Politicos court young voters

In the months following Cayman’s May elections, the country’s two major political parties have re-ignited efforts to draw in young voters.

Both the United Democratic Party and the People’s Progressive Movement have formed youth arms of their respective political operations, called the Young UDP and the Young Progressives.

According to participants, both of those groups existed prior to the 2005 general elections, but had largely been allowed to fade into the background.

Recently, efforts to play to the youth vote have been evident in public statements from the leadership of both political parties. Premier McKeeva Bush called YUDP President Richard Christian ‘an illustrious young man’ in a recent speech, while opposition party member Alden McLaughlin said younger party members were needed to ‘set the older folks straight’.

Mr. Christian said in an interview earlier this year that he believed part of the UDP’s success in the recent election was due to the fact that they chose several younger candidates to stand for election, even if some of those younger candidates were not successful on 20 May.

‘It gave the young voters someone to identify with,’ Mr. Christian said.

Mr. Christian said one of his goals for the YUDP group was to groom the next generation of the country’s leaders.

Young Progressives group President Denise Miller was introduced during a PPM political meeting last week, and said she and her colleagues actually approached party leaders to re-form the young voters group.

The Young Progressives were first formed in 2004, and Ms Miller said, played no small part in a sweeping PPM victory during the elections held the next year.

‘The Young Progressives unfortunately fizzled out in this past election period, and I feel that the PPM lost their edge in that respect,’ she said.

Ms Miller said she’s concerned about the state of the Cayman Islands, especially based on what has occurred politically this year.

‘A divided country we’ve now become,’ she told the more than 100 people who attended the PPM meeting at the Seafarers Hall in Prospect. ‘During the last election, there was a vitriolic tenor that flowed through the air.’

The new board members of the Young Progressives was introduced as Ms Miller, first Vice President Robert Roberts, second Vice President Enna McField, Treasurer Kareem Rankine, Public Relations Officer Selkirk Watler, and Secretary Jessica Jackson.

The YUDP Executive Council members, previously introduced, are Mr. Christian, Vice President David Gordon, Treasurer Katherine Holmes, Assistant Treasurer Cindy Adam, Secretary Matthew Adam, Fundraising Committee Chairman Matthew Leslie, and Public Relations Officer Ruthanna Young.

Opposition Leader Kurt Tibbetts said last week that he was pleased at the initiative shown by the Young Progressives group.

‘We didn’t go seeking for the young people,’ he said. ‘They came searching for us.’

Premier McKeeva Bush has previously opined that party politics in Cayman isn’t going away anytime soon, and that it was crucial to any political organisation to train future leaders.