Today’s Editorial May 25: Party system entrenched

There have been a lot of complaints from the public in recent times about the 8-year-old political party system in the Cayman Islands.

People have complained it has been divisive, not only with regard to how our politicians work together to govern the country, but also in the effect it has had on the wider voting public.

In this past election, 22 independent candidates stood against 21 members of either the United Democratic Party or the People’s Progressive Movement. Many people thought some of the independent candidates had a real chance of getting elected.

In the end, 14 out of the 15 candidates elected by the people were affiliated with one of the two parties and the only independent candidate that won was Ezzard Miller in North Side – and he was the least independent of all candidates, having vowed to work with the UDP from the very start.

The winners of the 2005 election were also all affiliated with one of the two political parties, with the one exception of Moses Kirkconnell in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.

Part of the problem for independents is money; under the Election Law political parties are able to spend much more than individual candidates, putting the latter at a distinct disadvantage.

But perhaps even more critical is the fact that both political parties urge supporters to vote for all of their candidates, warning that a vote for an independent is akin to a vote for the other party.

In both of the previous two elections, there has been a large groundswell of voters who wanted to change the sitting government. The only sure way of doing that is to have the opposing party gain a majority of representatives in Legislative Assembly.

For those who more than anything wanted to see a change in government, voting straight along party lines was a tempting choice. Judging by the election results, many people chose that route, further entrenching the party system in Cayman.

The results of the 2009 election should serve as a wake-up call to independents that no matter how dissatisfied people say they are with the political party system, and no matter how strong a candidate they may be, their chances of winning a Legislative Assembly seat under the current electoral system, especially in Bodden Town, George Town or West Bay, are very slim.

If and when Cayman adopts a system of single-member constituencies, the situation might change. But until that time, people who want a realistic chance of winning a seat in Legislative Assembly had better either join an existing political party or form a new one.