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Low voter morale in the Virgin Islands

Low voter morale in the Virgin Islands

The fragmentation of the two party system has left the Virgin Islands Party the undisputed powerhouse of Virgin Islands politics. The opposing three parties are a work in progress. However, of the three, the Progressive Virgin Islands Movement and National democratic Parties are the more permanent fixtures. Will they survive in their present form? Time will tell.
OK. What can be learned from the April 24, 2023 Virgin Islands Election? For this eternal observer, the much earlier Commission of Inquiry had spurned a culture of lack of trust in government in the Virgin Islands. That lack of trust may have been there well before the start of the very public inquiry. The inquiry simply exacerbated that trust deficiency: it revealed the underbelly of the beast.

Subsequent events including the arrest of the previous leader of the country on drug conspiracy charges did not help. The low voter turnout is clear evidence of the preceding assertions. A deficit in engagement with the political process especially from young voters is never a good thing.

Now, in an earlier story, I stated that politics is science: social science. It is always best to treat politics as math and not poetry. Albeit the cliché’ is appropriate that politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose. In other words, they campaign as painters but rule as bureaucrats.

I described politics as linear in that it looks back at past narratives of political power: and how the present play affects the future. Politics was asymmetrical in that it observed the sideways and peripheral factors that affected public opinion, power and governance: the holistic.

The habit of religious societies of Africa and the Caribbean using prophecy to predict political outcome, instead of polling and statistics was flawed. The Virgin Islands Election of April 24 2023 had its prophets and soothsayers, they were mainly wrong in their predictions, as usual

Then the strength of the district game, especially of the Virgin Islands party district campaign, left the VIP as the party with the most seats: six. District decided outcome over At Large. Albeit the VIP was short of one seat to form a government. Three remaining parties got between one and three seats.

There is a caveat: the three opposition parties got more votes than the VIP did signaling the people may have wanted change.

The rumor mill is a key component of the Virgin Islands political system. The Virgin Islands is a large village. The public knew the outcome of negotiations to form a new government, and the crossing over of an opposition party member to the incumbents, well before it was news on the national media.

In the past four elections, the At Large vote decided the success of a political party and the outcome of an election in the Virgin Islands. This time it would appear this factor in Virgin Islands elections was less a decider. The strength of the district candidates was paramount in delivering a victory for the VIP, in addition to its one At Large Representative. The At Large vote remains crucial to the process however, and the April 24 2023 election may have been a one off in the lesser effect of the At Large votes on the trajectory of the election.

The Virgin Islands Party Government will continue to manage the affairs of the country under the Damocles Sword of the Order in Council and a much more vigilant UK, for the next four years, hopefully. Thankfully, the key players in the present government appear not to be under the cloud of Commission of Inquiry driven investigations.

Public frustration remains at a high level as revealed in lower turnout numbers, than previous elections. Anger remains, as the outcry at a politician crossing the floor and enabling the Virgin Islands Party form the government showed.

The lesson going forward, assuming the constitution remains the same is that parties must compete in all districts with candidates on the ground. The better the ground game – boots on the ground going door to door- the greater the likelihood of success at an election. The VIP has a sustainable grassroots game, possesses structure and organization, and is the more unified organization. The party understands that it is better to compete at local level and lose, than not compete at all, for success.

Going forward, politicians cannot take low voter turnout of 50% as a new norm. Low morale of a country’s citizens is never a good thing for democracy. The political party is wise that takes every effort to address this matter. The party and politician that causes low morale to improve will increase turnout in their favor. That will be a trump card in four years. That means engaging with voters at grassroots level daily over four years, and not just at election season. The party that has the best ground game over the next four years will have the better chance of success at the next General Election.
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