Candidates make last bid for votes

McKeeva Bush and Alden McLaughlin

At least three rival rallies will take place across Grand Cayman Tuesday night as the independent candidates, the Cayman Democratic Party and the Progressives make their final pitch to voters before the midnight deadline for all campaigning to stop.

As the campaign entered its final days, the leaders of the two major political parties, Alden McLaughlin and McKeeva Bush, urged their supporters to get out and vote to ensure victory.

Mr. Bush told the Cayman Compass that the polls and the feedback on the streets show that the CDP is the “clear choice” for Cayman.

Mr. McLaughlin, speaking at a rally on Saturday, was similarly optimistic.

“I believe based on everything we are seeing and feeling and hearing that the country is with the Progressives, that the country wants to give the Progressives another endorsement, wants to give us another four years,” he said.

Dr. Steve Tomlinson, the major backer of independent candidates in this election, told the Compass he believes people are fed up with the divisiveness of party politics. He said he is hopeful that around seven independent candidates could be elected on Wednesday.

The two parties and the independent candidates and groups have one last chance to persuade voters before the legal deadline for campaigning to stop and posters and billboards to be torn down by midnight tonight.

The Cayman Democratic Party begins their rally in West Bay, at the Four Way Stop, at 7 p.m. before moving to A. L. Thompson’s later in the evening. The Progressives will host their final rally in the parking lot of Kirk Supermarket from 7 p.m., while some of the independent candidates will speak at a televised event at the same time at the Lions Centre.

Mr. Bush said the campaigning would continue right until the end.

He said professional polls, funded by the party, show him as the favorite to lead the country and the CDP as the likely winners of the election.

“Cayman is at a crossroads; the financial industry is in trouble, business is going elsewhere already,” he said. “Voters in this country have to ask themselves, do they want four more years of this?

“Robbery is high, employment is still a big problem, Caymanian entrepreneurship barely exists.

“I believe I have the leadership skills. I certainly care for my people and I am asking them to vote CDP in every constituency where we have a candidate.”

He said he is also prepared to work with the independent candidates to form a government if necessary, depending on which ones get elected.

“Even if we get 10 or 11 candidates elected, I plan to work with some of the independents. I have said publicly that there are people that have nothing to do with our party that I see a lot of value in.”

He cited Al Suckoo, Anthony Eden, Austin Harris and Kenneth Bryan among the independent candidates that he would be prepared to work with.

Premier Alden McLaughlin was unavailable for an interview on Monday. But in a speech Saturday night he urged Progressives supporters not to be complacent and to come out and vote on Wednesday. He said the new single-member constituencies mean there is no room for error or to spare a vote for family and friends.

“These are very dicey elections. The numbers in each district are so small that it is quite possible that one family can determine the outcome of the elections,” he said.

“We need to campaign every waking hour. We need to ensure that all 15 of the Progressives and Miss Tara Rivers in West Bay come home on Wednesday evening.”

He said the Progressives have a “track record” of delivering on their promises.

“From cutting unemployment to restoring government finances to bringing the economy back in line, adhering to good governance, healing the relationship with the U.K. and providing greater educational, employment and economic opportunities for people – we have made huge progress on all of those things,” he said.

Dr. Tomlinson, who has played a key role in helping organize and finance the campaigns of several independent candidates, said he believes people are ready for an alternative to party politics.

He denied having any behind-the-scenes leadership role or that he would be an “unelected premier” as Mr. McLaughlin has suggested. But he confirmed he had provided support to 19 independent candidates and said he is hopeful that the next government would include as many as seven MLAs who have no allegiance to either of Cayman’s main political parties.

“I have been the main one sounding the clarion about the value of independents,” Dr. Tomlinson said. “I think we should be going back in that direction. I would be happy if we got seven elected, that would be a victory, I think.”

He said the party system is “terrible” for Cayman and he believes independents could raise the level of debate. He said too many decisions are currently made in caucus, out of the view of the public.

He said while he has provided support and advice, and in some cases funding, the independents are their own people.

“I haven’t bankrolled anybody,” he added. “Primarily I want to impact the political leadership and the political culture, and I am hoping that some of the independents can be instrumental in that regard.”

He dismisses suggestions that independents could not get anything done, saying they could come together to resolve issues without being bound by the restrictions of a political party.

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