Party Vs. Independent

| 04/12/2012

The debate over what political configuration is best for the Cayman Islands has now evolved into a Party vs. Independent show-down between the Coalition for Cayman (C4C) and the two prominent parties, namely the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the Peoples Progressive Movement or "Progressives". The opponents of the party system have initiated a movement to drive out party politics by essentially endorsing what they refer to as independent candidates in the 2013 elections.

While it is the constitutional right of any group to campaign on what they consider to be the issues most important to the voters and wider population, it is important to consider the argument being made in order to assess whether or not the point being made accurately identifies the origin of the issues, or is there a more sinister and hidden agenda?

One should consider that individuals approached by the C4C have been promised more than just an endorsement; individuals have been promised financing, campaign support, access to political strategists and marketers among other things. It therefore my opinion that this level of involvement in a candidate’s campaign extends far beyond simple endorsement, and I would conclude that the C4C will also heavily influence the candidate's manifesto and position on the issues. This directly contradicts the very foundation of the C4C movement and is a characteristic of party politics and political parties.

The Constitution

Section 49 (2) of the Cayman Islands Constitution states: “Where a political party gains the majority of the seats of the elected members of the Legislative Assembly, the Governor shall appoint as Premier the elected member of the Assembly recommended by a majority of the elected members who are of that party.”

Section 68 (2) of the Cayman Islands Constitution states: “The elected member of the Legislative Assembly recommended by a majority of the elected members of the Assembly who are members of any opposition political party whose numerical strength in the Assembly is greater than that of any other opposition political party … ”

Section 68 (7) of the Cayman Islands Constitution states: “In this section 'opposition political party' includes a group of members of the Legislative Assembly in opposition to the Government who are prepared to support one of their number as their leader.”

Subsequent sections deal with the possibility that no political party wins a majority of the seats, however the main point being made here is that the existence of political parties is acknowledged in our constitution, and it was this same constitution that received a 62% majority approval in 2009. It is clear therefore that the majority of Caymanians voted to adopt a constitution which accepted the existence of a party system.

It seems logical therefore that the C4C would announce their intention to change this aspect of our constitution should they win a majority in the upcoming elections, and I question their sincerity and have to wonder if they are simply using the anti-party sentiment to incense the voters who are undoubtedly UN-happy with the way the current UDP administration is managing the countries affairs.

It is easy to link every major disappointment and failure to the party system simply because the UDP is a party. If the C4C is serious about stamping out party politics they must kill it at the root and propose constitutional amendments. If these changes are not forthcoming, we are left to question whether or not they are sincere in their hatred for party politics or if they are simply ‘playing politics’.

Party Perspective

Political parties exist like any other organization that seeks to maintain an orderly, disciplined, coordinated and efficient work-force. Consider the average company and the many resources that are organized and working for that company to accomplish its strategic goals. If the company did not have employees who have signed an employment contract, who know what the organization's goals are and know what is expected of them, how successful would that company be?

Imagine if individuals (independents) simply showed up to work each day and did what they felt was necessary without consulting or agreeing to work together. Would that not be completely counter-productive and expensive? This illustrates what will likely happen should the country decide to elect 18 politically independent individuals who operate on 18 different agendas, each one believing that their agenda is more important than the others. Ask yourself, which agenda do we follow? Or do we follow 18 separate agendas based on the C4C philosophy?

Campaign Expenses

Section 67 of the Elections Law states the following:

Limitation on election expenses

67. (1) Election expenses shall not exceed the sum stipulated in subsection (2).

(2) The maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred in respect of a candidate at an election shall be –

(a) where the candidate does not belong to a political party, or there is no other candidate belonging to the same party at an election in an electoral district, thirty-five thousand dollars; and

(b) where the candidate is not the only candidate belonging to a party at the  election in an electoral district, thirty thousand dollars.

This results in an unfair advantage for C4C candidates who choose to operate in the same manner as a political party but by declaring that they are not a party they are able to increase the allowed expenses per candidate from $30,000 to $35,000 per candidate, and this will translate into an added benefit for the entire “group” of independents. 

Using political meetings as an example, it is a safe assumption that, just as we witnessed recently, the C4C will host public meetings consisting of the usual costly giveaways, food, lighting and sound, television and radio coverage etc. Itwould not be practical for each C4C endorsed candidate to host his or her own meeting but by not declaring that they are a party they are able to pool their campaign funding and extract a competitive advantage over the party candidates.

