As the 2023 general election gets closer, two political parties- the National Democratic Party (NDP) and its breakaway group the Progressive Virgin Islands Movement (PVIM)- are still meeting with the hopes to merge into one.
Both the NDP and PVIM are part of the ruling coalition Government headed by Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP).
Sources close to the talks say for months there have been attempts to bring the two parties together to contest the 2023 general elections as one. There have; however, been concerns over who will lead the group, with the choices being the current Minister for Health and Social Development Hon Marlon A. Penn (R8) and Chairman of the PVIM Mr Ronnine W. Skelton.
In 2018, Mr Skelton was ousted from the NDP by former Premier Dr D Orlando Smith, after it was discovered he was forming the PVIM after losing a contest for Chairmanship of the NDP to former Education Minister Myron V. Walwyn.
Who will lead?
Mr Walwyn resigned as NDP Chairman on May 21, 2019, and today he faces charges for Breach of Trust over a controversial million-dollar wall at Elmore Stoutt High School. Many residents see his court matter as unfair as he has been allegedly targeted by the UK in their ongoing witch-hunt against some locals who are outspoken.
There is also confusion if Hon Penn is legitimately now the new NDP Chairman, as he held the post of Deputy Chairman before Mr Walwyn resigned. There was no party vote for Chairman of the NDP.
The talks between both parties are ongoing but there are issues as to who will lead and which candidates will be dropped from a merged NDP and PVIM. Many have said Hon Penn is elected and should lead the merged group while others claim the country is ready for Mr Skelton to take on the weighty challenges the country faces.
It is unclear if a decision will be forthcoming in time for the 2023 General election, which cannot go beyond May 12, 2023.
There are also conflicting reports and debates about who will be running from each party in a merged group. Two candidates have already announced they are with the PVIM- Shaina M. Smith-Archer and Lesmore Smith- and they will be running At-Large.
Up to the time of publication, both Hon Penn and Mr Skelton had not responded to our request for comment.
Talks between both parties are ongoing
but there are issues as to who will lead and which candidates will be
dropped from a merged NDP and PVIM. Many have said Hon Marlon A. Penn
(R8), left, is elected and should lead the merged group while others
claim the country is ready for Mr Ronnie W. Skelton, right, to take on
the weighty challenges the country faces.
Is VIP the front-runner?
Meanwhile, the VIP has 10 out of 13 candidates and is expected to fill its final three seats by early next month. The party just confirmed its Chairman, Dr Wheatley, in a landslide victory. Hon Wheatley won 60 votes while Hon Carvin Malone (AL) gained only 12.
The VIP was also just rocked by a bombshell, with the departure of one of its At-Large Candidates, Hon Shereen D. Flax-Charles, who is also a Junior Minister For Trade, Economic Development, Agriculture and Fisheries; however, there have been mixed reactions by the public and the party regarding her exit.
Opposition Leader Hon Julian Fraser (R3) of Progressives United noted he will be running again and that he is coming back with his political party but has not revealed any of his candidates.
Our news centre will bring more details regarding the possible merger of the NDP and PVIM, as discussions continue.