Queen’s death opens floodgates for autonomy campaigns

The colonies over which the House of Windsor once ruled are now the Commonwealth, a loose collection of 56 member states that sometimes benefit from the British state. But many are restless, and the loyalty and respect their governments have pledged to Elizabeth will be tested by a new, more political and less royal monarch.

“The reason why so many countries have remained in the group [is that] they didn’t mean to offend him,” said Elisabeth Braw, senior researcher at the American Enterprise Institute with a specialty in the UK. “Countries stayed, stayed with the status of having her as head of state much longer than they would have because they felt so much loyalty to her personally.”

Take Australia, which for decades rumbled with Republican sentiment. Although a 1999 referendum on whether to replace the monarchy with a president was rejected, newly elected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese this year appointed the country’s prime minister leading the transition to becoming a republic.

With the Queen now gone and replaced by the much less adored King Charles III, Australian Republicans are preparing for a replay of the referendum. However, that is unlikely to happen in the short term, as Albanese pledged during his election campaign earlier this year not to hold a republican referendum before his second term – assuming he wins one. one – probably voting four to five. years in a row.

Before that, Australians will be elected on a more pressing issue: in its first term, the Albanian government promised to hold a referendum on the “voice in parliament” – a body to be enshrined in the Australian constitution that would allow Aboriginal and to Torres Strait Islanders to advise parliament and government.

In neighboring New Zealand, a recent survey found that the majority favor maintaining ties with the monarchy even after the Queen’s death, although Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has acknowledged that New Zealand is likely to become a republic “in my lifetime”.

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid tribute to the Queen on Thursday as “one of my favorite people in the world”, but his nation does not have the same affection for his son. A Nonprofit Angus Reid Institute 2021 Survey found that only 34% of those polled would support keeping King Charles as head of state.

The republican trend is moving in one direction; it’s just a question or when. Barbados became a republic in 2021 and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that his country would also seek to “become independent” nation during the visit of the Queen’s grandson, Prince William, earlier this year.

The period of mourning – and widespread affection – for the Queen will put a temporary freeze on efforts to cut the cord.

Tom Freda, the national director of Citizens for a Canadian Republic, declined to comment on next steps until after the Queen’s state funeral in just over a week, although the organization issued a statement noting that the queen was “recorded as having sympathy”. for republican sentiments. Campaign group New Zealand Republic took a similar stance, expressing ‘condolences’ to the Royal Family in a reportand declining to make any further public comments ahead of the funeral.

But King Charles’ honeymoon will be short and he will soon have to cement his reign and earn the affection his mother has earned for seven decades. There are, however, positive signs.

The Commonwealth has a waiting list to join which includes South Sudan and Suriname, two former British colonies. The process to join voluntary association can take years and involves being willing to recognize the king as the ceremonial head of the organization.

Critics say it’s hard to see the value: the group’s operations and funding for programs around the world are funded by member states and the UK. in 2020 only contributed £5m.

“The Commonwealth is a community of like-minded nations, countries that were once part of the British Empire,” Braw said. “It’s really a community of friendships between nations…the only material benefit is being invited to participate in the Commonwealth Games.”

It was a group the Queen was passionate about, pledging to give her ‘heart and soul every day of life’ to the Commonwealth in a 1953 speech.

“You cannot overstate how important the Queen is to the Commonwealth, she is on a mission to support the Commonwealth,” said Sue Onslow, director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London. “She has been the absolutely dedicated champion of the international organization.”

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland paid tribute to the Queen on Thursday, noting that the Queen had only missed one annual Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting between 1971 and 2018.

“The growth and dynamism of our modern Commonwealth is a credit to him and a testament to his dedication, wisdom and leadership,” Scotland said.

King Charles becoming his successor as ceremonial head of the Commonwealth was not automatic, however. Leaders of Commonwealth countries formally recognized him as heir in 2018, after the Queen expressed her “sincere wish” for this to happen.

Charles may have more success leading the Commonwealth than fending off republican movements, though he faces constant pressure to tackle the dark legacy of the slave trade in many former colonies. The king gave a speech in Rwanda earlier this year at the last Commonwealth meeting where he said the “time had come” to discuss the impact of slavery and expressed his “sadness” about the practice, but s stopped before an official apology.

“He says it needs to be an open and honest discussion, and now is the time,” Onslow said. “These are very important issues in Commonwealth countries…especially in Caribbean member countries.”

On other key issues for the Commonwealth, the King has been a more vocal champion, particularly on environmental sustainability, a subject he has been passionate about for nearly five decades. But as king, he’ll likely tone down his rhetoric as part of his new position, aiming to follow in the queen’s footsteps.

“Charles will be another royal diplomat,” Onslow said. But time will tell if its distant domains are ready to accept a new face in the same crown.

Zoya Sheftalovich contributed to this report.

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