Today’s Editorial May 04: Parties facing mandate, too

Although the general elections are just a little more than two weeks away, many people in Cayman do not seem to have a firm read on the outcome.

Even the so-called experts who have accurately – or close to accurately – predicted the outcome of other recent elections, remain unsure as to the make-up of the next government.

One of the main difficulties is the seemingly rising stock of many of the independent candidates. In the last election, voters tended to stick to party lines, with more voting for the People’s Progressive Movement candidates than those from the United Democratic Party. Independent candidates, except for Moses Kirkconnell in the Sister Islands, were marginalised.

This year is different though. There’s a buzz about independent candidates, partially because of a rising disenchantment with the political party system among many voters.

Speaking at a Chamber of Commerce Candidates’ Forum last week, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts noted the Westminster system of government is, by its very nature, always a bit adversarial. He said that if done productively and without being too acrimonious, then the system could work well.

The problem is many voters feel there has been too much acrimony between the PPM and the UDP from the time they both formed in late 2001, and that the system really hasn’t worked well. In addition to the open bitterness displayed between the two sides, the party system seems to have spawned the never-ending political campaign, where our elected representatives spend more time in the Legislative Assembly talking about what they have done or what they will do than actually doing it.

A recent poll of likely voters on the election website showed only 28.2 per cent said they would only vote for candidates of a particular party, while 62.6 per cent said they would vote for the person they believed was the best candidate, regardless of party affiliation.

Even if the results of that poll only reflect a general trend in thinking, there could be some serious surprises on Election Day, with a number of independent candidates earning seats in the Legislative Assembly.

Depending on the number of successful independent candidates, Cayman’s young political party system could find itself in deep trouble. In that sense, this election is just as much about a mandate of the party system as a whole as it is about either of the two parties in particular.