As soon as the Progressives administration approved the switch to 19 single-member constituencies, we (and everyone else with a pencil and scratch pad) could foretell that the vote totals of winning candidates would be ridiculously minuscule. So they were: North Side MLA Ezzard Miller won with 201 votes; Cayman Brac East MLA Juliana O’Connor-Connolly won with 225 votes; and East End MLA Arden McLean won with 272 votes.
A more important (and eye-popping) point than the “magnitude” of the voting totals is the razor-thinness of candidates’ margins of victory.
Newlands MLA Alva Suckoo won by 15 votes; George Town West MLA David Wight by 16 votes; Mr. Miller by 22 votes; Mr. McLean by 26 votes; and George Town Central MLA Kenneth Bryan by 35 votes.
Taken altogether, the combined margins of victory in those five closest races was 114 votes, total.
Those 114 votes (equating to 0.7 percent of the nearly 16,000 people who voted in Wednesday’s election) have effectively swung the balance of power in Cayman and could alter the fate of the country and all of its 60,000 inhabitants … for better, or for worse.
The thing about razors is – they cut.
(Again, none of these observations are new. We could have sketched the outline of this editorial on Oct. 20, 2015 – the day after the Progressives government OK’d the boundaries of the 19 mini-districts – placed it in a drawer, and retrieved it today to fill in the blanks with specific figures.)
As we went to press, independent and party candidates were still powwowing, horse-trading and promise-making, with the objective of forming Cayman’s next ruling government. We do not know who will be in the administration, or who will lead it, but we do know that whatever group emerges will appear to lack a clear mandate from Cayman’s voting public.
Out of the 19 winning candidates, nine of them (nearly half) failed to gain a majority of votes in their constituencies. Three winning candidates didn’t break 40 percent.
Even more difficult to discern than the mixed support for individual candidates at the district level are the mixed signals sent by voters on a countrywide scale. For example, the Progressives achieved a plurality of winners – seven, and eight if you include former Minister Tara Rivers, who ran as an independent.
On the other hand, the Progressives lost three incumbent ministers – Marco Archer, Osbourne Bodden and Wayne Panton. Did Cayman’s voters, on balance, approve of the policies and performance of the Progressives administration since 2013, disapprove, or other?
With British chess Grandmaster Nigel Short set to visit Cayman, we’ll observe that a fundamental tenet of the game of chess is protect the king at all costs.
That mentality among the Progressives resulted in perhaps the biggest strategic mistake of the election. The party placed its king – former Premier Alden McLaughlin – into a political “safe zone” in Red Bay, a maneuver conducted in stealth on Nomination Day, while Mr. Archer was selected (and assented) to go up against the young, hungry and eminently well-prepared Mr. Bryan in George Town Central.
To continue the chess metaphor, Mr. Archer willingly sacrificed himself by playing the role of a pawn in Mr. McLaughlin’s political game.
Unlike a chess tournament, a democracy should not be confused with a meritocracy.
The inherent imperfections of this model of governance are highlighted, exacerbated and amplified by the tiny size of Cayman’s new constituencies.
Carving up the country in the name of one man, one vote is a symbolic, practical and political act of division and divisiveness – one which our insular territory can ill afford.
Instead of making Cayman’s districts smaller, more numerous and more inward-facing, officials should have done the opposite: Make the entirety of the Cayman Islands one single district, and allow residents to vote on the same slate of candidates.
We should be going to islandwide elections, and last night proved it.