Debate rages at 11th hour
(CNS): Less than one week before voters will go to the polls to decide on how they will vote at the next general election, members of the UDP government were themselves debating the pros and cons of the existing multi-member system with the idea of a national vote or other methods. As the OMOV campaigners focused entirely on the equality and accountability of one man, one vote during an open public debate at the Harquail Theatre, Education Minister Rolston Anglin said that the country needed far more discussion about what was the most suitable voting system for Cayman, while his colleague Ellio Solomon argued for a national poll.
As the indecision in the United Democratic Party ranks became apparent, local attorney Wayne Panton, North Side MLA Ezzard Miller and Chamber of Commerce President David Kirkaldy were solid in their support for equality in the voting system. Panton, who will run as a PPM candidate in the next elections, said that the Caymanian people would see on Referendum Day the need to vote for OMOV as they would recognise that all Caymanians are equal and that everyone should have one vote and equal representation.
Illustrating the debate still raging in the UDP and in contrast to the premier’s position of retaining the status quo of multi-member constituencies, backbench MLA Ellio Solomon made it clear that he supported a national poll. He appeared to have some support from Anglin, his front bench colleague, whose position was that more debate was needed. He said the goal of any election system should be for candidates to attract the broadest possible support from the electorate in order to be returned rather than less, as he claimed would be the case with single member constituencies.
In a debate that could have continued into the early hours, the five panel members at the Generation Now event, which took place on Thursday evening and was broadcast on Radio Cayman, saw Miller, Panton and Kirkaldy unified on the position that one man, one vote and single member constituencies would give Cayman a more equitable and democratic system with more accountable representation.
Meanwhile, the two UDP candidates, while arguing against one man, one vote and single member constituencies, were not wholeheartedly supporting the status quo and made it clear that they saw a need for change in the country’s voting system.
Anglin said that there needed to be a much wider debate and assessment of the possible systems which could suit the Cayman Islands but failed to define exactly what he thought was the most successful way. Solomon, on the other hand, advocated his position that in a small country such as Cayman everyone could have 18 votes and elect the entire government.
“We need the right model for our small economy,” said Anglin but did not indicate exactly what he believed that would be.
Solomon said the idea of a national poll was resonating with the voters but he could not explain why government had not offered that option on the referendum. Howeveer, he said he would be “proud” to petition for it after the referendum.
Anglin said that there had not been enough debate on the subject and criticised the OMOV campaign for not coming to government and suggesting a debate on all the issues.
“There has been no debate about how we want to create a voting system,” he said as he emphasised the need to find a system that could attract the broadest base. “We need a continuing dialogue about the appropriate system for Cayman.”
However, the OMOV supporters suggested the national vote idea was merely muddying the waters as the simplest and clearest voting system was one man, one vote in single member constituencies.
Ezzard Miller, who spearheaded the OMOV campaign, pointed out that he had made several attempts to introduce a debate to the Legislative Assembly about the voting system since he was elected in 2009 but also pointed to the historic failure of governments since the 1990s to ignore the growing support across the country for OMOV.
With poll after poll indicating a support of over 80% in favour, he said, it was time to introduce the system. It was also made clear that while the referendum may not carry because of the government’s imposition of a legal require of more than 50% of the electorate rather than the turnout, if the majority of voters who turned out voted in favour this would still be a telling result that the government should still heed.
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