By Dickson Igwe, Contributor
OK. Street soundings are pointing towards a coalition government for the British Virgin Islands after the upcoming General Election in 2018-2019.
Is the belief that there will be no clear majority for either of the two dominant political parties valid? After 20 years of two-party governance, and two horrific hurricanes in September 2017, the territory today is in a sorry state. It is often stated that the territory in the late 1980s and early 90s was better off than it is today.
So no politician or party is in the clear in the upcoming general election. Apart from newcomers who have never sat in the House of Assembly.
There is weariness on the street. Jack and Jill Voter are tired of the slow disaster recovery effort in the country. Voters are looking for leaders who will drive a swift and strong economic recovery. Voters desire visionary and strategic leadership.
However, there is yet to be offered to the general public a cohesive and coherent vision that is appropriate and capable of pulling the British Virgin Islands into the type of prosperity that the country should have been enjoying today.
This writer some months back offered a vision of a country with GDP driven by a tourism and maritime economy, sitting upon a pristine and innovatively leveraged ecosystem and agronomy.
However, many residents remain obsessed with stuff, even after half that stuff was blown away by Hurricane Irma, and still, too many island dwellers could care less about environmental matters, such as clean energy, climate change, and recycling, which are the sciences of tomorrow.
The country requires a culture change before it can experience transformative social and economic change. OK. Returning to the main vein of the article; of the present line up of political contestants for the upcoming general election apart from newcomers, none will escape the charge of non-transparency and unaccountable governance.
The mantra of the Virgin Islands party appears to be a cry for transparency and accountability. One must wait to see if the party practices what it preaches if it wins power The assertions made on transparency are a good start, as social and economic prosperity cannot be achieved when government is opaque and unaccountable. Arguably, the sorry state of the British Virgin Islands today is not simply the result of Hurricane Irma, but what happened before that.
Irma exposed BVI’s lack of transparency
Irma exposed the reality of a country that for years has not practised fully audited and transparent governance, and has been suffering terribly from a culture of opaque and subterranean governance.
The preceding does not imply voters want a coalition government, however. The two-party mould will be hard to remould.
From the early 1990s, the two-party system in the Virgin Islands has been a core factor in the country’s politics.
Why: because a two-party system tends to generate a type of gravity of its own, pulling voters and resources in the direction of one of the two parties.
Two-party politics is brand culture. Shoppers go into a store for a soda. There may be five different types of cola drink on offer. However, the vast majority of shoppers buy the Coca-Cola brand.
Power of the brand
That is the power of brand. Brand works much the same way in politics. Voters may be for months in a state of indecision about which person and which party to vote for. However, as campaigns begin there is a tendency that two political parties become twin polarities pulling all the energy in the direction of these polarities, leaving the newcomers to twist in the wind.
That has been the political narrative in the Virgin Islands since the early 1990s. Punters say things will be different in the upcoming general election as there will be a number of political heavy hitters more widely dispersed, and forming political parties of their own. Predicting a general Eelection in these Virgin Islands is a ‘mug’s game’.
Why: the variables are very complicated, and the outcome uncertain as uncertain can get. There are no accurate statistics and metrics on population subsets in terms of migration, age, gender, race, ethnicity, and social status, which allow pollsters to make reasonably accurate projections.
There have been huge demographic changes that have seen the population of multi-generation Virgin Islands become a minority. How this will impact the upcoming General Election, no one can tell. The only prediction this ‘punter’ will make is that the two-party narrative will steer the course of the campaign.
However, a victory by one or more of the heavy hitting politicians who are no longer part of the two-party twin polarity may well indeed mean coalition government, which, considering the record of two-party governance over the past decades, may indeed be a good thing.
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