We continue our review of news-making events in 2017 with a look back at the May 24 election.
It was a historic election in more ways than one from voting under a new electoral system to the political turmoil that ensued after the results were declared. Cayman 27’s Reshma Ragoonath breaks down how Election 20117 unfolded. From the get-go it was clear election was high in everyone’s minds at the start of 2017 and that was evident by increased interest in voter registration.
“Almost 19,500 voters and that doesn’t include all the door to door stuff that we’ve had happening sort of end of November thru to the 16th of January so I fully expect us to get above 20,000 which for us is a lot of people,” said Elections Officer Wesley Howell.
The Elections Office did cross that mark at the end of the voter registration period 21, 211 people were on the list to vote, the highest number on record. But with the new electoral system of one person one vote system and single-member constituencies in place there was still some apprehension.
“A step in the right direction, but for many people, it’s a bit confusing and I think maybe it needed more explanation by the members of government,” said Emile Levy, a Bodden Town resident.
“Single member constituencies is not good for the Cayman Islands, with a voting population base of just around 20, 000, it’s just too easy to cause division,” said Lorna Bush.
The Election Office stepped up its thrust to educate voters and clear the air. All eyes then turned to candidates and the two main political parties; the PPM (Progressives) and CDP. MLA Winston Conolly would announce his decision not to contest a second term. While veteran MLA Anthony Eden, after announcing his retirement, would announce he had one last fight left in him.
“It has been a pleasure serving my people and if they so wish I will be available in the upcoming elections,” said Mr. Eden.
But the biggest blow on the political landscape was Kurt Tibbetts’ retirement, an announcement Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin would make.
“Darwin Kurt Tibbetts has moved his last motion and represented the people of George Town for the last time,” Mr McLaughlin said.
By the time Nomination Day rolled around some 63 candidates had tossed their hats in the ring to contest the 19 constituencies and there were some surprises. Many were looking forward to a showdown between Mr. McLaughlin and his former personal assistant Kenneth Byran in George Town Central. But that was not to be as the Progressives leader filed his papers in Red Bay, while Marco Archer took on Mr. Bryan, a fight he would go on to lose.
The campaign trail would see conflicts and vandalism of signs, prompting an election warning.
“These are election related offences and so we have to take them seriously and as a society, we have to come together and produce the kind of environment inside of which free and fair elections can happen and that is part of why you have election legislation and enforcement of election related offences,” said RCIPS Media Relations Jacqueline Carpenter.
The election was touted as the rise of the independents with 39 independents, some backed by Dr Steve Tomlinson, would overwhelmingly clench the reins of power. But when the dust settled the Progressives had seven seats in hands, the CDP 3 and Independents nine.
Mr McLaughlin lost key team members Wayne Panton, Mr Archer and Osbourne Bodden, forcing him to put his negotiating skills to the test.