2019 British Virgin Islands general election
The British Virgin Islands general election, 2019 is a future election scheduled to be held in the British Virgin Islands on 25 February 2019. It will mark the first time in the Territory's political history that four separate political parties are contesting the election where each party has at least one incumbent member sitting in the legislature already.
All seats in the British Virgin Islands House of Assembly
7 seats needed for a majority
The House of Assembly normally sits in four year terms. The Governor must dissolve the House within four years of the date when the House first meets after a general election unless it has been dissolved sooner. Once the House is dissolved a general election must be held after at least 21 days, but not more than two months after the dissolution of the House. The third session of the House of Assembly first met on 23 June 2015, and therefore in the ordinary course of things the latest possible date of the next British Virgin Islands general election would have been one day short of four years and two months after that date, i.e. on 22 August 2019.
However, Delores Christopher, member of the House of Assembly representing the 5th District died on 16 October 2018. There was broad agreement that it was undesirable to hold two elections so close together (a by-election to appoint a new representative for the 5th District, followed by a general election). Accordingly, after taking legal advice and consulting with the Premier Orlando Smith the Governor, Augustus Jaspert, advised that it had been agreed that no separate by-election should be held, and the election would be held on or before 16 April 2019.
The House of Assembly was dissolved on 23 January 2019 and an election date was immediately announced for 25 February 2019.
New leaders and new partiesEdit
Both of the main political parties which had contested the prior election had leadership contests, and in both cases the person who lost the leadership contest left to form their own party. Accordingly, in the 2019 election there will be an unprecedented four different political parties with at least one sitting member contesting the general election.
National Democratic PartyEdit
In June 2018 the Premier and leader of the National Democratic Party (NDP), Orlando Smith indicated he would be stepping down and not contesting the next general election. In the subsequent leadership contest the party chose Education Minister Myron Walwyn to lead the party into the next election.
In the wake of Dr Smith's announced retirement, rumours of splits within the ruling National Democratic Party began to circulate almost immediately. Eventually Ronnie Skelton, runner up in the leadership contest, left to form his own political party, named the Progressive Virgin Islands Movement (PVIM).
Second District Representative Melvin "Mitch" Turnbull also left the NDP to join Skelton, as did at-large representative, Archie Christian. Certain media houses began to sarcastically refer to the PVIM as "NDP 2".
Virgin Islands PartyEdit
The Virgin Islands Party (VIP) also had a leadership contest, and the sitting leader, Julian Fraser, was ousted by the challenger, Andrew Fahie. Fraser subsequently announced he would leave the VIP and set up his own party, which he called Progressives United (PU).
Myron Walwyn eligibility issueEdit
In the run up to the election there were repeated suggestions in the press that Myron Walwyn was not eligible for election to the House of Assembly because his parents are not from the BVI. His father is from Nevis and his mother is from Antigua. Leader of the opposition Virgin Islands Party, Andrew Fahie, distanced himself from questions about Walwyn's eligibility.
Speaker of the House issueEdit
Some controversy arose when leaked lists of candidates suggested that the speaker of the House, Ingrid Moses-Scatliffe, was to stand as an NDP candidate. A number of public figures, the most prominent being Deputy Premier Kedrick Pickering, expressed concern at her being held out as a candidate for a political party whilst occupying the position of Speaker of the House. Ms Moses-Scatliffe refused to confirm or deny that she would be a candidate for the NDP, and the Attorney General rendered an opinion indicating that even if she were, this would not legally preclude her from acting as Speaker of the House in the interim. Ultimately she was not named as a candidate.
The names of candidates expressly confirmed in the media so far with running for particular seats for any of the proposed parties are as follows (incumbents marked in bold):
|1st District||Undeclared||Andrew Fahie||Stephanie Brewley||Sylvia Romney-Moses|
|2nd District||Carnel Clyne||Undeclared||Melvin Turnbull|
|3rd District||Aaron Parillon||Arlene Smith-Thompson||Julian Fraser||Undeclared|
|4th District||Mark Vanterpool||Luce Hodge-Smith||Vincent Scatliffe||Carl Scatliffe|
|5th District||Elvis Harrigan||Kye Rymer||Undeclared||Wade Smith|
|6th District||Alvera Maduro Caines||John Samuel||Undeclared|
|7th District||Hipolito Penn||Natalio Wheatley||Kedrick Pickering|
|8th District||Marlon Penn||Dean Fahie|
|9th District||Hubert O'Neal||Vincent Wheatley||Jose DeCastro|
Incumbents marked in bold.
Incumbent Andrew Fahie (VIP) will contest his sixth election never having previously lost in five contests. He is challenged by Stephanie Brewley (PU) and Sylvia Romney-Moses (PVIM), each of whom is contesting their first election.
|Melvin Turnbull Jr.||PVIM|
Incumbent Melvin Turnbull will seek to retain his seat after switching parties to join the PVIM. He is challenged by political newcomer Carnel Clyne (VIP).
