Move to shut out general election observers fails

A move to block international observers from overseeing the Cayman Islands’ general election in May has been turned down by lawmakers. 

Former Premier McKeeva Bush brought a private member’s motion to the Legislative Assembly calling for the rejection of election observers requested by the UK government. 

He argued that observers were typically brought in for ballots in countries like Haiti and Angola with a history of massive electoral fraud and said they would smear Cayman’s reputation simply by their presence. 

His parliamentary colleagues disagreed, arguing that it would reflect negatively on the islands to shut out observers.  

Only Mr. Bush’s three remaining United Democratic Party colleagues supported the motion, which failed to pass after a 90-minute debate in the assembly on Thursday. 

Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly said the Cayman Islands government was open to having observers at the election, so long as it was not a UK-led delegation. She said it was becoming the international norm for mature democracies. 

“Because it has been encouraged by the UK, I believe, optically, it would have more of a negative impact at this stage to say no you did not want them to come in.” 

She added: “Having our elections observed does not imply that our existing process is inadequate. On the contrary, welcoming in observers can demonstrate how confident we are that our processes are good, robust and transparent and that we would be happy to welcome them to endorse our already almost perfect process.” 

She said it would not look good for the UK to be leading a delegation of observers, but that the government was open to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association or other international group being involved. 

Opposition leader Alden McLaughlin said shutting out observers would compound the “terrible reputational issues” Cayman was suffering.  

He blamed Mr. Bush for Cayman’s poor international reputation and said he should be the last person to object to observers coming in to give a “certificate of good standing” to the islands’ election process. 

He added: “I too am concerned about the optics of the UK sending in international observers because in the context of all that has transpired over the past few years, particularly the past few months, that does create an impression that the UK is gravely concerned about what is happening to Cayman as far as government is concerned. 

“Whatever issues about optics will be short lived if, at the end of it, we get a report from the observers that we have a good, solid election system that is well run.” 

In his closing remarks to the debate, Mr. Bush blamed the opposition leader for the Cayman Islands’ “reputational problems” and scoffed at suggestions that the territory needed a certificate to show its elections were free and fair. 

“I say we don’t need to bring them (observers) in because we have no problems whatsoever,” he said. “Why then do they want to come? To give us a certificate of good standing?  

“If the system is as good and the people are as good as the premier says, do we need somebody to come in to wash their feet and give them a certificate of good standing? No, you don’t make me believe that.” 

For more on the upcoming election, please click here.