Cayman Islands voters go to the polls

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands, Wednesday May 22, 2013 – More than 18,000 voters in this Caribbean-island are going to the polls Wednesday to elect a new government with political observers pointing to the possibility of a coalition administration emerging after the ballots are counted.

Supervisor of Elections, Kearney Gomez, says his office is in a state of readiness and expects everything to go smoothly.

Polls open at 7:00 a.m. (local time) and will close at 6:00 pm (local time).

The two major parties in the race are the main opposition People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) – which has branded itself as “The Progressives – under the leadership of attorney Alden McLaughlin and the United Democratic Party (UDP), led by former premier McKeeva Bush, are fielding slates of 15 and 12 candidates respectively.

The People’s National Alliance (PNA), a breakaway faction of the UDP is fielding five candidates, while the Coalition for Cayman (C4C), has endorsed a slate of seven candidates.

In addition, there are a number of independent candidates among the 56 candidates vying for the 18 seats in the Legislative Assembly, the parliament of this British Overseas Territory where there are 18,492 registered voters.

Political observers say the race in George Town, the capital of this financial services jurisdiction, will be an interesting affair with 21 candidates vying for the six available seats.

There is no history of consistent scientific opinion polls in the lead up to elections in the Cayman Islands, and unscientific polls by the various media houses indicate there is a chance of no party securing an outright majority, meaning a coalition government could be a distinct possibility.

Efforts to prognosticate the outcome are further muddied because of the system of electing Members of the Legislative Assembly.

Voters in George Town can vote for as many as six candidates, whereas residents of the quaint districts of East End and North Side can only cast one vote each. In West Bay and Bodden Town, voters in those two districts can vote for as many as four candidates in each instance, whereas in the dual riding of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, voters on the outlying islands can only elect two representatives.

With this system, there is the possibility of a single resident to vote for representatives of each party or grouping. In West Bay, where the PPM, UDP, PNA and C4C all have candidates, it means someone in that district could vote for people with four different political affiliations.

Nonetheless, all camps are expressing varying levels of confidence of victory.

Bush, who has led the UDP since 2001, is expected to win his home district of West Bay, where he polled 71.6 per cent of the votes cast at the last general election in 2009.

However, his popularity as the man to lead the government has been put to the test with his arrest last December and subsequent criminal charges for alleged breaches of the anti-corruption law.

The C4C-endorsed candidates have already said they “will not form a Cabinet with the United Democratic Party”.

The PPM, which formed the government from 2005 to 2009 – bookended by Bush’s UDP on either side, is cautiously optimistic that it can retake the reins of power.

The Progressives leader, Alden McLaughlin, a former education minister, has dismissed any talk of the need for a coalition during the campaign. (CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)