Candidates concerned about ‘marketability’ in one man, one vote election system

Solomon’s announcement brings out independents

Ellio Solomon, center stage, speaks to supporters at his campaign launch in George Town on Jan. 31. Mr. Solomon is one of a number of former political party members contesting the May 2017 general election as independents this time around. – PHOTO: BRENT FULLER

Well more than 100 people turned out for last week’s candidacy announcement by former George Town MLA Ellio Solomon, and at least 10 of them were hopeful candidates for the May general election seeking to determine which direction the political winds were blowing.

Mr. Solomon, a former member of the United Democratic Party, denounced his former political group – now known as the Cayman Democratic Party – during a lengthy speech on Jan. 31, seeking to put distance between himself and both parties.

“I will not be running with either of the two major parties,” Mr. Solomon told the Cayman Compass. “I will be running and supporting other worthy candidates who have this county and its people’s best interests at heart.”

During the Jan. 31 campaign launch event, one of Mr. Solomon’s major backers, Dr. Steve Tomlinson, worked the crowd, speaking with a number of other candidates or potential candidates who attended, including George Town Central’s Kenneth Bryan, Cayman Brac East’s Rudolph Dixon and West Bay South’s Laura Young.

Other candidates, like Newlands’s Raul Gonzalez and Bodden Town East’s Dwayne Seymour, observed from the sidelines, denying affiliation with any political groupings – even the non-party ones.

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“I am truly independent, I am part of no groups,” Mr. Gonzalez said when asked about his attendance at Mr. Solomon’s event. “I just want to hear what everyone has to say.”

Even Mr. Dixon, who has received Dr. Tomlinson’s support, was at pains this week to avoid tying himself down to the political candidates’ group Dr. Tomlinson is backing.

“I’d work with Dr. T; he has supported me,” Mr. Dixon said. “But [that support] is not confined to Dr. T. I believe there will be a coalition government. My philosophy is a true independent’s. I’d like to see us all work together.”

Mr. Seymour said many independent candidates vying for election now, including himself, are reluctant to align themselves with any political grouping – not just the two major political parties, the CDP and the Progressives.

“It may seem strange, but that’s coming from the electorate,” Mr. Seymour said. “They want you to be as marketable as possible, to be as good … a representative as possible.”

Voters, Mr. Seymour said, perceive weaknesses within the political parties, realizing that no one group is likely to be strong enough to win the May 2017 general election on its own. “You’ve got two parties. One doesn’t seem very popular and the other isn’t very organized,” he said.

However, the possibility exists that both parties could still do quite well in their traditional power bases of George Town [for the Progressives] and West Bay [for the CDP]. If a candidate who has been a strident opponent of either group is elected in a district, voters fear that representative will be shut out of whatever government is formed and that those who voted for the candidate will receive short shrift for the next several years.

“They feel their area is going to be left out,” Mr. Seymour said. “This one man, one vote has caused a lot of confusion.”

Consequently, cemented political alliances likely will not be formed until some time after May 24, a number of candidates opined.

This pre-election “confusion” has often been a concern of Premier Alden McLaughlin, who aired issues with non-party politics during an October debate on amendments to the local Elections Law in the Legislative Assembly.

The premier used the example of the Coalition for Cayman, which played a prominent role in the May 2013 general election. Representatives of the coalition, often referred to as C4C, always denied political party status and said the group simply supported various independent candidates seeking political office.

Premier McLaughlin said political party platforms and candidates should be well known and stated before a general election “so the country knows what it is voting for and knows who the leader [of the government] is doing to be.”

“I lived through the 2000 elections … where a bunch of independents were elected and sat down, had not done any negotiating [before the election] …. That government lasted one year,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

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