Election 2013 brought ‘firsts’

The 2013 general election in the Cayman Islands may be remembered as much for its historical precedents as for who won and lost.  

By the time all the in-person, mobile and postal ballots were counted [around 7am on Thursday – 24 hours after the polls opened] some 14,761 people had cast ballots, easily the highest sheer voter turnout in Cayman Islands democratic history.  

However, it did not represent the highest percentage turnout. In fact, the 2009 general election saw a slightly higher overall turnout – at 80.5 per cent – than did this week’s election, which came in at 79.94 per cent, according to Elections Office figures. 

The difference is that an additional 3,300 voters had registered for the 2013 general election, so even though a lot more people voted overall, eligible voter turnout stayed about the same. 

Supervisor of Elections Kearney Gomez said an 80 per cent turnout is considered exceptionally high in democratic elections in most developed western countries. However, the outgoing supervisor said he couldn’t help being a bit disappointed, after having predicted that voter turnout for 2013 could top 90 per cent.  

The 2013 general election represents the first time the Cayman Islands has elected 18 members to the Legislative Assembly, as required under the 2009 Constitution Order. It is also the first time since the advent of the two-party political system that a Cayman Islands government has not elected enough of its own members to form a ruling party outright.  

The last time such a coalition government was tried, it led to the infamous so-called “coup-d’etat” where the government of then-leader Kurt Tibbetts was tossed out and McKeeva Bush’s new United Democratic Party rose to power.  

Most of the remaining members of that UDP government were ousted during Wednesday’s vote. In West Bay, only Mr. Bush and UDP stalwart Capt. Eugene Ebanks, along with new member Bernie Bush gained seats in the Legislative Assembly.  

Also for the first time since that “coup”, which led to the formation of official political parties in Cayman, someone other than a UDP-backed candidate was elected in West Bay. Tara Rivers, supported by the Coalition for Cayman political group, has been named the second elected member from West Bay, just 100 votes shy of Mr. Bush’s eventual tally.  

The 2013 election isn’t the first time an independent has been elected to the Legislative Assembly since the 2001 “coup”. North Side independent Ezzard Miller was chosen as the only independent in the 2009 vote. However, the 2013 election did see the election or re-election of five self-professed independent political candidates – three of them belonging to the Coalition for Cayman group.  

In the final count, the People’s Progressive Movement members took nine assembly seats, the United Democratic Party, three – all in West Bay, one member of the People’s National Alliance was elected in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, two independently elected candidates were chosen in East End and North Side and three independents supported by the coalition won office.