A disparate group of independent candidates triumphed in Wednesday’s general election, but they did not manage to win a 10-seat majority in the Legislative Assembly.
Independent candidates swept Bodden Town’s four seats, as well as those in East End and North Side. Independent Kenneth Bryan pulled off the upset win of the evening, defeating Progressives Minister Marco Archer in George Town Central.
There were jubilant scenes outside George Town Town Hall where a large crowd of supporters hoisted Mr. Bryan on their shoulders before leading a celebratory procession through the streets.
“The people wanted change and they came out in numbers and they voted,” Mr. Bryan said. “It is a long road ahead, there is a lot of work to be done. I want to be a part of the government, however that is formed. I want to make sure I have access to get things done for the people.”
Radio talk show host Austin Harris, an independent, won the Prospect constituency in George Town. Independent Minister Tara Rivers, who was supported by the Progressives during the campaign, also won her district of West Bay South.
“I am willing to serve in whatever capacity,” Ms. Rivers said when asked if she wished to stay on as education minister. “I think I need to figure out now what the landscape is and then we make those decisions going forward.”
The election results were a mixed bag for the Progressives, who suffered the crucial loss of three sitting ministers in George Town and Bodden Town, but who also picked up two unexpected wins in George Town. The Progressives won seven seats in all. Party leader Alden McLaughlin and deputy leader Moses Kirkconnell won reelection easily in their districts.
At the Progressives headquarters, the party leaders, including Mr. McLaughlin, were huddled in a back office into the early hours of Thursday morning. Speculation spread through the small crowd gathered outside about possible coalitions. There was no official comment from the party and Mr. McLaughlin declined to comment.
It was notable that a number of Progressives candidates did not celebrate the results of Wednesday night’s election. The newly elected member from George Town South, Barbara Conolly, said she was “heartbroken” over the ultimate result despite being personally pleased with her own win.
“The party performed worse than [I] hoped and [I] expect the coming week to bring outreach to independent candidates,” Ms. Conolly said, describing the coalition as a “wild card for government.”
Meanwhile, the Cayman Democratic Party was limited to winning just three seats in its West Bay stronghold. Party leader McKeeva Bush blasted the newly minted “one man, one vote” system in an interview Wednesday before all the results had come in.
“I suspect there was a low turnout because there is a lot of dissatisfaction,” Mr. Bush said. “People are not supportive of the system. I don’t think it worked well for our democracy.”
It was unclear as of press time early Thursday morning which group of elected members would form the ruling coalition.
The independents’ group is made up of separate factions, with one group that ran together under the erstwhile banner of the “Cayman People’s Alliance,” including East End MLA Arden McLean as its presumptive leader and Newlands MLA Alva Suckoo as its deputy leader. Other members of the group who were elected Wednesday included North Side MLA Ezzard Miller and Savannah MLA Anthony Eden.
Other independents who were elected Wednesday had the support of Mr. Bush, including Mr. Bryan and Mr. Harris. Meanwhile, still other independents who were formerly allied with Mr. Bush’s party, including Chris Saunders in Bodden Town West and Dwayne “John John” Seymour in Bodden Town East, faced CDP opponents in this election and won.
Mr. Seymour, who served as an MLA for Bodden Town in 2009-2013, said he was pleased about getting his old job back.
“I feel great that people gave me a chance, fighting against two big giants – the CDP and the Progressives. They told me I could not do it without them and I am happy that we stuck with it.”
Ms. Rivers has been a part of the Progressives-led coalition government for the past four years and ran as an independent with the support of the Progressives this year.
The Progressives party members won seven seats with a potential eighth if Ms. Rivers is to be counted among them again. It was not immediately clear from whence the two other members needed to form a 10-person government would come for the Progressives.
Mr. Bush’s CDP had supported a number of independent candidates in the run up to the election, including Messrs. Eden, Suckoo, Bryan and Harris. However, with just three candidates elected among the CDP members, it seemed unlikely Mr. Bush’s group would have much bargaining power in any coalition arrangement.
The results of all 19 polling divisions on Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands were in by about 11:30 p.m. and Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell reported the final results to the press at around 11:45 p.m.
By comparison, the final results of the 2013 polling, conducted under the previous voting system with larger, multi-member districts, were not made public until dawn had broken on the next day.
“We’re all in before midnight. Awesome job to the [elections] team and congratulations to the winners,” Mr. Howell said.
Compass reporters James Whittaker, Michael Klein, Jewel Levy and Kayla Young contributed to this story.