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COMMENTARY: Is this the end to two-party politics in BVI?

By Dickson Igwe, Contributor

In twenty years, the state of Virgin Islands politics has never seen the flux and flow it sees today. In the past twenty years, the two-party system has governed the political landscape.

Two party politics has been a static and immovable beast. The two-party rule has defined general elections, defied attempts by independent candidates to alter the narrative, and decided the success of politicians to achieve their political and personal ambitions for two decades.

Today, the Virgin Islands political landscape resembles a ‘badly scrambled egg’. The political landscape is volatile and unpredictable.

Now, for all the street corner talk of coalition government, there is no real evidence a coalition of political parties is what Jack and Jill, Virgin Islands residents and voters, want. And, seasoned politicians and pundits fully understand the power of two-party governance to become self-fulfilling.

That is why there was war within both the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) and the National Democratic Party (NDP) during recent leadership elections. Why the intensity of these internal elections?

The intensity sprang from the understanding that the leader who controls the political party brand and organisation is very hard to beat. That reality remains a fact today, in this pundit’s opinion.

Dizzying politics

Now the flux and flow of the pre-campaign season — General Elections will take place before May 2018 — has been dizzying: defying even gravity. The movers and shakers of Virgin Islands politics have been fencing in dramatic political warfare.

The two polarities, or the two political parties, remain standing, but the National Democratic Party has witnessed a great scupper of a number of its most senior and seasoned members out the back door. The bolting from the NDP by key members is best described as ‘the last waltz on the Titanic’.

It is essentially an ‘internal coup’.

The Virgin Islands Party, on the other hand, has remained virtually the same beast from after it held its leadership election that placed Andrew Fahie into the leadership position, a number of months back. Then, there is talk of a number of new parties appearing on the horizon.

That horizon better be very close, or best these ‘dreamers’ not consider forming a new political party. Just one new party has made an appearance. However, if a General Election is to be conducted in the first quarter of 2019, these organisations will have to get working swiftly, shortly.

The next General Election will be the first to be held post the devastation of the 2017, August-September flooding and hurricanes, that virtually destroyed the country’s infrastructure.

Which party can best fix the country?

Residents will be looking for the party and political group that will best fix the country. Hundreds of residents require assistance. Many more hundreds are rebuilding. Insurance premiums have tripled.

Much higher insurance premiums will impact the economy in ways unclear at present. At the very least, higher premiums squeeze Jack the Consumer’s pockets, and that is never a good thing for economic growth. And homeowners who can no longer afford up to 15K annual premiums may have to keep savings accounts with sufficient funds in case of an ‘Irma 2’.

That further puts a squeeze on consumer demand. The country’s infrastructure is recovering slowly, but there remains a lot of rebuilding. Then the UK Government is embroiled in the Brexit Saga. There is no predicting the outcome of highly combustible events at Westminster and Whitehall.

Will Brexit even take place? And what happens to the Virgin Islands Financial Services Industry if Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister: the man is an avowed socialist with a cause of ensuring the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes. Corbyn is a proponent for ‘coming down heavy’, on offshore financial jurisdictions.

Financial services keeping drowning BVI afloat 

The BVI economy remains anemic. Had it not been for the financial sector, the economy would be in an even worse state.

Then, there are hindrances in the ability of the government to borrow the hundreds of millions of dollars required to simply jump-start the economy and drive a stimulus that will pull the country out of the economic hole it was placed by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

There has been no vision and strategic development plan offered to the public for fixing the economy. The country requires at least $3-5 billion dollars of social and economic investment over the next five years to get back to the pre-Irma condition.

What contending parties must present before election

The task of politicians, before the General Election, will be to present solid proposals to suffering voters on a vision, and strategic plan, to lift the country into the type of prosperity that is expected from a financial services, ecotourism, and maritime economy, that is well able to provide a high standard of living to its people, all else remaining equal.

It is impossible to predict what will take place at the next General Election. Virgin Islands politics does not follow the path of politics of countries elsewhere.

In the developed world, with a long history of two-party governance, accurate sampling, and solid demographic measures, can project with great accuracy, the outcome of a general Election, despite the failure of polls in the 2016 USA presidential election.

