The horserace for power in the Virgin Islands has entered the final lap. Political poster boards are going up the length and breadth of the land. The political news in the online and print media is at fever pitch. The swordfights between various tribes are fierce. There is great tension in the land. And in the manner of politicians, every word spoken is measured, and every gesture has political motive.

This is the time of sound bites and spin. A word that is never associated with politicians has become ubiquitous: humility. Yes, the begging is on for votes. One colleague stated that the handing out of “white envelopes” is well under way. This voter has yet to receive his envelope. He is easily located if any politician has one for Dickson Igwe. Someone stated that up to $1,000 is stuck into those envelopes. When he does receive it, if ever, he hopes he is not the type swayed by “filthy lucre.” He simply will bank the cash and vote his conscience.

This is the one time in 48 months when Jack the Man on the Street Corner is boss, and Julius Caesar appears in “sackcloth and ashes.”

Now this old boy hates making predictions on VI politics. Why? Because he is certain that politics in the VI is unpredictable, apart from what can be garnered on the street corner, rum shop and whorehouse.

Prediction a ‘mug’s game’

Political prediction remains a mug’s game in this territory. For example, this writer can predict with ease that with a charismatic Democratic Party opponent, Donald Trump will be a one-term president. That assertion is based upon political science: math. A fired-up Democratic Party base has always been larger than the Republican base. Once angry women and liberal voters get out of bed on election day, Trump and his Peasants are toast.

However, this writer would never dream of making such an assertion in the political voodoo that is VI politics. And apart from a major split in the National Democratic Party, and the expected appearance of a number of new parties, the race between the two main parties is already beginning to pull in the political oxygen in his opinion. It is never easy being a third party in the VI. Whether 2019 breaks the mould is to be seen.

 

Unpredictable

On the afternoon of Jan. 8, this writer met a major VI social and political pundit and commentator. Of course, the discourse was all politics. The man stated that the forthcoming general election would be the most unpredictable in VI history. He asserted that nothing was guaranteed and that he expected major surprises after the last ballot is cast.

This wannabe pundit repeated his well-worn assertions on party politics, and the likelihood the two-party political culture of recent years would continue into 2019. Yours truly expected recent VI political history to repeat itself, with one of the big two winning outright. The great pundit smiled magnanimously, stating that I will get the shock of my life after the election is over.

Then on the late morning of Jan. 10, this writer met a “big one” in deciding the outcome of the political race in the Third District: a man who controls a block of votes in his big extended family. The man stated that the two-party system favours the incumbents. He believed the incumbents were more savvy and “slicker.” He also believed the Third District incumbent to be as secure as a rock. This writer responded, “Nothing is sure in the present political alchemy.”

Transparent governance

The talk of the campaign season has all been on the subject of transparent and accountable governance. Voters understand this is all talk. And the proof of the pudding is in the tasting.

Politicians are expert at using a mantra to hide “stuff” they do not want the public to access. Most politicians could not even define transparency within the context of democratic governance. But of course these words, well pronounced, sound great: “transparency, accountability and competency.” They are an awesome drum roll on the campaign trail.

And it is a good thing these words are being bandied about. But transparency, accountability and competent governance only exist where there is a fully aware and fully engaged public, which the VI does not have apart from a few media types who poke their noses where mortals fear to tread.

The fact is transparency in this modern world is about hard numbers, not speeches from a podium loaded with that commodity best obtained from a bull pen.

 

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