The defection of former Cayman Islands Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly to the People’s Progressive Movement paved the way for party leader Alden McLaughlin to be officially confirmed as premier in time for Wednesday’s swearing-in ceremony.
The move gave the PPM an overall majority among the elected members, allowing the party to choose the premier without having to go through the process of a recorded vote in the Legislative Assembly, involving all 18 members.
Mr. McLaughlin said on Tuesday that the switch was not technically necessary, as his party would have had a de facto 9-8 majority anyway following the appointment of Ms O’Connor-Connolly as speaker. The speaker relinquishes the right to vote in most circumstances.
It does appear, however, that the decision smoothed the process for Mr. McLaughlin, who was immediately confirmed as premier following the announcement on Tuesday.
If the former premier, previously a key figure in McKeeva Bush’s United Democratic Party administration, had chosen to remain politically independent or as the sole member of the People’s National Alliance, then a vote in the Legislative Assembly would have been required.
Governor Duncan Taylor made it clear on Tuesday that he was appointing Mr. McLaughlin as premier in line with Section 49 (2) of the Constitution of the Cayman Islands, which allows a political party with the “majority of the seats of elected members” to make a recommendation on who should be premier, without consulting opposition politicians.
“I was informed that Juliana O’Connor-Connolly has joined the People’s Progressive Movement,” Governor Taylor said. “This, in effect, gives the PPM a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly.
“I subsequently received a recommendation from all the elected members of that party as to who they would wish to be appointed premier.”
The process when a party does not command a majority of elected members (at least 10 seats) is slightly different and would have taken longer to finalise, though the end result would almost certainly have been the same. The process, outlined in Section 49 (3) of the constitution requires the speaker to call a session of the Legislative Assembly and a “ballot to be held among the elected members”.
Assuming Mr. McLaughlin commanded the support of the eight other members of his own party with the likely addition of Tara Rivers and Winston Connolly, who have joined his government as independent members, the result would have been a formality anyway.
He would have needed the support of nine members of the government to win the nomination, with the speaker abstaining from the vote unless it ended in a tie – unlikely with 17 voting members.
As it stands, Mr. McLaughlin only needed the support of five members of the assembly to be confirmed as premier – majority support among the elected members of his own party rather than in the assembly as a whole.
Ms O’Connor-Connolly confirmed she had accepted the offer to be speaker at a press conference on Saturday. At the time, she declined to comment on whether she would join the PPM, saying she would do “whatever’s in the best interests of the country”.
Mr. McLaughlin said there was no pressure from him for his predecessor or any other government members to join the party.
“We’ve never been a militant organisation that requires slavish adherence to any policy or philosophy,” he said.
The speaker, who presides over the assembly, can be a non-elected member, as was the case with previous Speaker Mary Lawrence, or an elected member, as was the case with Edna Moyle, the respected parliamentarian who died last week and will be buried in a state funeral on Saturday.
“I was informed that Juliana O’Connor-Connolly has joined the People’s Progressive Movement. This, in effect, gives the PPM a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly.” GOVERNOR DUNCAN TAYLOR