Politics of the British Virgin Islands
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the British Virgin Islands
Politics of the British Virgin Islands takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic dependency, whereby the Premier is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. The British Virgin Islands are an internally self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom. The United Nations Committee on Decolonization includes the islands on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. The Constitution of the Islands was introduced in 1971 and amended in 1979, 1982, 1991, 1994, 2000 and 2007. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the House of Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Military defence is the responsibility of the United Kingdom.
A new constitution was made in 2007 (the Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007) and came into force after the Legislative Council (the former name of the House of Assembly) was dissolved for the 2007 general election.
|Queen||Elizabeth II||6 February 1952|
|Governor||William Boyd McCleary||20 August, 2010|
|Premier||D. Orlando Smith||NDP||20 August 2007|
The Governor is appointed by the Monarch. The Premier (formerly Chief Minister) is appointed by the Governor from among the members of the Legislative Council, and is by parliamentary convention the leader of the party holding the largest number of seats. The cabinet, the Executive Council, is appointed by the Governor from among the elected members of the Legislative Council.
The British Virgin Islands elects on territorial level a legislature. The House of Assembly (formerly Legislative Council) has 15 members, 13 members elected for a four year term, 9 of them in single-seat constituencies and 4 at large, one ex officio member and one speaker chosen from outside the council.
"At large" seats
The 4 at large seats are a comparatively recent innovation in British Virgin Islands politics. They were introduced under some pressure from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the mid-1990s. The rationale behind their introduction was that there was a risk that constituency seats can become too closely tied to a particular local figure, and that if a certain number of local figures join the same political party, then the voters have no real choice in selection of their government. Under the proposals any person in the Territory could stand as an at large candidate, and each voter would have four at large votes in addition to their constituency vote. The four at large candidates who received the highest total number of votes would be elected to the Legislative Council.
The proposals were strongly opposed by Lavity Stoutt, the Chief Minister of the day; he arranged for the entire Territory to be polled to ascertain how the voters felt about new rules being "foisted" upon them by the FCO in London, and then later flew to London with an entire delegation (including the Attorney General) to try to dissuade them. Despite this opposition the at large seats were introduced.
Although Lavity Stoutt died prior to the first election with at large seats in 1999, his fears proved to be well founded; his Virgin Islands Party was returned to power under the leadership of Ralph T. O'Neal in 1999, but with a much reduced majority. In the next election in 2003, the Virgin Islands was swept from power by the National Democratic Party led by Orlando Smith. In each election except 2007 Orlando Smith has been elected as the at-large candidate receiving the highest number of votes of any candidate (in 2007 he was elected with the fourth largest number of votes).
List of Members
|Name||Party||Member of||First elected||Title||Previous Roles||Constiuency|
|Dr D. Orlando Smith OBE, MD||NDP||Government||1999-present||Premier, Minister of Finance and Tourism||Chief Minister||Territorial At-Large|
|Myron Walwyn||NDP||Government||2011-present||Minister of Education and Culture||Territorial At-Large|
|Ronnie Skelton||NDP||Government||2003-2007 and 2011-present||Minister of Health and Social Development||Territorial At-Large|
|Archibald Christian||NDP||Government||2011-present||Government Backbencher||Territorial At-Large|
|Andrew Fahie||VIP||Opposition||1999-present||Council Member for First District|
|J. Alvin Christopher||VIP||Opposition||1995-present||Council Member for the Second District|
|Julian Fraser||VIP||Opposition||1999-present||Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Communications and Works and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour||Council Member for the Third District|
|Mark Vanterpool||NDP||Government||2003,2007 and 2011-present||Minister of Communications and Works||Council Member for the Forth District|
|Delores Christopher||NDP||Government||2011-present||Government Backbencher||Council Member for the Fifth District|
|Alvera Maduro-Caines||NDP||Government||2011-present||Government Backbencher||Council Member for the Sixth District|
|Kedrick Pickering||NDP||Government||1999-present||Deputy Premier, Minister of Natural Resources and Labour||Member for the Seventh District|
|Marlon Penn||NDP||Government||2011-present||Government Backbencher||Member for the Eighth District|
|Ralph T. O'Neal, OBE||VIP||Opposition||1977-present||Leader of the Opposition||Premier, Chief Minister, Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Deputy Chief Minister, Minister for Social Services||Council Member for the Ninth District|
|[Ingrid A. Moses-Scatliffe]||None||Independent||2011-present||Speaker of the Council||Appointed|
|Baba Aziz||None||Independent||2007-present||Attorney General||Chief State Attorney of Ghana||Appointed|
Political parties and elections
|National Democratic Party||22,858||52.5%||9|
|Virgin Islands Party||16,998||39.0%||4|
|People's Patriotic Alliance||2,204||5.1%||0|
|Speaker and Attorney General||2|
|Total (turnout 68.8% (est.))||43,551||100.0%||15|
|* Each voter has 5 votes; 1 district vote and 4 territorial "at-large" votes|
|Source: BVI Platinum News|
The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, consists of the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal (one judge of the Supreme Court is a resident of the islands and presides over the High Court). Furthermore there is a Magistrate's Court; Juvenile Court; and a Court of Summary Jurisdiction.
International organization participation
- The results of the poll were largely inconclusive. Voters were asked if they would prefer (i) to have at large seats introduced, (ii) prefer not to have at large seats introduced, or (iii) no preference. The votes were almost equally split into thirds, but the largest proportion of the votes was in favour of introducing at large seats. Nonetheless, Lavity Stoutt cited the poll as an indication that over half the population either did not want change, or had no preference, and thus constitutional change was inappropriate.