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Virgin Islands' party politics

Dickson C. Igwe. Photo: VINO/File
BY Dickson C. Igwe

In 20-years, the state of Virgin Islands (VI) politics has never seen the flux and flow it sees today.

In the past 20-years, the ‘Two Party System’ has governed the political landscape. Two party politics has been a static and immovable beast.

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 VI political landscape resembles a ‘’ badly scrambled egg.’’

The political landscape is volatile and unpredictable.

 Coalition Gov’t

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,’ VI residents and voters, want.

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 organization, is very hard to beat.

That reality remains a fact today, in this pundit’s opinion.

The ‘flux and flow’ of the pre-campaign season for General Elections—that will take place before May 2018—has been dizzying; defying even gravity.

Internal Coup

The movers and shakers of VI’s politics have been fencing in dramatic political warfare.

The two polarities, or the two political parties, remain standing, but the NDP 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 VIP on the other hand has remained virtually the same beast from after it held its leadership election that placed, Honourable Andrew Fahie (R1) 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 organizations 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.

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.

Higher Premiums

At the very least, higher premiums squeeze ‘Jack’ the consumer’s pockets and that is never a good thing for economic growth.

And home owners who can no longer afford up to 15K annual premiums, may have to keep savings accounts with sufficient funds in case of IRMA 2.

That further puts a squeeze on consumer demand.

Brexit Saga

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.

The VI 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 5-years, to get back to the pre- Irma condition. 

Solid Proposal

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.

VI 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 VI politics.

At the last General Election a number of these families played an inordinate role in getting ‘District’ leaders elected.

Migration Demographic  

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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