Election officials in the British Virgin Islands announced Tuesday that the main opposition party dominated parliamentary elections and will lead the offshore corporate haven for the next four years.
Elections chief Juliette Penn said preliminary results show that the National Democratic Party won nine of 13 parliamentary seats in Monday's vote in the U.K. territory. That puts party leader Orlando Smith in line to be premier, the islands' No. 1 politician.
Penn says outgoing Premier Ralph O'Neal's Virgin Islands Party won four seats, down from 11 in the previous Parliament.
Smith, a 67-year-old physician who governed the islands from 2003 to 2007, had bet that the islands' economic hardships would bring a change in the government. He and his National Democratic Party said they were best suited to lead the territory of roughly 25,000 people as it tries to rebound from the global economic slump.
Smith's party has vowed to safeguard the vital tourism and financial service sectors, reduce the cost of living, increase home ownership, and upgrade schools and hospitals.
Voter turnout was about 75 percent of the roughly 12,600 eligible voters, according to Penn. Election results were expected to be certified on Wednesday.
Thousands of corporations, insurers and offshore trusts are established on the British Virgin Islands to avoid taxes and regulation in their homelands. The vast majority have no employees on the islands. But even these islands have struggled amid the global economic troubles. A few tourism businesses have furloughed workers and there is a growing problem with foreclosures.
London appoints a governor as head of state but an elected parliament passes laws and appropriates funds. Although it is a British territory, the U.S. dollar is the legal currency.