I believe the current political situation in Jamaica makes the abolition of the monarchy inevitable. In Jamaica the two main political parties, the centre-right Jamaican Labour Party and the centre-left People’s National Party, both support a Jamaican republic and all Representatives in the House are in these two parties. Having said that many Representatives could be monarchists but the fact that republicanism is the official position of both parties makes it a more acceptable concept to the voters.
If Jamaica became a republic, I believe that more countries that have retained the British monarch as their head of state will call for a similar transition. The emotional attachment that many people have to the monarchy is actually because of the Queen as an individual. Many people are philosophically republicans but have a personal appreciation for how the Queen has conducted herself as their head of state. If Jamaica becomes a republic whilst the Queen is still on the throne then the cause will be greatly advanced because it will show a philosophical principle in action.
The watershed moment for other countries will be after the death of Queen Elizabeth. I believe that people around the world will start to question why they don’t have a say on who becomes their next head of state, and from a more nationalistic perspective many will argue why another country’s head of state is also their own. There are a few candidate countries that may follow Jamaica’s lead but I don’t think a domino effect will really be started unless a ‘big’ country also ditches the monarchy. Jamaica is quite a significant country in terms of its cultural influence around the world and within the context of the Caribbean but I don’t think it would be unfair to say that the influence of Canada or Australia would probably be greater.
I had predicted that the decline of British relics of imperialism around the world would begin to decline and this is clearly an example of it. The institution of the monarchy, however, is not the only example. The prevalence of the Union Flag on many other national flags is another notable continuation of British influence, and I had hoped that New Zealand would have voted to change their national flag, even if it was orchestrated by a right-wing government seeking a political distraction.
Nevertheless, as someone who would like to see the decline of all forms of imperialism including the cultural hegemony of Western nations, the rejection of monarchism more generally must be encouraged. After the death of Queen Elizabeth many Commonwealth countries will re-evaluate the constitutional position of the monarchy in their domestic political systems. Hopefully we will soon be in a world with more republican governments.