Island country in the Caribbean, the southernmost of the Windward Islands.
Grenada is a multiparty parliamentary democracy. Its constitution, which dates from full independence in 1974, provides for a system modelled on that of Britain, with a resident governor general, representing the British monarch, as the formal head of state, and a prime minister and cabinet drawn from and collectively responsible to parliament.
Parliament consists of two chambers, a 15-member House of Representatives, elected by universal suffrage under the first-past-the-post voting system, and a Senate of 13, appointed by the governor general, seven on the advice of the prime minister, three on the advice of the leader of the opposition, and three after wider consultation. Both serve five-year terms.
Prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1498, Grenada was inhabited by Carib Indians. The island was eventually colonized by France in 1650 and ceded to Britain in 1763, under the treaty of Paris, and became a crown colony in 1877.
Grenada remained a British colony until 1958, when it joined the Federation of the West Indies until its dissolution in 1962. Internal self-government was achieved in 1967 and full independence within the Commonwealth in 1974. The early political life of the nation was dominated by two figures: Eric Gairy (1922-97), a trade-union leader who founded the populist Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) in 1950, and Herbert Blaize, of the Grenada National Party (GNP).
On independence in 1974, Gairy was elected prime minister. He was knighted in 1977, but his rule became increasingly autocratic and corrupt, and he was replaced in March 1979 in a bloodless coup by the leader of the left-wing New Jewel Movement (NJM), Maurice Bishop. Bishop suspended the 1974 constitution, did not allow elections, established a People's Revolutionary Government, and announced the formation of a people's consultative assembly to draft a new constitution. He promised a non-aligned foreign policy but became convinced that the USA was involved in a plot to destabilize his administration; this was strongly denied.
Grenada's relations with Britain and the USA deteriorated while links with Cuba and the USSR grew stronger. In 1983 Bishop tried to improve relations with the USA and announced the appointment of a commission to draft a new constitution. His conciliatory attitude was opposed by the more left-wing, pro-Cuban members of his regime, resulting in a military coup on 19 October 1983, during which Bishop and three of his colleagues were executed.
A Revolutionary Military Council (RMC), led by General Hudson Austin, took control. In response to public outcry at the executions, Austin promised an early return to civilian rule, but on 25 October about 1,900 US troops, accompanied by 300 from Jamaica and Barbados, invaded the island. It was not clear whether the invasion was in response to a request from the governor general or on the initiative of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. The RMC forces were defeated and Austin and his colleagues arrested.
New political parties
In November 1983 the governor general appointed a nonpolitical interim council, and the 1974 constitution was reinstated. Several political parties emerged from hiding, including Eric Gairy's GULP and Herbert Blaize's GNP. After considerable manoeuvring, an informal coalition of centre and left-of-centre parties formed the centre-right New National Party (NNP), led by Blaize. In the 1984 general election the NNP won a clear majority in the House of Representatives and Blaize became prime minister.
The USA withdrew most of its forces by the end of 1983 and the remainder by July 1985. In 1984, it pledged $48 million in economic assistance. In party elections in January 1989, Blaize lost the leadership of the NNP to Keith Mitchell but continued as prime minister. Blaize died in December 1989 and was succeeded by a close colleague, Ben Jones.
The 1991 general election brought to power Nicholas Braithwaite of the centrist National Democratic Congress (NDC). George Brizan succeeded Braithwaite as NDC leader in September 1994 and as premier in February 1995.
NNP in power under Mitchell: 1995-2008
The NNP was returned to power in the June 1995 general election and Keith Mitchell became prime minister. The NNP won a landslide victory in the January 1999 general election, capturing all 15 House of Representatives seats, with a 62% share of the popular vote. Between 2000-02, a truth and reconciliation commission, chaired by a Catholic priest, Father Mark Hayes, held hearings around the country into atrocities carried out between 1979-83 by the Bishop and Austin regimes.
Mitchell held on to power after the November 2003 election, but the NNP's parliamentary majority was much reduced to a narrow one-seat majority. In September 2004 and July 2005 hurricanes Ivan and Emily caused massive damage to property on Grenada, but the country, and its important tourism industry, recovered rapidly.
NDC regain power under Thomas
There was a vote for change in the July 2008 general election and, although Mitchell held on to his seat, his NNP were swept from power by the NDC, led by Tillman Thomas, which, with 51% of the vote, won 11 of the 15 lower house's seats. Thomas, who had been leader of the NDC since 2000, promised an open, transparent, and inclusive administration.
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