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July 2013: a turning point in Virgin Islands politics?

Above: Dickson Igwe. Photo: supplied
By Dickson Igwe

A political commentary assessing the political pulse of the Virgin Islands as midterm approaches.

If a day is a long time in politics, a week can be a near eternity. The days ending the month of July, 2013, in the Virgin Islands, were both long, and an inflection point, politically. In other words, there was a change of plot in the national political narrative. Three things happened towards the end of July 2013. And for those who like this Observer endeavor to read the Virgin Islands day to day political events, especially the hidden portions between the lines, there were three significant developments.

The first development was this one: the incumbents may have begun the difficult task of salvaging their sinking political ship, a sinking beast that was taking in a lot of water. This sinking vessel started its journey to the bottom of the sea after it was hit by a stealthy torpedo called poor public relations. And the result of the impact was a very palpable public anger in the high street and back street. This anger was mostly the result of the incumbents being unable to get their message across, over and above the well aimed darts thrown by some of their media critics. There was also an apparent gap between the national vision of the incumbents, and public perception of their political motives. But as of the start of August 2013, that public anger appears to be decreasing. In this Observer’s very unscientific estimation, it is being assuaged.

And this very gradual appeasement of public sensibility is a turnaround for the incumbents. Albeit, a slow turnaround, and a subtle change in local politics. This was most clearly evident in some very deft political foot play in the month of July: especially foot play by a veritable political sharpshooter, as portrayed in an earlier story titled, ‘’ DEMOGRAPHIC POLITICS IN FULL PLAY IN THE VIRGIN ISLANDS.’’

Demographic politics in the Virgin Islands is playing in a manner very much unexpected by those who started the divide and rule narrative. These were media personalities especially, who had been harping on about the right of entitlement for some Virgin Islanders and residents over others, who clearly have just the same rights. As this Observer warned months back, entitlement politics can easily backfire: it may be backfiring already. If one is going to play the demographic game, a theme synonymous with entitlement and jingoism, better understand it is not clear cut politics. Demographic politics is a double edged sword: it can cut sharply on both sides. Cleverly, the opposition has heeded this advice to jettison entitlement politics: but not certain commentators it appears.

Now, in that narrative on demography in Virgin Islands politics, an allusion was made to an earlier online article titled, ‘’ COMMENTATORS FUME OVER PROPOSED CITIZENSHIP BY BIRTH.’’ In that earlier story the politician argued that citizenship by birth in the Virgin Islands should be the norm: a very fair and humane assertion. In fact, a later story of August 5, 2013 described how this veritable swordsman had fired back at his critics by stating that, ‘’ EXPAT CHILDREN MUST BE FREED.’’ Indeed, it is always heroic, fighting for the welfare of children. And people that vote, instinctively remember when children are treated either fairly or unfairly. The story created a mini storm online: that is to be expected.

OK, this Observer argued in his opinion piece at the time that this was demographic politics being played out. Furthermore, it may have put the Virgin Islands born voter, those with migrant parents, and probably the fastest growing voter group in the country, squarely in the corner with the incumbents.

Why? Because people do not like feeling victimized; and admire a politician who is willing to put his neck on the line to protect their rights, and fight for the rights of the vulnerable and oppressed, especially children. It shows courage, and what Winston Churchill once referred to as VIM. On the other hand, those against such a fair demand will look, well, just a little arrogant. So these well timed and well placed statements, notwithstanding what some may assert, was excellent politics for the incumbents.

The second development was a noticeable, palpable, and new awareness of Virgin Islanders and residents, the men and women on the country’s street corners. This is the silent majority, the mighty Tom Taxpayer, Joe Mele, and Consuela Sweetness. That awareness is this: the Virgin Islands voter is guaging closely the incumbents, and the whether or not, in their ability to deliver on their pledge to complete certain key national projects within a politically acceptable timeframe.

And this feeds into another narrative; that the incumbents have a plan for the country in terms of their quest to grow the national economy. The opposition’s key attack dog is doing a great job holding the feet of the incumbents to the fire. But the opposition is yet to come out with a plan of its own. It is accused of not having a plan when it ran the country the preceding term. So the opposition needs to come out with a comprehensive plan for the country over the coming months.

One more thing is this: it seems the incumbents will deliver on one major project in 2014. And it is looking very likely the nasty smells emanating from certain crevices, drains, pipes, and sink holes, in certain parts of the country, especially the capital city, a clear embarrassment to a supposedly 5 Star tourism destination, could well become a thing of the past in this current political term. That will be a crucial feather in the political cap.

The third development in the month of July was growing evidence the opposition faces a major hurdle if it is to have any hope of power at the end of 2015, and beginning of 2016. This barrier to power has to do with its leadership shenanigans: the succession question. The ambiguity in deciding on this matter has begun to take a toll politically. A certain move to bring a no confidence vote against the current incumbents which could never have worked, appeared instead to have been a play of internal party power positioning. It brought to the fore the key opposition protagonist who may well rule the house of the opposition in the future.

A clear frontrunner has emerged to take over the opposition’s reins. And he appears to be the one man, as this Observer earlier asserted in previous stories, who can bridge the gap between the old guard and the restless youth banging and pounding at the opposition’s back door, demanding a say in how things should be running in that very powerful outfit. He is also the one man capable of bridging the gap, soothing the various warring factions in that party, and bringing them together.

So the play of bringing about this vote had deeper motives. The country’s leader highlighted in a story of July 30, 2013 that the, ‘’ NO CONFIDENCE VOTE WAS A HEALTHY SIGN OF DEMOCRACY.’’ It certainly was, but it was also much more than that sir. It was a master stroke in the game of power by another very skilled political sharpshooter and formidable operator. Both parties have their big guns.

Now, and in a parallel political artery, this Observer commented earlier on a third party entering the scene. His belief remains that any third force better make its debut soon, or it will be outside the current political narrative.

Why is this? Well, once a political narrative gets going and becomes ingrained in the public imagination, especially in the party system of politics, it becomes very difficult to change that narrative. Furthermore, that debut by a third phalanx means, if it is to have any chance of success, a powerful entry on to the political stage, with a very long and strong list of candidates, and a tenacious marketing strategy. A strategy that will cost money: lots of money! Every moment will count for any third political force, as the clock ticks towards 2016. The longer the third infantry waits to enter the field of political war, the greater the disadvantages it will face.

That will leave it to become at best, a spoiler at the next general election, taking away votes from ---------. Your guess is as good as mine!

To be continued

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3 Responses to “July 2013: a turning point in Virgin Islands politics?”

  • qc (10/08/2013, 11:09) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    I think it is actually good politircks for the lesser-knowns and unknowns to come forward and stake their claim.

    • bad (11/08/2013, 13:00) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      one thing for sure the voters do not want either government or fraser and fahie dem
  • ss (10/08/2013, 18:58) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    If the VIP wak up from the dead, the NDP will be out next election easily

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