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COMMENTARY: Demography and the general election

By Dickson Igwe, Contributor

Politicians do not like to talk about demographics. Why: because demographics in politics are a factor usually beyond the control of politicians in an election campaign.

Debates can be won. Utterances can get heated, and backfire. Lies and scandal are brought to the surface. However, demographics, the composition and behaviour of population subsets, and tribes, in a society, change much more slowly. Demographics are less fluid than the ‘’other’’ factors that determine the outcome of a general election.

However, demographics are as important as economics and ‘feel good’ in deciding the successful outcome of an election campaign. The wise politician does well assessing demographic factors before a general election campaign. What is his or her base of support? How strong is that support? How has this base changed from the preceding general election?

What is the overall demographics in terms of population and unique population features? What is the proportion of voters under 50 years of age to voters over 60? What is the ratio between male and female voters?

More important: how will demographic changes and trends impact the vote outcome? So who has the demographic advantage in the new seemingly multipolar politics of the British Virgin Islands? Will two-party rule end at the next General Election after twenty years of two-party governance? Will there be coalition government after the next Virgin Islands General Election as is being speculated on the ‘proverbial street?’

How will the heavy influx of migrants since the late 1980s impact the vote? And who have gained voter status among migrants, and from which countries? And how will these new migrant voters vote?

These are crucial questions that must be assessed by political pundits, voters, and politicians, before any type of political narrative can be established by the media that keeps the public abreast and informed of political matters and voting projections, leading into the General Election.

Different political arithmetic

There are indications that the next General Election will throw up a much different political arithmetic than in previous general elections. Heavy hitters in the Virgin Islands political world are ditching the two-party mould and forming their own parties. Will these subterranean politics change the two-party landscape permanently?

Demographics may answer the preceding questions. Demographics are always pointers to the outcomes of political campaigns. In the USA, white blue collar male workers were once Democrats. Today they are overwhelmingly Republican voters: especially after the new social inequality that from 2000 has seen their standard of living stagnate.

The aftermath of the 2008 Great Financial Recession and the loss of manufacturing driven by outsourcing that preceded that recession, has engineered great anger at the status quo by these white folk.

Demographic change

White men of a lower economic status blamed outsourcing for their troubles and watched with anger as inequality created a new patchwork of prosperity centered on the Cosmopolitan. This was a demographic change that benefitted the well educated and highly skilled, but that left these workers, frequently dwellers of rural America, on the outside looking in.

Enter the orator and property tycoon Donald Trump, and there is today a pitchfork revolution that has driven these non ideological white workers firmly into the Republican camp. On the other side of the fence, well to do white liberal men and women, and minority blacks and Latinas, including Arab Americans, have felt the brunt of this new racist and populist type politics.

This has placed even more millions of voters firmly in the Democratic camp. The US midterm general election in November 2018 will be a zero-sum game. Demographics will dictate who votes for whom. White men will overwhelmingly vote Republican. Whether white women vote strongly Republican or not will determine whether the House of Congress goes to the Democratic Party in the two-party USA political matrix.

Regions will further decide the outcome with the Northeast and far northwest essentially Democratic strongholds. The southern states will remain overwhelmingly Republican. Consequently the Midterm elections will be decided by a small number of states and how the demographics play out in those states.

Brexit

In the UK, the Brexit Conundrum is driven by demographics. White blue-collar males in Britain have been the most anti-Europe group of voters. The over 50s are also not very much in favor of Europe. Then there is a geographical factor with London firmly in favor of remaining in Europe and a number of regional subsets.

Old manufacturing centres in Northern England and working-class towns and cities favour Brexit. This is changing however with more regions understanding the damage Brexit will do to their economies.

However, in the UK, the under-40s are mostly remainers, and so are the well educated upper middle classes, who fully understand the folly of Brexit. This is a demographic time bomb for the Conservative party. Brexit cannot succeed when the under 40s are very much against it. Ok.

1980

The greatest demographic change the Virgin Islands has experienced since 1980 has been the massive population change caused by migration driven by tourism and financial services prosperity.

Most of these migrants have arrived from nearby Caribbean islands. Then there has also been an Asian and Latin American migration to the territory. UK, North American, and Western European migration is not significant enough in terms of numbers to change the demographic, when compared with the large migration from the Caribbean and Dominican Republic.