Large families play a powerful role in Virgin Islands politics. At the last general Election a number of these families played an inordinate role in getting district leaders elected.

There is no guarantee these families will vote similarly in 2019, or repeat their block voting pattern. Then there is the matter of a profoundly changed demographic: the result of post 1980s heavy migration from sister Caribbean Islands.

How has migration changed voting patterns? A new first generation of Virgin Islanders has been born of migrant parents. Which political party benefits most from twenty years of mass migration and its effect on the country’s demographic?

Most critical, voters must ask the hard questions, and demand the even tougher answers, on how Jack the Politician intends to fix the country, and return the Virgin Islands back on to the path of security and prosperity, and a better future, for children and grandchildren post Irma.

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6 Comments

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  1. Political Observer (PO) says:

    The two party system is not dead; it is just in a hiatus and in distress and needs a political transfusion. In the interim, a coalition government is in the offing. The crystal ball does not show either VIP, NDP, PUP, VIPM, UP, PEP……etc commanding at least 7 of the 13 seats(9 districts, 4 at large) in the next general election. Given the current political dysfunction in the VI, a coalition government may be the prescription needed to heal the VI issues. Coalition governments are not uncommon, eg, Israel, Germany, UK (last full coalition was Cameron-Clegg 2010-2015).

    The current electoral system in the VI is flawed. Elections in the VI are a beauty contest, a popularity contest. As such, after the dust settled after an election, the Premier has to play the hand dealt. This action results in people being put in positions that they are not well suited for; the outcomes bear this out. For the territory to progress, the right people have to be matched to the right positions to do the right things to get the right results. Ministries need to be led by knowlegable, competent and experienced people; they need people with both effective hard and soft skills. The current governing system needs retooling.

    For example, some cities in the US have a Council-Manager form of government. The elected council members set policy, approve budgets….etc; the manager is responsible for the day-to-day running of the city. The manager hires experienced and qualified people to run the various departments, ie, Public Works, Engineering, Medical, Water, Wastewater, Aviation….etc. True, the VI is an OT of UK so it may be sacrilegious to look to the US for a governing model. In any event, a change is needed.

    Moreover, by the way, we the people are responsible for the current government dysfunction. We have failed to hold elected members responsible and accountable. We put greed and political patronage over national growth and development. We are letting tribal politics ruin the VI.

    • Being Human says:

      Very insightful!!! However, in the event of a coalition, comprising a number of parties, how do we form a viable opposition? My hope is that there exists that kind of critical consciousness in the society. In this regard, I am hoping that the respective political parties will enlighten the masses. In a true sense, my brother, the people of the Virgin Islands seek its soul…that centre …from which the society can heal and grow. Bless!!!I am not 100% sure that the answer is solely political.

  2. PURE TROUBLE says:

    andrew in the 1st (vip) mitch in the 2nd (pvim) fraser in the 3rd (pup) henry in the 4th (ndp) wade in the 5th (pvim) alvera in the 6th (ndp) kedric in the 7th (ind) marlon in the 8th (ndp) wheatley in the 9th (vip)…..ATLARGE MYRON (NDP) RONNIE (PVIM) DANCIA (PVIM) WILLOCK (VIP)

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    • Jokes says:

      You must be out of your mind if you think R—–e, W—–k and D—-a will win atlarge seats. Wade will not win in the 5th and the 9th will be a close race. NDP will win at least 2 at large seats.

      Like 1
      Dislike 1
  3. TurtleDove says:

    At this time I think this may be a blessing in disguise. Since we essentially have the same people running, maybe they will learn humility and also learn how to work together for good of country. If you sit back and look at all of these politicians they have something to contribute, but some have to give up the EGO and do what is best. You are not going to get your way every time in politics. The BVI deserve better than people who QUIT because they did not get their way every time. The people are watching, Let’s do better.

  4. Being Human says:

    Very insightful!!! However, in the event of a coalition, comprising a number of parties, how do we form a viable opposition? My hope is that there exists that kind of critical consciousness in the society. In this regard, I am hoping that the respective political parties will enlighten the masses. In a true sense, my brother, the people of the Virgin Islands seek its soul…that centre …from which the society can heal and grow. Bless!!!I am not 100% sure that the answer is solely political.

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