Can 'lone wolves' do much more than howl?

During his contribution to the budget debate in Legislative Assembly last week, East End MLA Arden McLean expressed frustration over the government’s unwillingness to fund some of the needed projects in his district.

Despite bringing up the matters in the quarterly Cabinet meetings he has the constitutional right to attend, and despite the fact that the projects would not require huge amounts of money, he couldn’t get the government to move forward.

Such is the plight of an independent representative in a single-member constituency when the elected member is not a part of the sitting government.
As a lone wolf, Mr. McLean is in the position of either begging or biting for the needs of his constituency. Frankly, he has our sympathy, as does his other single-member “best-bud” Ezzard Miller, who can’t get much either for his district of North Side. As a political rule, lone wolves might howl, but unless they travel in packs, they rarely bring back much in the way of spoils for their constituents.

If the Cayman Islands moves to single member constituencies, Mr. McLean and Mr. Miller may likely have other equally frustrated representatives with whom to commiserate, including elected members from the official opposition party.

One of the potential unintended consequences of adopting single-member constituencies is that successful candidates who aren’t part of the government may find it very difficult to get things done for their so-called “mini-districts.”

The reason is simple: The sitting government is likely to favor the people and the projects in the voting districts of its own members.

The 2010 Cayman Islands Electoral Boundary Commission stated that one of the major appeals of single-member voting districts was to facilitate a “readily identifiable representative to whom concerns can be addressed” and to maximize accountability of those representatives. In other words, if a particular constituency isn’t getting the things it wants or needs, the voters will know who to blame.

But there’s more to it. A spiteful sitting government could also plan to put needed, but unpopular, infrastructure, such as a new cargo dock, a new fuel storage facility, a composting/recycling center or even a new landfill, in independent constituencies. (At one point, there was actually talk among certain politicians of “dumping the dump” in the district of North Side as “payback” to Mr. Miller for one perceived transgression or another.)

In a country such as the Cayman Islands, where voters are used to the largesse lavished upon them by representatives who are part of the controlling government, lone wolves who come back to their districts empty-handed might find it difficult to be re-elected.

For this reason, single-member constituency regimes in small countries tend to support large, established political parties, at the expense of independent candidates.

According to a 2005 University of Essex study, in post-colonial countries where political parties are weakly entrenched, as they are in Cayman, the organizational capacity of an incumbent large party could very well be “in a position to generate support across the country, allowing it to overwhelm a poorly organized and dispersed opposition.” More ominously, it concluded that “over-large majorities can be expected to be delegitimizing and threatening to democracy.”

If one party were to gain dominance in the Cayman Islands, lone wolf independent representatives, such as Mr. McLean and Mr. Miller, could quickly find themselves at the top of the endangered species list. 

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  1. These editorial comments don”t ring true to me. The current East End and North Side Independents have chosen to avoid party politics and as such accept the consequences. Arden McLean is a former PPM member and Ezzard Miller was courted by the UDP at one time so they have chosen their path. I don”t understand how single member constituencies will impact their standing into the future. Single members will join one of the main political parties for the benefits those parties afford and to associate with those who are like minded in their political thought. As in any democracy there is power in numbers.

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  2. I certainly agree, lone wolves, independent representatives may only get to howl, could they find themselves at the top of the endangered species list, if a one party was to gain dominance in the one man, one vote. This is a very tricky situation, which many voters have not thought about. That is one of the prime reasons we need to be very careful whether the one man, one vote will be a benefit to your district constituency. If we end up with an island-wide "same old, same old" back in hot seats, what do you think will happen? There will not be any changes. Asking questions from those who know, and will give you the truth, is important to good guidance. To me, being independent is just like a family of five living in a house with a stove, refrigerator, bathroom and kitchen in each bedroom, but all under the same roof; however when the bill come every body pays equal no matter how much the other may use. Sometimes I wonder what role an independent member player in keeping the roof from leaking. Can they ever get a majority vote on repairs, or is it all about their room only? No matter how much we play the solitaire game, it is never as good as a "pick four and you pose."

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  3. "The reason is simple: The sitting government is likely to favor the people and the projects in the voting districts of its own members."
    This is fundamentally wrong.
    Evil will seem to win when good men sit and do nothing.

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  4. On the contrary,
    The independent can provide a useful checks and balances not being forced to toe the party line, they can vote with their conscience.
    Where the government has a big majority, be they party or not, they are simply an opposition MLA with little real power either way, but let’s consider a hung parliament with 18 MLAs, seven from each party and four independents, votes will be decided by the majority decision of those four, with the freedom to align with whichever party is making the most sense at the time.

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  5. I follow some comments, but what I am concerned about is what happened last election. First I want to know what does C4C or independent Sayers stand for because I thought C4C was also an independent party; only to wonder if they were an undercover party. Lot and parcel of another party, because they slipped up their chair in a hurry.
    Now not saying that they are not intelligent people, but if you watch CIGTV everybody look unhappy and angry. I think they need to know what side of the fence they are on and get in line.

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  6. Pointing to lack of district support is just wrong. We are not an island of disconnected districts, and anyone still looking at us as such is living in the past. One Island, one people with our government’s plans and objectives for the island as a whole. A coalitions of district representatives working for the island as a whole, not for a district as a unit. My district wants this and my district wants that, should be part of the assessment process, and if it makes the national means list so be it.
    District lone wolves no, a coalition where every representative views and district needs are evaluated and actioned, shouting or howling should have nothing to do with it. A work order to the cemeteries and parks unit or public works should have addressed the needs of maintaining good access to the dock in East End. If not, why not?

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  7. A few comments:
    First, we don’t need the Lone Wolf in power. We need representatives that will work together, for the benefit of the country, not just their districts.
    Second, "…allowing it to overwhelm a poorly organized and dispersed opposition…”
    This is surprising? A poorly organized, dispersed opposition should lose elections and doesn’t deserve power.

    Third.
    If one party gets a large majority it will be because the majority of voters in each district, and thus the country feel they deserve it. Is this really a bad thing? I would suggest such a situation is much better than one strong candidate dragging 3,4 or 5 yes men lackeys along with him into the LA.

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