Wayne Panton’s coalition of independents could be back on, with McKeeva Bush entering the fray as a possible partner for the group.

The independents were huddled at the White House, formerly the DMS building, in George Town this afternoon. Several of Bush’s political allies and advisors are on site and speculation is swirling that the former Speaker could be involved in helping Panton reassemble his coalition.

Nothing has been confirmed as yet and there has been no official word from Bush or Panton on the matter.

Compass reporters are on site at the location waiting for details to emerge. Several key players in the independents team, including Kenneth Bryan and Chris Saunders, are in that meeting.

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It is understood that the group believes it has the numbers to derail the Progressive-led alliance announced last night. That announcement followed an earlier declaration from Panton that he had formed a viable coalition of independents, at that point without Bush.

The negotiations in both camps continue as the Progressives-led faction and the PACT coalition under Wayne Panton vie to shore up a majority of MP-elects.

There is still no clear path to government for either side declared right now.

Election night struggle for Bush

The news that Bush may yet play a part in the next government, comes after a ‘cliffhanger’ ballot count on the night of 14 April, with Bush starting his 10th term as an elected representative in West Bay.

He beat opponent Mario Ebanks by just 27 votes. At one point in the count, Ebanks was in the lead by 10 votes.

When returning officer Dale Ramoon read out the result of the West Bay West election just inside the gates of the polling station at Sir John A Cumber Primary School, Bush cut a lone figure as he stood nearby, on his phone. Within the previous hour, Bush had heard that neither of his two running mates in West Bay, Captain Eugene Ebanks and Rolston Anglin, had won in their constituencies.

But within a couple of minutes, the school entrance was crowded with well-wishers who showed up in trucks and cars, blowing horns and whistles, and shouting ‘Hard Man Fe Dead’ – a recurring theme song in  Bush’s political career. They were all looking to hug and congratulate the former Speaker of the House, whose conviction for assaulting a female bar manager last year effectively led to the calling of the early election.

Surrounded by his supporters, Bush told reporters, “This was the biggest cliffhanger. I never faced anything like this. … I haven’t seen all the results yet, but I understand there have been many changes. I say what I said back in 2017, let us get together and put the best government forward.”

Bush described his efforts to retain his seat as his “hardest race” yet.

He has already held office for 36 years, serving first as a backbencher, then in various ministerial positions before being appointed leader of government business and then Cayman’s first premier. His most recent role was as Speaker of the House. 

After his conviction, there were calls from the opposition for him to be removed, but he retained his position until 14 Feb., when government was dissolved after Premier Alden McLaughlin called for a general election one month earlier than scheduled. McLaughlin has said he felt he could not have removed Bush as Speaker because he could not risk the collapse of his government while Cayman battled the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several independent candidates who won on 14 April have indicated that they will not work with Bush, and Progressives leader Roy McTaggart, speaking on Crosstalk last month, said that he would not have him in his Cabinet.

After the horse trading of 15 April, it initially appeared neither potential government would make room for Bush, whose name did not appear on the list of either the Progressives-led coalition, or the Panton-led PACT alliance.

On election night, he said “Whatever I am called to do, I am there to do it. If I am not given a post of any kind, I will still carry out my duties as a representative of West Bay West and a representative of the Cayman Islands.”

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