In Bodden Town for example, four C4C candidates will have a total $140,000 in potential expenses and the UDP and Progressive candidates will only have $120,000 for each party, despite the glaring similarities between their campaign machinery and the C4C machinery. I would therefore encourage the Elections Office to conduct their own assessment of this situation and assess whether or not the C4C would be in breach of the law by not registering themselves as a party.

Are Parties Really Bad?

Are political parties bad for Cayman? In order to answer this question one only has to examine the most significant pros and cons.

A political party operates based upon an agreed manifesto or agenda. Every single item listed in this document represents the important initiatives the party will focus on for the four years following the election. There can be no mistake what the party will introduce and the manifesto acts as a balanced score-card with which to grade the party's performance.

The party is elected based upon the public’s acceptance and desire to adopt the manifesto as a national plan for the next 4 years. In the case of independent candidates, each independent will bring forth his or her own manifesto and is elected based on his or her perceived ability to convince the elected government to adopt the manifesto and incorporate it into the national plan.

It is easy to see the difficulty in achieving this, especially if the parliament is made up of 18 independent members. Every single issue could be potentially debated and discussed with no overall consensus and position being achieved. This is a step backwards, and returns us to the days where every single motion in the House requires the mover to solicit support, often times making compromises and promises that the public is not aware of and which may actually be to the detriment of the country.

Party members spend many months developing and executing their strategy; they work as a team, and each member’s role is pre-determined. This is important because it eliminated the guess-work involved in forming the government and deciding who will become the premier. One only has to look back 3 or 4 election cycles to the days of independents, when the voters did not know who would be leading the country and forming the government until the election was over and the negotiating and horse-trading was completed.

Recent history even saw an agreement achieved and when the election-weary members went home to rest thinking they had a deal, several of their number decided to change the established agreement and set out to make a deal with the new opposition. The government then woke up to the news that their agreement had fallen apart as they slept and a new government was taking over. Independents bring uncertainty and instability and it appears that C4C is either oblivious of this danger or simply chooses to ignore it.

Splitting The Vote

Perhaps the most troubling of all differences is the effect that independent candidates will have on the outcome of the election. The UDP currently maintains a core group of supporters and these individuals can be expected to cast their votes for the UDP. There are other undecided anti-UDP voters who, for various reasons, will vote for either all independents or split their votes between the PPM and Independents. This splitting up of the non-UDP vote will result in the UDP getting more votes overall and they will win their seats simply because the C4C convinced them to split their votes between the PPM and C4C. It was exactly this scenario that played out in 2009 and we are doomed to see a repeat if the C4C continues its quest for political power. Their efforts would be betterserved supporting one of the two parties, effectively lending support and votes.

The C4C needs to be what it set out to be, which is an advocacy group not a political party. This simple fact seems to have escaped the public’s attention and the motives and aspirations of C4C are becoming more and more blurred and obscured by the rhetoric and superficial promises being made by the C4C. I am not sure they will stand up to the scrutiny and focus of the voters because, as they begin to reveal the inner workings of their organizations, the public will quickly realize that C4C operates just like a political party, and that their motives are not so pure and unselfish. 

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Category: Viewpoint

Comments (23)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    You have one fundamental flaw in your writing….The MAJORITY of Caymanians DID NOT vote for this new constitution…less than 50% of the registered voters actually voted for it. It was rigged it so it would pass if the majority of those VOTING supported it. So what we have is a constitution that the majority of the voters did NOT vote for.

  2. Green Hornet says:

    I’m still on the fence. Convince me who is the better choice for cayman? Seems to me it’s all poly tricks once again. If it was my Choice I would go with Arden or ezzard, these guys puts country and people first and this is all that should matters. Chuckie are you going to declare your candidacey?

  3. John Albert Smith says:

    Whoever you are, you should be the one that was bestowed the Honoury Doctorate, not McKeeva! Your viewpoint is spot on and very well reasoned. This is what I have been looking for. Not the childish dribble I read earlier from C4C!

  4. Anonymous says:

    There can be little disagreement that the PPM has been asleep at the switch for the past 3 years. The OMOV is a perfect example of Alden trying to run to the head of the crowd as it passes him by. The PPM aregoing to be passed by C4C unless the PPM step up with some solutions.

