The last three election cycles have seen the emergence of a two-party system, with the Virgin Islands Party and the National Democratic Party dominating the political scene.

This year, some candidates hope that will change.

Indeed, the general elections could offer the territory the opportunity to vote a multiparty government into power.

So far, leaders of an additional three parties have officially announced their intentions to contest the upcoming general elections: the United Party, led by Conrad Maduro; the People’s Party, led by Allen Wheatley; and the Independent People’s Movement, led by Richard “Courtney” de Castro.

None of the party leaders has announced any additional candidates for the respective parties, but Messrs. Wheatley and de Castro both said that they are in talks with potential candidates who wish to delay announcing their candidacy because of potential political conflicts with employers.

The veteran

The United Party has roots reaching back more than 40 years. As one of the territory’s first three political parties, the UP sent four candidates to the legislature in the 1967 elections and formed the territory’s first ministerial government under H. Lavity Stoutt.

Mr. Maduro, now 76, was known as a leader of the party even in those days, according to a government publication to commemorate the territory’s first 25 years as a ministerial government, which called him the “political force” that held the party together. Mr. Maduro was an elected representative from 1971-79 and from 1983-90.

Under the UP’s leadership in the 1970s, the territory’s children and elderly first began receiving free healthcare at Peebles Hospital, Mr. Maduro said in a recorded statement aired on the radio on Tuesday.

The UP’s main priority is to reshape the economic development in a way that favours Virgin Islanders instead of relying so heavily on foreign investors, who then favour foreign workers, he said.

He added that his party would work to trim the budget by cutting back on unnecessary spending, especially on elected representatives themselves. He said legislators’ “salaries could be lowered” and that between funds spent on allowances for housing, travel and entertainment for each representative, the territory could have funded a “meaningful project” like road or sewerage improvements.

He didn’t say in the recorded message whether he plans to run as an at-large or a district candidate, but in 2003, Mr. Maduro ran for an at-large seat and in the past, he has served as the representative for the Fifth District and the Second District.

The UP’s last major brush with political success came in 1995, which it almost succeeded in forming a coalition to defeat the VIP. In the next elections, in 1999, the NDP arrived, and the UP won few votes and no seats despite offering up eight candidates.

New parties

The Independent People’s Movement wants to reform many of the territory’s sectors, including education, financial services, elections and labour management, according to its manifesto, which was written by Mr. de Castro.

This will be IPM’s second general election: In 2007, Mr. de Castro ran for the Fourth District as the IPM’s only candidate, and as the election’s only “third party” candidate.

The IPM’s 13-page manifesto lists proposals for many new laws and regulations, such as lifting the ban on large motorcycles; requiring sex offenders in the VI to register; raising taxes on alcohol and tobacco; requiring professional architects, engineers and lawyers to register; raising the legal age for alcohol consumption to 21; and passing a freedom of information act.

This election, the IPM plans to focus on registering and campaigning to voters between the ages of 19 and 30, Mr. de Castro said.

“Young people are being the most impacted” by government policies, he said. “Why are they not being included in this decision-making process?”

He added that he does not want to bore the public with a lot of political jargon, but, “People know me. People know what I stand for.”

Looking ‘strategically’

The People’s Party was formed recently by Mr. Wheatley to address the territory’s lack of long-term planning, especially financial planning, he said in a recent interview.

“We need to look seriously, strategically, at where this country is going to be in the next, five, 10, 20 years, and we all need to know that plan,” Mr. Wheatley said. While the present government seems to be responsive to the needs of the financial services industry, the tourism sector has been neglected, Mr. Wheatley said, adding that more of the territory’s beaches need to be improved so that tourists have more options.

Mr. Wheatley, who in 2003 was convicted of using his position as financial secretary to secure contracts for businesses he was part owner of, said the People’s Party is committed to fiscal responsibility and not promising projects it cannot deliver.

“I’m tying every proposal to a budget,” Mr. Wheatley said of his party’s manifesto, which he expects to be completed soon, adding that he challenges other candidates to tie all their proposals to likely spending.

The People’s Party will also strive to more accurately represent the demographics of the VI, he said, adding that the party will run representatives of “all the ethnic groups” as well as at least one female candidate.

Mr. Wheatley said that his and other “third” parties are emerging as a response to people’s “call for change.”

He added that the opposition NDP has not done enough to challenge the ruling VIP. “If they were doing it right, there would be no need for any parties,” Mr. Wheatley said, adding that he thinks the People’s Party has a “good shot” at getting elected.

Other candidates

In addition to these parties, at least three other candidates have announced their intention to run for office, without announcing a party affiliation. Colin Scatliffe, founder and managing director of DataPro, will run as an independent candidate in the Fourth District, which includes Road Town.

Pastor Claude Cline has not adopted the term “independent” for his candidacy for the Second District, but he has also not claimed any party as his own, and his campaign slogan is “Country Above Party.”

The Ninth District, which includes Virgin Gorda and Anegada and is currently represented by Premier Ralph O’Neal, likely will see at least two independent candidates. Lorie Rymer, food and beverage manager and former VIP Congress member, announced in December that he would run as an independent for that district. And Devon Osborne, who received 46 votes when he ran as an independent in the district in 2007, has turned over the decision about whether he should run for office again and which party he should join to visitors to his website,

In the last general election, 10 independent candidates ran for five district seats and the four at-large seats. With the exception of Alvin Christopher (R-D2), an incumbent who rejoined the VIP on election night, all the independent candidates fared poorly compared to their counterparts in the major parties.