Incumbent Julian Fraser contests his sixth election but his first as the leader of the PU after leaving the VIP. He has never lost an election in his 3rd district stronghold. His opponents, Aaron Parillon (NDP) and Arlene Smith-Thompson (VIP) are each contesting their first election.
Incumbent Mark Vanterpool (NDP) will be contesting his sixth election, having won four out of his previous five contests (his only defeat coming in 2007). He will face two challengers. Vincent Scatliffe (PU) who is contesting his third election, having won one and lost one previously, both previously under the VIP banner. Carl Scatliffe (PVIM) contests his first election.
Incumbent Delores Christopher died prior to the election leaving the seat vacant. Two of the contenders are seeking election for the first time: Kye Rymer (VIP) and Wade Smith (PVIM). The third candidate, Elvis "Juggy" Harrigan (NDP) is contesting his fifth election (including once as an at-large candidate), having succeeded once in his previous four contests (2007, as a VIP candidate).
Incumbent Alvera Maduro-Caines (NDP) contests her third consecutive election having won the prior two. She is challenged by newcomer John Samuel (VIP) who will be standing for the first time.
Incumbent Kedrick Pickering runs as an independent in his fifth election, having won his previous four contests as a member of the NDP. The NDP are now represented by political newcomer Hipolito Penn contesting his first election. The VIP are represented by Natalio Wheatley who is contesting his third ever general election for a third different party.
Marlon Penn (NDP) contests his third consecutive contest after winning his previous two. He is challenged by Dean Fahie (VIP) who stands for election for the first time.
Incumbent Hubert O'Neal (NDP) will contest his seventh general election (having won one previously, in 2015). He is challenged by political newcomers Vincent Wheatley (VIP) and Jose DeCastro (PVIM), each standing for election for the first time.
Two of the four incumbents (Orlando Smith and Archie Christian) retired prior to the election.
The NDP is represented by incumbent Myron Walwyn, appearing in his third consecutive election after having won the prior two, and three political newcomers, Trefor Grant, Sandy Underhill and Henry Creque.
The VIP is represented by Carvin Malone (a party veteran, but contesting his first election), Sharie DeCastro (contesting her second election, after being unsuccessful in 2015), Shereen Flax-Charles (contesting her first election), and Neville Smith (contesting his first election).
The PVIM is represented by incumbent Ronnie Skelton, Shaina Smith (contesting her third election for her third different party, but seeking her first win), Curnal Fahie (contesting his first election), Lesmore Smith (contesting his first election).
The PU has put forward three candidates for the at-large seats: Verna Smith and Dirk Walters, both political newcomers; and Rajah Smith, who is contesting his second election after being unsuccessful in 2015.
Notable independents include Dancia Penn, who will be contesting her fourth election (one previous win, in 2007) and Rajah Smith contest his second, but seeking his first win.
Several incumbent members of the House of Assembly are not indicated to be standing for re-election as a representative of the same party. They include Julian Fraser (left to form his own party), Kedrick Pickering (left party), Orlando Smith (retiring), Ronnie Skelton (left to form his own party), Archie Christian (left to join Skelton's new party) and Melvin Turnbull (left to join Skelton's new party).
After initially indicating he would not run, Mark Vanterpool apparently changed his mind and confirmed that he would run.
The VIP announced its candidates first, naming a number of its proposed candidates for the territorial seats in July 2018, and September 2018. On 1 December 2018 the party confirmed the candidates for the at-large seats. The following days news reports indicated that the party had selected Carnel Clyne for the final seat in District 2.
After much early speculation and a number of advanced press leaks, the ruling National Democratic Party finally unveiled its list of candidate on 5 January 2019. Unusually for a ruling party, no candidates were named for either the first or second districts. Accordingly, unless candidates are added at a later time, the party will only contest 11 of the available 13 seats in its bid to win a third consecutive term in office.
Although no formal or scientific polls have been conducted in the Territory, an unofficial online poll conducted by VI Platinum News suggested that a majority of voters prefer the Virgin Islands Party, and a plurality of voters prefer Andrew Fahie as leader. However the highly fragmented outcome of the polling (which does not include independents) points to the possibility of a coalition government.
Interestingly, the poll also indicated that amongst participants each party leader was more popular than the party itself, except for Andrew Fahie and the VIP (which was the most popular party and the most popular party leader). Also noticeable is that in the same poll, more participants cast votes for preferred party leader than preferred party.
Although unscientific, previous polls have correctly predicted the outcome of past elections.
NDP launched their election manifesto 'Manifesto 2019' on Friday 15th February 2019, ten days before the election date of 25th February, 2019. The other political parties have yet to publish their election manifestos, despite myriad political promises being made and publicised by all parties.
- NDP. Promised to increase scholarships for Virgin Islands to include postgraduate studies, and to make $10 million dollars available to support local businesses.
