December 6, 2019

The Editor speaks: Good but not perfect

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The following is taken from the Executive Summary of the Final Report by the Commonwealth observers on our May 2017 elections.

First the GOOD:

The 2017 general elections in the met the international standards for democratic, genuine and transparent elections. There was a vibrant election campaign, which took place in a peaceful environment, during which the freedoms of expression, assembly and association were respected. The administration of the elections was of an extremely high standard, with all aspects of the process conducted with a meticulous attention to detail.

The Elections Office was highly praised by all electoral stakeholders for the manner in which the election was administered. Their officials enjoyed the confidence of the public and of the political parties. The electoral process ran smoothly. Officials acted in a transparent and impartial manner and technical preparations for the elections were accomplished successfully. The 2017 General Election was the first election held using a “one person – one vote” single- member electoral district system. The amendment of the Elections Law in November 2016 increased the number of elected members of the from 18 to 19. A record number of 61 candidates ran for election. A total of 16 women stood for election, which, at 26 per cent, represented the highest proportion of female candidates participating in an election to date. However only three amongst them were elected, comprising less than 16 per cent of the elected members of the .

Voter registration figures increased to 21,227 for the 2017 election. This represented a significant increase from the figure of 18,492 voters registered for the election in 2013. The increase was achieved by means of a significant voter registration drive by the Elections Office, including going door to door across the country to promote registration.

Significant support was offered, in the form of mobile and postal voting, to ensure that voters with special needs, such as the elderly and persons with disabilities, as well as those working on polling day, exercised their right to vote. Prisoners on remand or serving sentences of less than twelve months were enabled to vote, with 12 such individuals voting at polling stations.

Now for the BAD:

The secrecy of the vote was potentially compromised in several ways. These included by the printing of a serial number on both the ballot paper and the counterfoil, the relatively public procedures adopted for assisted voting, and the sometime small numbers of postal and mobile ballots counted separately.

The Constitution Order 2009 sets out the eligibility requirements to stand for election to the Legislative Assembly. A candidate has to be Caymanian of 21 years of age and above but the overly lengthy residency requirements of up to 20 years are problematic and are an undue restriction on the right to passive suffrage. Further, eligibility for election may be denied where an individual is a holder of dual citizenship or is under any acknowledgement of adherence or allegiance to a foreign power. Individuals who have served a prison sentence in excess of 12 months, or who have been convicted of an offence involving dishonesty, are also excluded from standing for public office which is contrary to the provisions of international law.

The transparency of campaign finances was limited as there are no requirements for contestants to submit, or for the authorities to audit or publish, reports on expenditure before polling day. Further, there is no obligation on any state institution to actually verify the completeness and accuracy of the expenses and contributions declared.

The media landscape in the Cayman Islands is limited due to the small size of the population but it played an important role in the election campaign. There was no provision of free airtime to candidates, and private media reportedly provided air time and space to all candidates on an equal, first-come-first-served basis; but with a steep increase in advertising rates during the campaign period. There is, however, no legislation or code of conduct regulating the behaviour of the media during the election campaign.

Since 2014 the Cayman Islands has a national disability policy but the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is yet to be extended to the Cayman Islands. The Constitution disenfranchises persons of their right to vote if a person is certified to be insane or otherwise adjudged to be of unsound mind by the Chief Medical Officer which is contrary to the UNCRPD and international jurisprudence.

There are a few instances in which electoral districts depart from the principle of equal suffrage, which requires that all votes should have roughly equal weight. The districts of (716 registered voters), (692 registered voters) and Bodden Town East (1,513 registered voters) depart most from the average of 1,186 voters in the seventeen Grand Cayman districts.

END

Whether anyone is going to take notice of the BAD is debatable and I am surprised the report stated that “only three amongst them [women] were elected, comprising less than 16 per cent of the elected members of the Legislative Assembly.” As if next time we should somehow make that number more. Are we supposed to ‘rig’ the election in some way next time around to get more women elected?

How we are supposed to increase the number of voters in East End and North Side in order to comply with the average of 1,186 voters is beyond my powers. The observers did not come up with a solution to that conundrum. Perhaps all means of contraception in those two districts should be made illegal.

Whilst there was no criticism of the media they still pointed out there is no legislation or code of conduct regulating the behaviour of the media. Perhaps we don’t need any such legislation…

I cannot agree there was no provision of free airtime to candidates. There were a number of televised debates that were free and even then some candidates did not attend. One such candidate still got elected.

So we aren’t perfect but compared to many other countries we were.

And there wasn’t an UGLY.

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  1. […] Source: Cayman Eye News The following is taken from the Executive Summary of the Final Report by the Commonwealth observers on our May 2017 elections. First the GOOD: The 2017 general elections in the Cayman Islands met the international standards for democratic, genuine and transparent elections. There was a vibrant election campaign, which took… Link: The Editor speaks: Good but not perfect […]

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