A handful of events during 2012 portended major changes in Cayman’s political scene, but just how much of that change will actually take depends on what occurs this year.
One certainty is that there will be 18 members of the Legislative Assembly chosen during the May general election.
A majority of the members of Legislative Assembly members formally approved the recommendations of the territory’s Electoral Boundary Commission late last year.
Lawmakers voted 9-2 in favour of accepting the draft order relating to the boundary commission recommendations put forward by Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor. Corresponding changes to the Elections Law were approved on 10 December, making it official.
Two new MLA seats will be added to George Town district and one seat in the Bodden Town district. All other electoral districts retain their existing representatives and voting processes, although some changes will be made to voting locations to accommodate the additional seats.
“The allocation was based on trends in population with George Town having the greatest concentration of voters and Bodden Town having the fastest growth,” according to then-Premier McKeeva Bush.
While he supported the motion to add new seats, Mr. Bush said he was concerned that having an even number of votes – going from 15 to 18 – had the potential to “deadlock” the legislature if votes end in a tie.
Also, Mr. Bush said he thought the new seats in George Town and Bodden Town had the potential to unbalance the assembly, potentially allowing any ruling government control as long as they won all 10 seats in those two districts.
North Side MLA Ezzard Miller, one of the leaders of the “one man, one vote” referendum movement in July, voted against the motion to approve the draft order, as did East End MLA Arden McLean.
“I have tried in several ways to encourage the government to implement single member constituencies, ‘one man, one vote’,” Mr. Miller said. “I do not agree with the choice the government has made.”
The ‘one man’ movement
The ‘one man, one vote’ effort garnered quite a bit of interest in the early part of 2012 with supporters forcing Mr. Bush’s government into holding a public referendum on the issue in July.
However, despite the significant majority of Cayman Islands voters backing the ‘one man, one vote’ referendum question, the “yes” votes were not nearly enough to achieve the “magic number” of 7,582 needed to legally bind the government to enact the single member district voting system.
With all the votes counted, tallies were roughly 65 per cent saying “yes” to the referendum and supporting ‘one man, one vote’. Around 35 per cent of the voters said “no” to the question.
The only voting district to reject the referendum question was West Bay, Mr. Bush’s home district.
While the voting results were encouraging for supporters of the referendum, the turnout for the July referendum was not.
The final vote count was 8,677 votes cast in total, including postal and mobile ballots. That’s about a 57 per cent turnout.
In another major development, a new group launched its plans to recreate the face of politics in Cayman at a crowded rally in George Town.
The November event had all the trappings of a political rally with free T-shirts, an elevated stage with a colourful backdrop and catchy slogan, free food for attendees, a speaker’s podium and a row of seats at the back of the stage where the next speakers awaited their turn to address the crowd.
However, the Coalition for Cayman, continued to insist it is not a political party, but rather an “advocacy and public education” group that wants to shake up the political arena.
The group said it is not fielding candidates, but instead will identify, support and endorse independent nominees to run for election, speakers at the meeting said.
Blaming the political party system for the country’s economic woes, the group said it would push for the “right” independent candidates who could make Cayman into a place of propriety, innovation and transparency.
The group had still not named any candidates it planned to support, although it has named its executive committee.
In the 2009 election, a large slate of independents who ran for office lost out to members of the two established political parties, with only one independent legislator – North Side’s Ezzard Miller – winning a seat in the Legislative Assembly.
In that election, 22 independent candidates ran head to head with 21 nominees from among the political parties, but received only just over a quarter of the total number of votes cast – taking 10,366 of the 39,740 votes submitted on 12,204 ballots.