    • Anonymous says:

      PPM fully supported the OMOV so your statements are typical C4C foolishness. If the PPM supporters had not got their base out to support OMOV the result would have been entirly different.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes and the PPM negotiated the constitution with the UK without OMOV yet left the single member constituencies out of the document. Blame that on C4C foolishness?

        • Actually says:

          OMOV was left out because the UDP insisted it be left out, the PPM had to negotiate certain things in order to move forward with the constitution otherwise we would still be in the dark ages. By the way after negotiation Mac still came home and campaigned against the constitution.

          • Anonymous says:

            There is the proof that if the PPM really supported OMOV then they were really poor negotiators (especially having the majority and all!) who have proven themselves incompetent to LEAD. Not that the UDP is any better! In 2013 we need to elect competent leaders. Neither party is presenting that option.

          • Anonymous says:

            You are correct but if the PPM believed the OMOV was a moral imperative then blaming the UDP for its omission sounds a bit like simple blaming, doesn't it? Regardless the PPM were the government in power and held the leadership position in the document negotications so they must take responsiblity for its inclusion or omission, don't you think?

          • Anonymous says:

            You say that the PPM negotiated constitution took us out of the dark ages but retained multi member constituencies?

      • Dred says:

        PPM problem is well documented. They speak a good game but are slow to deliver on anything. Don't believe me?

        1) BT Election Debacle – Why did the PPM who has a lawyer as their chairperson and a Lawyer in GT team not file the peperqwork themselves to fight the UDP candidates. Why did they sit back and wait for some other person to file? Someone they mind you had to coerse to do it. In the end because of their stupid maneuvre UDP reigns in BT. Taking those two seats could have been key to saving us a crap load of money over the past 3.5 years.

        2) March on Glass House by Chucky – I know this guy is not perfect but in this case he was 100% right. And what did PPM do, the usual, nothing.

        3) OMOV – Yes PPM "said" they supported OMOV but did they SHOW it. Why did PPM not come out in force with money and physical support to help the drive. Because the good of teh party is more important than the good of the country.

        I don not believe that 100% of the problems we have are PARTY related. Its just the idiots in the party if you ask me. Party is a structure that in of itself has no real flaws. It can be used for ultimate good and well UDP. It's the people you stick into the system that mess things up.

        My example. With all that has happened under UDP watch in any other country in the world probably even some in Africa the leader would have been made to step down but……because of the people in UDP this does not happen. Why? Who knows. Secrets, Coolaide?? who knows and maybe we will never know. The only thing we should know is that we can not have these people again for whatever the reason is its not a reason the people of the Cayman Islands should be behind.

        So I don't say its the party. I know the party gives rise to bad elements also such as power in numbers but trust me when I say this no matter what you throw out there you are going to get that. C4C if they have numbers then their WILL will be done. Same for PPM or anything.

        But all I was getting at is this. PPM is flawed also. Maybe not as bad as UDP bu they are. They lack SPINE. Cahones, what ever you want to call it. And when you stand for nothing, you fall for everything and thats what scares me about them.

        As much as I support them against UDP is as much as they scare mealso.

        • anonymous says:

          It seems to be a waste to answer those questions again because I have heard PPM answer them more than once publicly yet people seem not to hear. But what you needto know about OMOV that the organizers don’t want you to know is that along with Ezzard Miller, PPM fund-raising efforts are what majorly bankrolled the OMOV campaign and in addition to that, because OMOV didn’t want the PPM involved the MANY PPM members who were involved in collecting signatures etc. the public has little appreciation for the PPM’s involvement.

          • Anonymous says:

            Nonsense…if PPM supported OMOV and if they were strong it would have passed. I understand Alden would merely open the office for them then run off to the gym. Alden and Mac both realized that OMOV would decrease their chances of reelection and NEITHER supported it. It’s simple. No matter what Alden says. In fact if you remember he even said we did not have enough time to explain it and we should wait until next election…remember that?? OMOV group did a great job even with both parties against them.

        • Anonymouseee says:

          You forget they decided to march? You forget the cohen deal connection to the proposed sale? You forget their opposition to the sale of the government bulding was McKeeva’s stated reason for dropping the proposed sale?

    • Anonymous says:

      No, that’s not fair. There are times that they should have been quicker off the mark but it’s not fair to say they have been asleep. They have protested and brought to our attention a number of moves by the UDP govt.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Based on what was said at the meeting the C4C is not a party. It aims to be a public awareness and advocacy group with the intention to endorse independent minded candidates who seek to demonstrate loyalty to the people and the country not the parties and the usual rhetoric. Isn’t that a good thing?

