Bush: Government has to operate

Governor Kilpatrick will respond on election concerns

The formation of a coalition among Cayman’s disparate political opposition groups seems a remote possibility at this stage, Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush said this week.

Mr. Bush’s comments come in the wake of an uproar over the possibility of early elections in the British Overseas Territory. Five independent lawmakers met with Governor Helen Kilpatrick last Friday to oppose Premier Alden McLaughlin’s suggestion that a vote might have to be called in 2016 – possibly as early as April or May of this year.

“I don’t know that an election at this point is right for the country, but the government has to be able to operate,” Mr. Bush said. “If it can’t, then the obvious thing is to go back to the people.”

Mr. McLaughlin said this week that he had not decided anything regarding an early vote and has not officially requested the governor to dissolve parliament and call for new elections.

One way to avoid parliamentary gridlock that would eventually necessitate early polls is for independent Legislative Assembly members and Mr. Bush’s Cayman Islands Democratic Party to join up and form their own coalition. At the moment, such a group would need at least two more members – even if all five independents and the three CDP members got together.

Mr. Bush said Tuesday that he did not have much hope for this outcome.

“It’s unlikely to be,” Mr. Bush said. “I don’t think that I want to join any government with the two of them … [North Side MLA] Ezzard [Miller] and [East End MLA] Arden [McLean].”

Mr. Bush also pointed out that three independent MLAs, Anthony Eden, Alva Suckoo and Winston Connolly, have said they will not join any political groups prior to the regularly scheduled May 2017 vote.

At present, Mr. McLaughlin’s Progressives-led government coalition maintains a majority of 10 members, including Speaker of the House Juliana O’Connor-Connolly.

Mr. McLaughlin said last week that, even with the slim majority – given that Ms. O’Connor- Connolly is presiding over the House and thus usually does not have a vote – it would be difficult for the coalition to govern with a nine-member bench. In that scenario, if one government member left during a Legislative Assembly meeting the eight-member opposition benches could clear out and scuttle the meeting.

Mr. Bush acknowledged the possibility that a minority government could be formed, if enough members from opposite sides agree. However, he said such an agreement was inherently unstable, particularly if the group had to govern the territory for any length of time.

“It’s [the premier’s] call,” Mr. Bush said. “If he cannot run the government, then there needs to be an election. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is. [Premier] Alden [McLaughlin] is going to do what’s best for Alden. If [the coalition government] doesn’t want him, then move him. That’s a solution, rather than going to the polls, I guess.”

Governor Kilpatrick’s office indicated it would respond to independent members’ concerns regarding the possibility of a 2016 general election, perhaps as early as this week.

Five independent MLAs, including Mr. Miller, Mr. McLean, Mr. Eden, Mr. Suckoo and Mr. Connolly, signed a letter dated Jan. 28 requesting Governor Kilpatrick provide “an explanation of the measures you propose to take if the possibility of an early general election arises.”

The independent members noted that there appears to be no reason for an early vote at this stage, since Mr. McLaughlin’s Progressives-led coalition maintains a majority in the House.

The members said it appeared the Cayman Islands Constitution only grants the power to call early elections to the governor herself, and said that power is only to be used if no single political party or like-minded group can form a majority.

Mr. McLaughlin said that it was “ironic” that assembly members who had caused instability in government by switching political sides were now concerned about the prospect of early elections leading to uncertainty.