Clock ticks on MLA increase
(CNS): Government is running out of time to make its decision on how Cayman will vote for the three extra members of the parliament at the May 2013 General Election. The deputy supervisor of elections said Thursday that although the office has considered, and is prepared for, almost any eventuality that the government could opt for, it must make a decision before 12 December. Colford Scott said the governor had confirmed that the election writ, which defines how many candidates are returned and where, will be issued on 12 December so the Elections Office needs to know by then the shape of the 2013 election landscape.
Speaking to the press on Thursday about the preparations the Elections Office is making for next year’s national poll, the deputy supervisor said the office has not been given any indication by government what option it is likely to pursue. He said the office had examined all of the possibilities and was prepared for almost anything but by 12 December it must know what that “anything” is.
“It would be very difficult to accommodate any changes after that point,” said Scott, as he pointed out that the writ actually states how many candidates are to be returned and where. He explained that if government reached12 December without having made the order in relation to the Boundary Commission Report 2010, the office would be missing the tools it needed to carry out the election process.
The Boundary Commission came up with three options in its report, and following the referendum on one man-one vote in July, the premier proposed a fourth option whereby the islands would be divided into nine constituencies, each with two representatives and each voter having two votes.
The fifth option, which CNS understands is finding favour with some elected members of government, is that proposed by the two independent members, Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean, of deferring the expansion of the House until 2017 and retaining the current 15 members. This would mean that the size of Cabinet could not increase, even though the role of finance minister has been passed to the elected arm of the administration.
Scott explained that if government decided to retain the fifteen members of parliament, it would need to apply to the UK to change the Cayman Islands Constitution 2009 as it currently requires an increase in the size of the country’s legislature at the 2013 General Election.
If a decision is made to retain the status quo, in order for the writ to be lawful on 12 December, the government will have to address that issue with the FCO and ultimately the Privy Counsel.
However, if government opts to add the three seats, it must decide where and how they will be fitted into Grand Cayman.
Based on the current population, the Boundary Commission made three recommendations. The first was for 18 single member constituencies along the boundaries defined in its report; the second was the creation of a seventh new electoral district between Bodden Town and George Town, which would have three representatives; and the third was to add two seats to the existing George Town constituency and one to Bodden Town.
At first, the premier indicated his preference for the third option and brought the report and an order to the Legislative Assembly for debate last year; however, the drafting of the order created some legal implications which forced government to withdraw the documents.
As pressure built in the community for one man, one vote, government organised a national poll and Cayman had a national referendum in July. Although the majority of voters said ‘Yes’, the government opted to treat the poll as a people-initiated referendum and required 50% of all registered voters to vote ‘Yes’ and not just a simple majority.
Acknowledging that the idea of voters in George Town having six votes while others had one was not satisfactory, in the wake of the referendum result, Premier McKeeva Bush proposed the idea of creating nine double-member constituencies following the current single member boundaries and then merging them into pairs.
This would comply with the Boundary Commission's findings regarding the population across West Bay, George Town and most of Bodden Town, but North Side, East End and the eastern side of Bodden Town would have to be merged into one two-member district to make the voter numbers equal.
Although Bush said a committee would be appointed to examine this option, to date there has been no further developments regarding the proposal.
Members of the Legislative Assembly are scheduled to return to the country’s parliament on 5 November, when government faces an already packed legislative agenda and there has been no indication of how long members will sit.
Government’s priority will be to steer through laws that will enable the collection of revenue it needs to balance the public books during this financial year, but in order to meet the election deadline the government will also need to find time to finally decide how Cayman’s electorate will decide on its next government.
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