It is a fact that the BVI is a divided country and that does not augur well for the next government; according to some pundits it will be a coalition government. This is unwelcome news for the leaders of the major parties contesting the 2019 elections, some of whom have become very vocal inviting their followers to vote one party “all the way” and not to split votes for candidates of different parties – a trend that has gained some momentum in the last 20 years. The NDP, for example, has always believed in unity among its members.
“The rationale is that when we got coalition governments the leader, a Chief Minister and later on a Premier, had a rough time dealing with coalition members who were power-hungry and nothing but trouble; the loyalty of coalition members was often limited because they needed to fulfill at any cost the promises made to their constituents,” says a BVI political analyst.
The risk of ending up with a coalition government stems from a divided electorate consisting of voters who are loyal to their party as opposed to favors seekers, and job seekers, to name a few. Therefore a portion of the electorate is automatically formed by swing voters who will support a number of candidates (not necessarily from a single party) to ensure that “one way or the next” they will get the favors they are looking for. “This situation bodes ill for the BVI and we have suffered through this clientelism time and again to the point of exasperation; it has also fuelled disenchantment of honest voters who elect candidates based on promises that are all too often not fulfilled,” says a Road Town businessman: “My advice is to vote one party all the way because we will have a greater chance to see positive results.”
Another divisive contention is that independent candidates generate mixed feelings in the electorate because they decided not to run for a given party. However, with due exceptions, history has proven the skeptics seriously wrong; even a cursory look shows that some of the best BVI leaders and legislators were independent candidates. For example: Hon Ralph T. O’Neal was an independent elected representative for a number of years, eventually he joined the Virgin Islands Party in 1983; Eileene Parsons and Omar Hodge were initially elected as independent representatives; Cyril B. Romney was elected and served from 1979 to 1990 as an independent. These illustrious legislators proved to be leaders who delivered on what they promised. “They even did more than what they promised and a good portion of the BVI success story is because we put them in power; it was a most sage decision and proportionally speaking they delivered – just look at the names,” a Purcell Estate resident told this newspaper.
It would seem that most voters have made up their minds and although the political temperature will rise to unprecedented heights during the last days before the elections the public has been invited to think well and “vote wisely”.