- PVIM. Promised to cut tax by increasing the tax free allowance on payroll taxes from $10,000 to $15,000 and promised to introduce a bonus scheme for public sector employees. They also suggested legalising gambling.
- PU. Promised free legal services, elderly healthcare and free school lunches, as well as pledging to give $1,000,000 a year to research into chronic diseases. Also pledged to introduce "American black history" into school curriculum.
- VIP. Promised to introduce 'district councils', reduce the need for imported labour and introduce whistleblower laws. They also advocated laws mandating the purchase of local foods before importing food from overseas, and providing subsidies for farmers.
- "Election day February 25!". BVI News. 23 January 2019.
- "Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007, article 84(3)" (PDF). Government of the Virgin Islands. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
- "Official Swearing-In Of House Of Assembly Speaker And Members". Government of the Virgin Islands. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
- "Delores Christopher Passes Away". BVI Platinum. 16 October 2018.
- "Statement by His Excellency the Governor on Election in the Virgin Islands". Government of the Virgin Islands. 15 November 2018.
- "Premier not seeking re-election as NDP leader". BVI News. 19 June 2018.
- "Walwyn elected as NDP leader, Penn new party VP". BVI News. 23 June 2018.
- "An NDP in pieces". BVI News. 5 November 2018.
- "Skelton Begins Recruiting For New Party". BVI Platinum. 2 October 2018.
- "Facts about the so-called Skelton political party". BVI News. 13 November 2018.
- "By-Elections? Fifth district told to register, party's recruit candidates". BVI News. 13 November 2018.
- "Mitch Resigns From Gov't". BVI Platinum. 16 November 2018.
- "Christian Is With Skelton; Intends To Remain Junior Minister". BVI Platinum. 15 November 2018.
- "PVIM-NDP 2 launches Wade N. Smith for District 5". Virgin Islands News Online. 12 January 2019.
- "Hon Julian Fraser launches new party: 'Progressives United'". Virgin Islands News Online. 24 August 2018.
- "Fraser's Party Officially Registered". BVI Platinum. 20 November 2018.
- "'Unfortunate' : Walwyn responds to eligibility witch-hunt". BVI News. 19 July 2018.
- "Group of citizens hire Attorney to challenge election qualifications". Virgin Islands News Online. 31 July 2018.
- "Walwyn's Eligibility Is An NDP Fight, Not VIP--Fahie". BVI Platinum. 4 July 2018.
- "Are these the NDP's pick for elections?". BVI News. 14 September 2018.
- "Pickering Outs Speaker Over NDP Candidacy; "It's An Abuse"". BVI Platinum. 20 September 2018.
- "FULL LIST: Total of 41 candidates nominated for elections". BVI News. 14 February 2019.
- "'I will be running for re-election' - Dr Kedrick D. Pickering". Virgin Islands News Online. 9 January 2019.
- "Vanterpool Seeking Re-Election". BVI Platinum. 29 November 2018.
- "VIP rolls out six election candidates". BVI Beacon. 17 July 2018.
- "Arlene Thompson To Replace Fraser With VIP; Dean Fahie For District 8". BVI Platinum. 27 September 2018.
- "VIP Selects At-Large Team". BVI Platinum. 1 December 2018.
- "Carnel D. Clyne In! As VIP second district candidate". Virgin Islands News Online. 2 December 2018.
- "Walwyn tightlipped about NDP's new reported trio of candidates". BVI News. 11 September 2018.
- "NDP officially presents election candidates". BVI New. 5 January 2019.
- "PVIM Unveils Candidates". BVI Platinum. 7 December 2018.
- "Sylvia Romney-Moses announced as PVIM's candidate for First District". BVI News. 1 February 2019.
- "Fraser's Progressives United presents four candidates at party launch". BVI News. 11 January 2019.
- "Rajah Smith joins Progressives United as At-Large candidate, outlines plans". BVI News. 3 February 2019.
- "Verna Smith running At-Large for Progressives United". BVI News. 5 February 2019.
- "Andrew Fahie, VIP Favoured--Poll". BVI Platinum. 4 February 2019.
- "Locals will get scholarships for masters degrees, PhDs under my administration". BVI News. 15 January 2019.
- "$10M To Help Local Businesses—Walwyn Promises". BVI Platinum. 22 January 2019.
- "PVIM Promises Bonus & Increased Tax Break". BVI Platinum. 12 January 2019.
- "Underground gambling booming: PVIM proposes gaming zone to boost visitor nightlife". BVI News. 29 January 2019.
- "Progressive plans: Free legal services, elderly healthcare, lunches under Fraser regime". BVI News. 12 January 2019.
- "I Will Add American Black History To Curriculum". BVI Platinum. 22 January 2019.
- "VIP promises 'district councils', reduced imported labour, whistleblowing law". BVI News. 17 January 2019.
- "Fahie Promises Legislation To Boost Local Food Production". BVI Platinum. 28 January 2019.