Now demography – tribal politics- should not become a crutch for any of the two main parties. Demographics drive general elections more than any other factor: yes.

However, post IRMA the voting public will be looking for the leader and party that promises to offer a better future for themselves and their families.

Which leader and party possess a vision and strategy to pull a devastated community into social and economic prosperity? What has been the track record of incumbents and opposition? How credible are the men and women vying for political power? Which political party best promises to deliver?

The preceding are the questions, apart from the politics of the tribe – demographics- that will determine the next General Election outcome.

Copyright 2018 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

5 Comments

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  1. Guy Hill says:

    And the politicians must be leary of spontaneous utterances in the diplo/ political scheme of things.

  2. E.Leonard says:

    The reality is that due to immigration and emigration the VI/BVI (why not an official name change from VI to BVI?) is experiencing a demographic shift or transition. Starting in the mid 1960s, the VI commenced the transition from a subsistence agricultural economy to a service-based economy——-tourism and financial services. Tourism started to blossom in the mid 60s with financial services in the early to mid 80s. This economic transition and red hot economic growth and development created new jobs and new job skills.

    With a small population and an increasing demand for labour, coupled with emigration (brain and skill drain), it had to import labour. The VI currently is what the USVI was in the 50s and 60s; it is the small destination of choice. Immigration is still full steam ahead with a 100 plus different nationalities now residing in the BVI. The VI has one of the highest standard of living, quality of life and per capita income in the region.

    Moreover, over the past decades, many temporary residents made the VI their permanent home, attaining citizenship and the right to vote. Many residents taking up permanent residence in the country to which they immigrate is a universal occurrence, ie, UK, US, Canada, Antigua, USVI…..etc. For example, France the 2018 Soccer World Cup champion had a multicultural team. Trevor Noah, a late night TV show host, took some licks for pointing out the make up of the French Team.

    Further, the BVI has a large diaspora overseas; with emigration, a void was created that was filled by expats immigrating to the VI. Expats contribute to the growth and development of the territory and are an integral part of the community.

    Thus, future elections will field candidates who will have at least one parent or grandparent who was born outside of the territory. Moreover, residents attaining Belonger status have the right and civic duty to vote. All residents who are eligible to vote must vote; if you do not vote, you can complain but it may be hollow. Does the Down Paradox, ie, cost of voting is higher than the benefits of voting, applicable in the BVI? No. Every vote counts. A majority vote is better and carry more weight when the majority of voters vote.

    • NPolitico says:

      “Does the Down Paradox, ie, cost of voting is higher than the benefits of voting, applicable in the BVI?” No. A few votes can make a difference in BVI elections so an individual can wrap his or her arms around instaneous benefits of voting. Every vote counts; elections have been won in the BVI by single digits votes.

      If every voter takes the position his or her vote will not matter and stays away from the poll ( though highly unlikely), the election results could be disastrous for the country. Voting is a right, not a privilege, that has not always been available to the lil man and persons of African descent. Many have sacrificed to get the right so used it and makes your voices heard. It is a tool that gets politicians attention.

      While on the subject of voting, the BVI needs a date certain for general election. Currently, the incumbent government control the levers on when election occurs, providing an uneven playing field. Voter registration day is long passed yet Election Day is a guessing game. A date certain election can provide the opportunity for better management of voter registration.

  3. Unbelong says:

    Give everyone the vote. Immediately your politics would improve and cronyism would be reduced.

    • Disinterested says:

      @Unbelong, in every country, the right to vote must be earned. It is earned by birth and when a minimum age is attained. It is also earned by meeting minimum residency requirements among other factors. It seems that people expect more from the BVI than is even the case in their home countries or when they immigrate to other countries, ie, US, UK,……….etc. The US and other large developed countries can be more liberal in awarding citizenship, for the social impact is stretch out over a prolonged period.

      Whereas, in small developing countries, the social impact can be almost instaneous, causing real or imagine friction between different interest groups. It is in the interest of small countries if certain privileges or rights are slow rolled. As businesses work in the best interest of share holders so too countries have to look out for the best interest of their citizens.

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