The debate surrounding the “one man, one vote” referendum took centre stage at the Harquail Theatre late last week with all panel members agreeing on one issue.
“One man, one vote”, when applied with single-member voting districts, will cement the existence of a two party political system in the Cayman Islands. The five panellists in the Generation Now debate held Thursday evening expressed that view in varying degrees.
Panel members included supporters of the “one man, one vote” system in North Side Member of the Legislative Assembly Ezzard Miller, People’s Progressive Movement candidate Wayne Panton and Chamber of Commerce President David Kirkaldy. There were also opponents of the “one man, one vote” system, namely United Democratic Party Cabinet Minister Rolston Anglin and George Town MLA Ellio Solomon.
The overall consensus from the panel was that, after an initial shake up of the political parties, the two party system would no doubt be solidified in the Cayman Islands.
“People are saying they don’t want this kind of divide, as it only further promotes two parties, which people are already not fond of,” said Mr. Solomon, whose remarks were echoed by Mr. Kirkaldy.
Mr. Miller explained: “It’s not about parties, but one vote and responsibility.” Mr. Miller did point out that in his view there would be an initial shake up of the party landscape.
As the debate progressed, Mr. Solomon said under the proposed change to single-member voting districts, often referred to as single-member constituencies, candidates would need less of the vote in a district to get into the Legislative Assembly. He said this could be dangerous because “there is inherent intelligence in the mass of the people,” adding that individuals could win an election simply because they have family in the constituency.
Mr. Kirkaldy said it was the Chamber of Commerce’s view that single-member constituencies would “… free members to state their positions on all issues,” meaning greater accountability as opposed to simply taking a political party’s position.
Both Mr. Anglin and Mr. Solomon argued that the current style of government in the Cayman Islands was more suitable than what is being proposed in the referendum. Mr. Anglin said that, in his view, single-member constituencies were designed for larger countries and jurisdictions.
“We need something designed for Cayman and not something that will further divide us,” he said.
A question posed directly to Mr. Solomon about his feelings toward a national vote for candidates and for premier was met with a degree of agreement by the member for George Town, who said he felt such a system would be a better option than what is now being touted. He joked that a national vote ballot “would probably look like a Friday issue of the Caymanian Compass in size”.
Mr. Anglin said a national vote could not be considered because there had been no discussion before bringing the “one man, one vote” proposition to the public and therefore no opportunity to explore all of the options.
Mr. Panton told the audience that the initial draft of the 2009 constitution included single-member voting districts. However, he said it was negotiated out by the United Democratic Party, as the People’s Progressive Movement were seeking a bipartisan progression, “… which was probably a mistake”, he said.
Mr. Anglin argued that, with the current population breakdown of Grand Cayman, “George Town has 50 per cent of Cayman’s population and this justifies the seats. Stop the cute semantics. This is about devising a system where the least amount of votes can still get someone elected. This is about small special interest groups having an advantage, where spoiler candidates can alter an election.”