In what would have been considered nearly impossible in late May 2005, the 2009 General Elections brought the fourth change of government in the decade for the Cayman Islands.
The People’s Progressive Movement had swept into power in May 2005, winning all nine seats they contested as a party. They picked up tenth seat when independent Cayman Brac and Little Cayman candidate Moses Kirkconnell announced he would join the PPM immediately after the elections.
Given that kind of mandate just four years ago, it was startling to see four PPM incumbents and another new candidate lose seats in the 2009 election.
The PPM stuck to a similar strategy as it had in 2005, electing not to run candidates in the four-seat district of West Bay. It also only contested one of the two seats in the Sister Islands. All of the PPM candidates were incumbents, with one exception: Joey Ebanks ran for the PPM in place of Edna Moyle, who announced in March she was retiring from a 17-year career in politics.
The United Democratic Party countered with 11 nominees, including its five incumbent position holders. Of its six other nominees – Mark Scotland, Dwayne Seymour, Ellio Solomon, Mike Adam, Jonathan Piercy and Pearlina McGaw-Lumsden – none had ever served in Legislative Assembly and only Mr. Solomon and Mr. Scotland had run for office previously.
Another 22 candidates ran as independents, with only one – North Side’s Ezzard Miller – stating which party he would support if elected. As it turned out, Mr. Miller was the only independent candidate elected.
The PPM had one of its Cabinet Ministers lose a seat when Charles Clifford fell short in Bodden Town. Mr. Clifford’s chances were probably hurt by the 2008 Commission of Enquiry convened to look into whether he had wrongly taken confidential government documents and leaked them to the press. Although the Commission had found Mr. Clifford did nothing illegal, it condemned his actions and concluded he had done them more for political gain than anything else.
Another PPM candidate, Joey Ebanks, fell into question when it was learned he had paid back $53,000 in salary advances he owed to the Boatswains Beach – where he served as managing director – in one cash payment and then refused to answer questions about the origins of the cash.
Two UDP Bodden Town candidates had problems of their own. Both Mr. Scotland and Mr. Seymour failed, as required by Cayman’s constitution, to have published in the Government Gazette by 20 April the details of any government contracts in which they had a beneficial interest.
After the two won the election, their eligibility was contested by a small group of Bodden Town voters, however the petition was later dismissed in court, partially because it was filed past the deadline for doing so.
In the end, the UDP kept all five of its incumbent seats, including the four in West Bay held by McKeeva Bush, Rolston Anglin, Cline Glidden Jr. and Captain Euqene Ebanks. Sister Islands MLA Juliana O’Connor-Connolly also retained her seat.
Four of the six other UDP candidates were also victorious, including Mr. Scotland and Mr. Seymour in Bodden Town and Mr. Adam and Mr. Solomon in George Town.
Although PPM incumbents Kurt Tibbetts and Alden McLaughlin kept their seats in George Town, the party lost two seats in that district held by Alfonso Wright and Lucille Seymour.
The PPM’s Arden McLean held on to his seat in East End and Anthony Eden won again in Bodden Town. But the PPM lost two seats in Bodden Town held by Mr. Clifford and Osbourne Bodden, and they lost another seat in North Side where Mr. Ebanks lost to Mr. Miller.
Early in the morning after Election Day, the Elections Office announced the official results, which indicated the UDP took nine out of 15 seats, giving the party control of the government.
After the election, the leader of the UDP, Mr. Bush, became Leader of Government Business with ministerial duties. Other UDP members elected to Cabinet by their peers included Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly; Mr. Anglin, Mr. Adam and Mr. Scotland.