Polls opened Wednesday in the world’s youngest republic for early general elections in Barbados.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley, leader of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), surprised many when she called for early elections on Dec. 28 to pull the country out of an economic crisis, Business News Network (BNN) Bloomberg reported.

“I’m concerned that if we enter 2022 as a divided nation we will stunt and frustrate our own progress,” BNN Bloomberg quoted Mottley, who was elected prime minister in 2018 for a five-year term.

The BLP controls 29 of the Caribbean island’s 30 legislative seats.

Polling stations will be open until 6 p.m. local time with results expected later in the evening.

Mottley is widely expected to win a second term as voters blame the current regression on the coronavirus pandemic and a fall in tourism revenues.

Barbados officially removed Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and became a republic.

In a ceremony in the capital of Bridgetown on Nov. 30, Sandra Mason 72, assumed the presidency.

The event, which also marked the island’s 55th independence anniversary, was attended by Prince Charles representing the British monarchy that ruled the island for 394 years.

Barbados was one of England’s first slave colonies and English settlers first occupied the island in 1627.

Slavery was abolished in Barbados in 1834 and the country became independent in 1966 but remained in the Commonwealth with the British queen as head of state.

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