EDITORIAL – The labyrinthine (and crowded) path to electoral victory

The carnival-like atmosphere in Bodden Town on Saturday night, as described in today’s front page story, is participatory democracy at its finest (and loudest).

Cars jammed both sides of the road as drivers amplified their vocal cords with honking horns to express their approval (or otherwise) of one candidate or another. Two candidates held competing campaign launches, and each attracted hundreds of people with speeches, spectacle and free food.

The quadrennial campaign season has always been a most interesting, and entertaining, time in Cayman. This year’s version is even more rambunctious, thanks to the steroid-like effects infused by the transition to the “one man, one vote” system of single-member constituencies.

With two weeks remaining until Nomination Day, the Compass is tracking about 70 confirmed or potential candidates, a number that we expect to grow, and which already far surpasses the 57 candidates who ran in 2013 (as well as the 43 who ran in 2009 and the 45 who ran in 2005).

Incumbents, up-and-comers, former lawmakers, perennial hopefuls and dark-horse candidates are emerging to make runs at the 19 separate electoral districts. And why not? After all, as related in today’s news story, all it would take to win Cayman’s largest district of Bodden Town East (with five candidates competing for 1,531 votes) is to secure 307 ballots.

In one of Cayman’s smaller districts, North Side, four candidates are competing for 717 votes – meaning the winner could emerge victorious with a paltry 180 votes and … with the support of less than 1 percent of Cayman’s 21,465 registered voters (and a total of 65,000 residents), any winner could potentially become the next premier of the entire country.

The historical district of Bodden Town (which has been broken up into the four “mini-districts” of Savannah, Newlands, Bodden Town West and Bodden Town East) is perhaps the least predictable area amid a general election that is (or at least right now appears to be) utterly unpredictable.

By our count, there are between 15 and 20 people contending for seats in the Bodden Town area (again, with final candidate slates not set for another two weeks). Unlike other areas of Cayman, where districts have been staked out by the two dominant parties (i.e. the Cayman Democratic Party in West Bay, or the Progressives in George Town), the candidates in Bodden Town are a motley assortment of incumbents, independents, recent party defectors, or potential members of (loosely) affiliated but like-minded coalitions, groups or teams that may or may not eventually be identified as official parties.

In a word … “Whew!”

Unlike pundits and pollsters in last year’s U.S. presidential campaign, we at the Compass think it unwise to attempt to make any predictions or prognostications about the results of Cayman’s May 24 elections.

Instead, our mission remains to clarify current events and to disseminate information in the public interest so that when May 24 arrives, Cayman’s electorate is equipped with the best available knowledge to make intelligent, reasoned choices.

We repeat our invitation to all candidates to visit us at the Compass Centre between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, to have “official” photographs taken and to participate in 5-minute video interviews with our journalists. The interviews and information are being posted on our online Elections homepage at www.CaymanCompass.com/Elections-2017 and will be a resource for our reporting in our print newspaper and other upcoming special publications.

Under “one man, one vote,” each voter has one important decision to make — which individual candidate will they support to represent their single district. As far as the “other” 18 districts go (and for the tens of thousands of adults in Cayman who are not legally able to vote), the general election is valuable as an informative, entertaining but “non-participatory” event.

For the entire Elections 2017 show, the Compass provides “the best seat (your seat, your armchair) in town.”

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