New Zealand Is 1st Commonwealth Nation to Rule Out Republic in Wake of Queen’s Death

Antigua says it will follow Barbados in shedding UK monarch as head of state
By Chris Summers
Chris Summers
Chris Summers
Chris Summers is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in crime, policing and the law.
September 12, 2022 Updated: September 14, 2022

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has become the first Commonwealth leader to rule out the possibility of her country becoming a republic while she’s in power in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death.

On Sept. 11, Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said he would push for a referendum on becoming a republic in the next three years, following the lead of regional neighbor Barbados, which became a republic last year.

Browne told ITV, “This is not an act of hostility or any difference between Antigua and Barbuda and the monarchy, but it is the final step to complete that circle of independence, to ensure that we are truly a sovereign nation.”

In June, the Jamaican government stated that it also planned to transition toward becoming a republic by 2025.

Jamaican Constitutional Affairs Minister Marlene Malahoo Forte told the parliament in Kingston that “the goal is to ultimately produce a new constitution of Jamaica, enacted by the parliament of Jamaica, to inter alia, establish the Republic of Jamaica as a parliamentary republic, replacing the constitutional monarchy, and affirming our self-determination and cultural heritage.”

Not on the Agenda

But on Sept. 12, Ardern said: “I’ve made my view plain many times. I do believe that is where New Zealand will head, in time. I believe it is likely to occur in my lifetime. But I don’t see it as a short-term measure or anything that is on the agenda any time soon.”

Epoch Times Photo
Britain’s Prince William, Prince of Wales (C), and Camilla, Queen Consort (R) watch as King Charles III signs a document during a meeting of the Accession Council in St James’s Palace in London on Sept. 10, 2022. (Victoria Jones/Pppl/AFP via Getty Images)

New Zealand and Antigua are among 14 former colonies of which King Charles III is the head of state, with each one being represented by a governor-general.

The other Commonwealth nations are Canada, Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Sept. 11: “Now is not a time to talk about our system of government; now is a time for us to pay tribute to the life of Queen Elizabeth. Quite clearly, this is a time of national mourning.”

After winning the general election in May, Albanese appointed Matt Thistlethwaite to the new position of assistant minister for the republic. Thistlethwaite said there would be no change in the queen’s lifetime.

Albanese is on record as having said that holding a referendum on becoming a republic wouldn’t be a priority during his first term.

In 1999, Australia held a referendum on becoming a republic—with a president chosen by parliament, replacing the British monarch as head of state—and 54 percent of voters rejected the idea.

The leader of the opposition Labor Party, Kim Beazley, said at the time: “The referendum was quite clearly lost because of the way it was set up, setting up one form of republic against the other. Nothing will ever kill off the republican movement. Nothing will kill it until it succeeds.”

The leader of Canada’s third largest party, the NDP, said last week that he was in favour of the country becoming a republic.

Jagmeet Singh told CTV: “I’m a republican. … I don’t see the relevance of [the British monarchy]. I don’t think most Canadians do. … We are a nation, and we are proud of our nation, and we are proud of our democracy, and I think we should focus on that.”

Chris Summers is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in crime, policing and the law.