This week’s poll question, wondering if government might profit from the election of independent political candidates, drew cynicism, bafflement and little hope for improvement.
Both the “yay” and “nay” sides of the question finished in a near dead heat, with the former registering 31.1 per cent and 135 votes of the 434 ballots and the latter recording 29.9 per cent and 130 votes.
The third and fourth options were also close, if less attractive than the topmost tandem, as respondents were little able to predict the directions that might be determined by political self-interest, venality and co-optation.
In sum, however, comments focused on the sudden rise of independents, three of whom were newly chosen in the 22 May general election, augmenting the two returned incumbents – East End’s Arden McLean and North Side’s Ezzard Miller.
The Compass poll also elicited various musings on the state of party politics, largely reflecting on their inevitability despite the limitations they place on freedom of thought and action.
“These elections and the subsequent manoeuvring shows why parties are essential to the electoral process,” one respondent opined. “The independents have actually created more controversy.”
The three newcomers – West Bay’s Tara Rivers, and George Town’s Ray McTaggart and Winston Connolly – appear to be welcome. But their recent recruitment to government ranks, sharing Cabinet and councillor slots with ruling People’s Progressive Movement party representatives, has raised questions about their commitment to non-aligned representation.
“What difference do we expect … I voted for an independent candidate who thought his best interest was to join the bench of the government … and we’re expecting a difference? Lunacy!” said another voter, echoing a general scepticism about not only elected officials, but their ability to resist the status, potential perquisites and other blandishments of public office.
“This will be a ‘let’s-wait-and-see’ game’,” came one comment. “Everyone is power hungry.”
Another was more specific, holding out hope for the three new personalities, but – fairly or not – treating Messrs. Miller and McLean with disregard.
“Three of them will make a difference, the other two are deadweight salary collectors,” came the thought, repeated, in less-aggressive form, by another voter, who nonetheless was willing to give Ms Rivers, the appointed minister of education, employment and gender affairs, at least half a chance.
“One of these so-called independents has already jumped on the PPM party boat. Let’s see where she goes if [it] springs a leak like her last sail. My only hope is the one that did get in in West Bay. Let’s see what she does.”
One respondent suggested a broader conclusion involving the very structure of government. The cadre of civil servants, as elsewhere in the world, lends a largely conservative continuity to governance, determining the tone and direction of administration.
“Most of our problems are linked directly to the cost and non-performance of the civil service. As long as the civil service constitutes the largest voting bloc (and our only trade union), nothing of any substance will ever be done (by politicians) to sort out our problems,” the commentator offered.
In total, 81 voters, 18.7 per cent, thought the presence in the PPM administration of the three new Coalition for Cayman-backed candidates would compromise any independent policymaking, effectively undermining their effectiveness.
A similar, though slightly less, number – 74 voters and 17.1 per cent – thought Caymanians would have to wait for “one man, one vote” and the creation of at least 15 single-member constituencies before any real choice might be evident among party-sponsored, party-affiliated and non-aligned candidates. Only at that point, might voters choose independents in any significant numbers.
“I am afraid it will take OMOV to see independents in the big districts,” according to one voter, minimising the impact of Messers. McTaggart and Connolly.
“Voters did not make independents the major subject of their vote,” said another, indicating the subject of non-party candidates was probably misplaced and possibly irrelevant. Any changes implicit in their election were likely to be minimal.
“Politics,” suggested another, “are a slippery slope,” perhaps impossible to anticipate, at least with any consistency.
Finally, a shaft of hope forms the final remark, looking toward the first-choice proposition that independents might, in fact, curtail the dead end of inter-party bickering: “[We] can only hope that they will do ‘a)’ above.”
Next week’s poll question:
Enough of politics. School holidays are upon us. What looms ahead?
A difficult search for summer employment
A long, hot season of idle youth
A series of privately sponsored, often overpriced recreational “camps”
Clear morning roads and reduced traffic