You could call it chaos, confusion and turmoil. We call it “Cayman Islands democracy in action.”
As soon as the results of Wednesday’s election were finalized, local politicians immersed themselves in high-stakes, cutthroat negotiations, forging and fracturing agreements and alliances as quickly as it took to get from one backroom meeting to another.
Now, it appears that the Progressives’ Alden McLaughlin will return as premier, after striking (another) deal with the Cayman Democratic Party’s McKeeva Bush – but not before dramatic cycles of collusion and treachery conjured comparisons to “House of Cards,” “Game of Thrones” or “The Young and the Restless.”
We can with confidence pinpoint the origin of the political soap opera that played out over the past week: the Progressives’ enactment of one man, one vote, and the introduction of 19 separate single-member constituencies.
When they divided the country politically, it would have been irrational to expect anything but political division.
We lay responsibility for one man, one vote at the feet of the Progressives, but there is plenty of culpability to go around, locally and internationally.
A regrettable flaw prevalent among the people of Cayman is we have far too great a propensity to give deference to foreign contingents who arrive on our soil, and by virtue of their extra-insular origin, we assume they are diligent, disinterested and knowledgeable. Often, that is not the case.
When the government decided to carve up the electoral map of Cayman, officials brought in American political scientist Lisa Handley as an outside expert to chair the Electoral Boundary Commission.
Ostensibly, the primary objective of One Man, One Vote, was “equality of voting”: Every person’s ballot should count the same as anybody else’s. If that were true, the first order of business of Ms. Handley’s commission should have been to merge North Side and East End – each of which has about half the number of voters as the average Grand Cayman district – into a single electoral district. (The same principle would apply to the Sister Islands’ two districts, which are even smaller, except their two seats in the Legislative Assembly are protected by the Constitution.)
Instead of doing the arithmetically obvious, Ms. Handley and her commission decided to leave East End and North Side alone, apparently because the majority of people from those two districts – not to mention their two highly vocal representatives – opposed the idea of a merger. (As if anyone would agree willingly to sacrifice their artificially amplified voice in governance.)
With East End and North Side individually intact, the idea of one man, one vote bringing about equal representation became a farce. The simple fact is, under the current map, the ballots of voters in the four smallest districts in Cayman count twice as much as voters in the 15 larger districts. (North Side, East End and the Sister Islands comprise less than 12 percent of the country’s registered voters, but more than 21 percent of seats in the LA.)
During the 2013 elections, a team of Commonwealth observers drew attention to voting inequality under Cayman’s old electoral system. During last week’s election, another Commonwealth team showed up again. Despite the inescapable reality that the new one man, one vote system has done nothing to address the issue of voting equality, the observers said the change “has contributed to a significant amelioration in the situation” … before going on to note the obvious disparities to which we referred above.
When the elections consultant and outside “observers” opted for passivity over objectivity, and endorsed the individual districts of East End and North Side, they were by extension approving the post-election tempest that threatened Cayman with hurricane-force winds, but now, thankfully, seems to have passed.
After the election, Arden McLean (of East End) and Ezzard Miller (of North Side) should not have been clinking glasses over their respective victories and planning how to influence the formation of the new government.
One should have been celebrating – and the other conceding – because they should have run against each other.