Editorial: Candidates step forward but choices far from clear

The faces on the billboards may have been filled in but the partnerships and alliances are still not clear.

Cayman knows who the candidates will be at the general election. But the choice facing voters is far from clear.

The party system collapsed following the collaboration of the Progressives and the remnants of the United Democratic Party after the 2017 poll.

While few will lament the demise of the kind of acrimonious personality-led party politics we have seen at times, the vacuum left by its demise has created considerable uncertainty going into this campaign.

With the Progressives running candidates in less than half of the 19 constituencies and no other party contesting more than a single seat, it is hard to discern at this point who is partnered with whom and what exactly they stand for.

No doubt we will see coalitions, alliances and old-school ‘teams’ emerge over the next six weeks.

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But in all likelihood, the final election count on 14 April will not deliver a decisive result.

The real race to form a government will begin once the polls close and the 19 winning candidates negotiate behind closed doors.

That was true in 2017, too, when McKeeva Bush was initially announced as premier-elect in a coalition of independents which lasted fewer than 24 hours. Ultimately, it took almost a week for the deal that ushered in the National Unity government to be announced.

As we approach the 2021 campaign, with a field of 40 genuine independents and 11 candidates that are part of the Progressives alliance, it is hard to see a route to a swift result.

Voters could well find themselves checking an X, thinking they are striking a blow against the current leadership, only to find their candidate partnering up with them after the polls close.

A parliament dominated by independent candidates can be a good thing, especially in a country of Cayman’s size. It leaves no space for makeweight politicians whose only role is to nod along and follow the leader.

But this type of election requires honest upfront disclosure from candidates and more considered thought from voters.

We urge everyone running for office to nail their colours to the mast and tell people who they are with and how they would seek to form a government.

Don’t wait until after the vote, when the carrot of a Cabinet position is dangled, to reveal where your allegiances lie and which of your manifesto promises you are willing to sacrifice for a seat at the top table.

We advise voters to listen to their candidates closely and judge wisely. The reality is that when the negotiations shake out, any one of them could end up in charge of the country’s education system or marshalling our continued response to the pandemic.

We need to vote for people that are ready for that challenge.

Cayman’s political system also needs to mature to meet the changing times. It seems unlikely that the next government will be able to claim it has a clear mandate from the people to carry out a specific set of policies.

The voices of opposition members and the public at large must be heard.

That can be through greater participatory democracy – as some political hopefuls have called for. It can also be through a more inclusive,  approach to parliamentary politics.

In today’s paper, we highlight multiple ideas, from opposition-led private members motions over the past 20 years.

They range from a two-decades-old call for the implementation of a Referendum Law to a simple suggestion that the numerous untrained boaters mobbing the North Sound undergo a basic operator’s test.

Many of those proposals – even those that attracted the full support of the House – were never followed through.

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