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Brief Political History and Dynamics of Grenada

Three islands comprise Grenada: Grenada, and the smaller islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique. The total land area of the islands is 344 square kilometers and the population of the three islands consists of approximately 100,000 persons, around 50% of whom are under 30 years of age. The economy of the islands depends on tourism and strong performances in construction and light manufacturing, with the development of an offshore financial industry, have contributed to a recent growth in national output and foreign direct investment. More traditional forms of production include agriculture and the cultivation of spices – particularly nutmeg and cocoa – for export. These traditional industries were hit hard by Hurricanes Ivan (2004) and Emily (2005) and the debt incurred in the rebuilding process.


Before the 14th century, Grenada was settled by Caribs, who displaced the earlier population of Arawaks. Christopher Columbus visited the island in 1498 and named it ‘Concepcion’ (later being named by the Spaniards after their own city, Granada). European settlement was slow to follow, due to the fierce resistance of the warlike Caribs, although Britain and France in particular competed for control. A company of London merchants tried and failed to form a settlement in 1605. The French launched more concerted attacks until, by 1674, they had subdued the Caribs and gained control of the island. By 1753, Grenada was a flourishing French possession, with 100 sugar mills and 12,000 enslaved Africans working the industry. The Caribs had been exterminated.

Britain took over from France in 1763 under the Treaty of Paris and again (having meanwhile lost control) in 1783 under the Treaty of Versailles. Britain introduced the cultivation of cacao, cotton and nutmeg; by the time of the emancipation of slaves (1833), the slave population had reached 24,000.

Universal Adult Suffrage, Self-Rule, and Independence

The granting of adult suffrage in 1951 marked the beginning of self-rule in Grenada. National political consciousness developed through the labour movement, with the formation of the Grenada Manual and Mental Workers Union. In the new environment, a union organiser, Eric Matthew Gairy, formed the first political party, the pro-union, pro-independence Grenada United Labour Party (GULP). In 1951, GULP won the elections and Gairy became leader of the assembly. The Grenada National Party (GNP), led by Herbert Blaize held power between 1957–61 and 1962–67.

Grenada joined the Federation of the West Indies in 1958. When that was dissolved in 1962, it evolved first into an associated state with full internal self-government (1967), and then towards independence, the core of the GULP platform. Gairy and his Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) returned to power in the 1967 elections and ruled continuously for 12 years. Independence was achieved in 1974; Grenada became a constitutional monarchy, with Gairy as Prime Minister, and Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, represented by a Governor-General.

Prime Minister Eric Gairy addressing the House of Representatives in 1974

The 1979 Coup

On 13 March 1979, reacting to a situation of deteriorating governance and in Gairy‘s absence from the country in the USA, a small group from the New Jewel Movement (NJM) led by Maurice Bishop seized power and created the People‘s Revolutionary Government (PRG). Bishop became Prime Minister and began to cultivate ties with the Soviet Union and Cuba. . The new government created state farms and industries, and forged links with the socialist world. With Cuba’s assistance, it began construction of the modern international airport at Point Salines.

In October 1983, a faction within the PRG placed Bishop under house arrest. A large crowd freed him, and he and his supporters took refuge in a nearby colonial fort. After a bloody battle that left more than 60 people dead, the army took control of the fort and executed Bishop and seven of his advisors, including two other ministers, and two union leaders. Bishop’s deputy, Bernard Coard, took control and set up a Revolutionary Military Council. Five days later, at the request of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, the United States, supported by a token force of 300 police from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines, landed military forces to assist in restoring order. The Governor-General, Sir Paul Scoon, took control of an interim administration, (almost fully) reinstated the 1974 constitution and organised elections for a new government.

Governor-General Sir Paul Scoon addressing the Press in 1983

The 1984 Election

In December 1984, elections were held and the newly formed New National Party (NNP) , a four-party merger led by Herbert Blaize and supported by the neighbouring islands, easily defeated Gairy’s GULP. Herbert Blaize was named Prime Minister and led the Government until his death in December 1989. Ben Jones took over until March 1990.

The 1990 Election

In the elections in 1990 no single party gained an overall majority and another merger, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), formed the government under Nicholas Brathwaite.

The 1995 Election

The 1995 elections, contested by seven parties, were narrowly won by the NNP, now led by Dr Keith Mitchell, who became Prime Minister. The NNP gained eight seats, the NDC, now led by George Brizan, five and GULP, two.

Two no-confidence motions following the elections were unsuccessful. However, in May 1997, five opposition parties, including the NDC, GULP and the Democratic Labour Party formed an alliance to provide a common front against the NNP, leaving the government with a majority of one.

The 1999 Election

After the defection of two ministers of the Mitchell Government, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, eliminating the ruling Government‘s parliamentary majority, the Prime Minister dissolved parliament and called for new general elections to be held on January 18, 1999. In those elections the NNP returned to power, gaining all fifteen seats in the House of Representatives.

The 2003 Election

The General Elections of 2003 were much more closely contested, with the NNP securing victory by the narrowest of margins, winning eight seats to the NNP‘s seven seats. On the eve of the 2008 General Elections the NNP had been in power for thirteen years and was seeking a historic fourth term in office, while the NDC was hoping to end its long sojourn in Opposition.

The 2008 Election

A general election was held in Grenada on 8 July 2008. Out of a total of 15 seats, the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) won eleven seats and the governing New National Party (NNP) won four seats, thus bringing the NDC to power for the first time since 1995. NDC leader Tillman Thomas succeeded the NNP's Keith Mitchell as Prime Minister of Grenada on 9 July 2008.

The 2013 Election

The 19 February 2013 general election resulted in a landslide victory for the opposition New National Party, which won all 15 seats.

Governor-General Dame Cecile La Grenade being sworn into office on 7 May 2013

The 2016 Referendum

In the 24 November 2016 constitutional referendum voters were asked to approve of seven amendments, with each one voted on separately (each requiring two-thirds of valid votes); however, all seven proposals were rejected by voters. It was the first referendum in Grenada's history.

NNP = New National Party; NDC = New Democratic Congress; GEM = Grenada Empowerment Movement; GPM = Grenada Progressive Movement; GRP = Grenada Renaissance Party; GUPM = Grenada United Patriotic Movement; TLP = The Liberal Partry; TPP= The Progress Party; ULP = United Labour Platform; GULP = Grenada United Labour Platform; PLM = People's Labour Movement; GOD = Good Old Democracy; MBPM = Maurice Bishop Patriotic Movement; URP = United Republican Party; CDLP = Christian Democratic Labour Party; GFLP = Grenada Federated Labour Party;IND = Independent; * Incumbent; ** Political Leader
Grenada Parliamentary Elections Office
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  Grenada Country Profile
  Grenada Government Structure
  Grenada Election Basics
  The Parliament of Grenada
  Political History and Dynamics
  Electoral Legislation
  Grenada Heads of State
  Grenada Heads of Government
  Grenada Leaders of the Opposition
  Grenada Timeline
  Women in Politics in Grenada
  Teacher Resources
  Glossary of Election Terms
  National Democratic Congress (NDC)
  New National Party (NNP)
  Grenada Empowerment Movement (GEM)
  Grenada Progressive Movement (GPM)
  Grenada Renaissance Party (GRP)
  Grenada United Patriotic Movement (GUPM)
  The Liberal Party (TLP)
  The Progress Party (TPP)
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