An official from the Office of the Supervisor of Elections places a ballot into a scanner machine during a demonstration on Monday at the Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park. The officials explained the steps voters will need to undertake at the polling booth. (Photo: ALVA SOLOMON)

As voters head to the polls today and Monday, they have plenty of choices.

The 42 candidates for the 13 House of Assembly seats — who include 25 district hopefuls and 17 at-large contenders — are five short of the previous record set in 1995.

The slate also includes a record 13 women, up from the previous high of 12 in the 2015 election.

This year, four parties, each led by an experienced legislator, are in the race, but only one — the incumbent Virgin Islands Party — has a full slate of 13 candidates. The National Democratic Party and the Progressive VI Movement are each fielding nine, while Progressives United is offering only party leader Julian Fraser.

The 10 other candidates are running independent.

Party system

This year’s results could help determine whether the territory will ultimately settle back into the two-party system that dominated VI politics between 1999 and 2019, when the VIP and NDP traded power back and forth under long-time strongmen Ralph O’Neal and Dr. Orlando Smith.

That system was dealt back-to-back blows with the retirement of Mr. O’Neal in 2015 and Dr. Smith in 2019.

By the 2019 election, the main parties had fractured into four — with former VIP leader Mr. Fraser starting the PU and ex-NDP stalwart Ronnie Skelton launching the PVIM — and the territory appeared to face a strong possibility of a coalition government for the first time in more than three decades.

But a strong VIP showing meant that didn’t happen: Seven newbies swept into power along with incumbent party leader Andrew Fahie.


The VIP, however, was dealt another powerful blow last April with the arrest of Mr. Fahie, after which the VIP, NDP and PVIM leaders formed the National Unity Government in response to a scathing Commission of Inquiry report.

This year’s election will test whether the VIP maintains its strength under new leader Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley, who succeeded Mr. Fahie.

It will also test the ability of the NDP and PVIM — which discussed reunification but decided against it — to bolster their bases and garner more votes than they managed last time around.

Meanwhile, Mr. Fraser — who has focused much of his campaign energy decrying his former VIP — has indicated that he is willing to collaborate with other parties to form a coalition if no party wins seven of 13 HOA seats.

Some of the 10 independent candidates — who likewise stand to benefit from a fracturing party system — have expressed similar sentiments.

Independent Ishmael Brathwaite, for instance, said he’s running with a group called the “Patriotic Citizens Movement,” which he said could ultimately include a coalition of successful independent candidates.

New faces

This year, there are plenty of new faces as well, with 15 candidates who haven’t run for office before. That doesn’t reach the 2019 number, when 23 threw their hats into the ring for the first time, including five who came to office with the winning VIP.

In 2015, 17 new politicians ran for office.
This year, in stark contrast to 2019, the VIP is running only two new candidates. Seven of its 13 are incumbents, while five have run for office previously but were never elected.

In each of the PVIM and the NDP, there are four newcomers.

The PVIM has three returning politicians and two candidates who ran for office before but weren’t elected. The NDP has two candidates who unsuccessfully ran for office, and three who have held office before.

The NDP only has one incumbent on its roster — party leader Marlon Penn — while the PVIM has two, which don’t include party leader Mr. Skelton.

11 incumbents

All told, 11 incumbents will vie to keep their positions. Mr. Fraser — sole candidate and leader of the PU — is the most experienced in elected office, vying for a seventh consecutive term.


The record 13 women running this year appear to be part of a general upward trend despite a dip to 11 in the most recent election. Twelve women ran in 2015, seven in 2011, six in 2007 and five in 2003.

The VIP ticket has five women running, the most of any other party. Last election, four women ran with the party, down from six in 2015. Three women also won seats in 2019, which broke the record for any other election.

This year, 15 candidates recently have been employees of the government or its statutory bodies, compared to 17 in 2019 and 13 in 2015.

Busiest districts

District Four (which includes the Road Town area) and District Nine (which includes Virgin Gorda and Anegada) have the most candidates of any other district, with four running for office in each.

Last year, the busiest district was Four, which four candidates, and in 2015 six people vied to replace Mr. O’Neal in the Ninth District.



The front-page article in last week’s edition incorrectly stated that 42 election candidates this year fell one shy of the previous record. The previous record was 46, in the 1995 General Election. The Beacon also incorrectly reported the record in its coverage of the 2011 and 2015 general elections.