Despite predictions that independent candidates and new parties would drive a new political culture in the Virgin Islands, the two main political parties remain dominant. In politics, a strong brand is always a powerful asset.
Now, no one in their right mind wants to be smug. And too much “I told you so” is frequently fatal. Although one wondered at the absolute confidence of VI Party supporters that they would win the general election outright before the night of Feb. 25.
And that very day, the VIP won eight seats to the National Democratic Party’s three. So these VIP supporters knew something this writer did not. Not that he was surprised at his lack of knowledge, or his total inability to predict elections in the VI. Predicting general elections in the VI is not science. It is voodoo.
The newly formed parties won one seat each — and this by incumbent politicians who were previously entrenched members of the two main parties and who apparently jumped ship for personal reasons.
The shock of the night was losses by two incumbent politicians who were also Cabinet members. One was an independent candidate who left the NDP weeks before Feb. 25; the second was the NDP leader.
So the conclusion from the election results must be that the two-party narrative and culture remain strong.
This election and the aftermath serve as a warning that breaking the two-party culture will take a lot more effort and resources by candidates outside the two parties.
And a former independent and political activist who smelled the coffee early was rewarded with a major ministerial position after making the astute decision that joining one of the big two was his best bet to get a seat at the table of power.
Other independents who remained with the belief that “one more push” would birth the baby of political power remain disappointed, and in the political wilderness.
The new government has a huge workload, however. One crucial task looms large: In the United Kingdom, powerful politicians and bureaucrats are taking an “interest” in the overseas territories, as a certain parliamentary report suggests. This report is calling for the removal of belongership.
Belongership is a resident status unique to OT residents that seeks to protect these tiny communities and their unique cultures from the onslaught of forces of much larger and much more powerful societies.
The OTs are viewed as vulnerable communities that require some type of legal, social and economic protection. Belongership is an attempt to offer this protection.
Removing belongership will destroy these communities by opening them up to invasive forces that will essentially end the way of life of these communities as they exist at present.
This is a huge matter if the UK intends to drive the policy through. The premier of Bermuda has gone as far as describing this proposal as “neo colonial.”
Premier Andrew Fahie will have to deal with this matter with great diplomacy and resourcefulness, and explain to the governor and the powers in Whitehall and Westminster why this proposal is such a terrible idea!
The premier will also have to get involved in the Brexit debate in the UK and meet with the various parties to understand how Brexit impacts the VI. He should think outside the box on Brexit, and he should meet with Scottish, Irish, Welsh, English and OT political and business leaders. Additionally, he should meet with European Union leaders, especially the bureaucrats in Brussels.
Advice for future
Just to add another thing, this writer admonishes his friends in the VIP to do three things as the party begins a four-year odyssey in governance.
First, get as much advice from VI elders as possible.
Second, abandon the always terrible idea of not working with specific public officers who may hold different political views. Peace and love are always better than war, especially in a micro-community.
And third, start to formulate a smart 20-year vision, strategy and plan for the VI. This must be a vision that is generally accepted by the territory as a whole.
A smart vision is a GPS that will aid transparency, accountability and great governance.
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