    Cayman cannot expect different ideas or persons involved in politics if we continue to make the same mistakes or vote for the type of persons who have failed the country and led us to this point. In cayman the parties are groups who are loyal to the individual leaders or the personalities involved, differences between between the udp and ppm are based on the leadership not based on political ideology.

    In a small country like ours most people are ex-supporters of something or someone and the C4C have both ex-UDP and ex-PPM in the group. People need to be brave enough to want something different to endorse or support the next wave political hopefuls and those currently elected who want to fix the problems instead of continuing to support two parties and two leaders that have offered no solutions but are big on rhetoric. How does the saying go “empty vessels make the most noise”

  6. Anonymous says:

    Does anyone really believe that it was an accident when the ppm drafted the Constituiton which was passed in 2009?

    Never forget that McKeeva Bush is the master of political gamesmanship and proclaimed he did not support the Constitution hence, every anti-McKeeva voter fell into the trap and now we have a Constitution that is loaded deliberately to benefit both parties who are enjoying all the perks. The leadership of the ppm were authors and received awards for moving the country forward constitutionally assuming they would reap the benefits in 2009. Cayman thrived when our leaders were forced into negotiating and workingtogether instead of simply toeing the party line. The lack of independent thinkers within the parties who are MLA’s and who serve the party first have failed to challenge the bad ideas, bad deals and waste that both parties are responsible for. This is why cayman is struggling today and will continue to do so until we change

    What we need in 2013 is leadership and people prepared to work together and work for Cayman whether it is independents, c4c, ppm or udp who understand it’s about the people and about what’s best for cayman.

  7. And..5 says:

    Perhaps C4C will be the new PPM party, because the PPM party didn't do a good job, so somebody else will take their place, and perhaps that is why this article opposes C4C. Because it is becoming a threat to the PPM party and they must see to it that they achieve enough votes to get back in and put this country into a worse economic downturn and mismanagement of funds. I remember clearly the days of PPM. How much you want to bet that C4C will take their stead?

    • Anonymous says:

      I think you are proving the writer's point. Since you are still harping on about PPM's mismanagement of funds rather than the debacle that is the current govt. I can only assume that you are C4C-UDP. C4C threatens the return of this govt. by splitting the vote.   

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, this Viewpoint sounds very like a PPM screed. It wouldn't surprise me if the backroom brains were the same!

    • Anonymouse Man says:

      Not a threat to the PPM, but a threat to Cayman. They will simply dilute the votes and Elio Solomon will be mouth piece for Premier Bush again. C4C is not a creiditable advocacy group when that same executive has already convinced a very senior partner of an accounting firm that he will be given to job of being the islands next  Premier. This group is just a cartel that wants access to  the leadership in Cayman. And they are prepared to pay for it. Their very existence is for putting themselves first, they are not for Cayman. That is just stealing a line from the PPM to mask the truth!

  8. 49'r says:

    Hmmm… why is it every time I type C4C holding down the “shift key,” it is typing C$C , that is, “C dollar sign C"?  … scarry man!    But anyways, I find it more interesting that I have not seen a positive article yet on C4C!  It seems like the commenters here are bent on pessimism about any political local entity, and that to me, is not a good sign. It seems they want the UK to take over this rock, or we stuck with a two-party system, and I don’t think that either way will do Cayman any good in the long run.

  9. Excellent Viewpoint says:

    This says it all doesnt it ? I am sticking with the PPM, at least they have:


    1. Confirmed 13 Candidates so far all of whom I can relate to on many levels and know they are a diverse and well put together group who are loyal to Cayman.

    2. They have a record of honesty and integrity in office. Alden is very intelligent and in comparison to the other Political Group leaders he is far superior (I have never heard him say the word "Dahlin").

    3. The PPM are due to unveil their manifesto in January, no other group out there will even say where they are with theirs and C$C seems absolutely clueless on what they actually want to put forward for Cayman. 

    4. Never been accused of corruption or investigated without being cleared for that matter.

    5. Already begun to articulate their positions on various issues but are smart enough to wait for the party manifesto before rushing out with guns blazing.

    The PPM have not yet started campaigning and have already established that they are the clear choice. If any group deserves to lead us it is them.