The referendum’s low turnout of voters was an indication that electors are satisfied with the territory’s existing electoral system, Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush said late Wednesday night after watching the final tally come in.
Premier Bush, fellow United Democratic Party members of the Legislative Assembly and a group of about 50 supporters watched the results roll in on live television in the car lot at Alissta Towers in George Town. Speaking to the cheering crowd from a podium erected under a canopy tent, Mr. Bush said: “This was not an advisory referendum. We have acted in accordance with our constitution and so the result is binding. The referendum has failed.”
According to the elections office, 8,118 people voted between 7am and 6pm Wednesday on the referendum, which asked voters: “Do you support an electoral system of single-member constituencies with each elector being entitled to cast only one vote?” A total of 5,631 voted yes, while 3,001 said no.
All districts in the Cayman Islands, apart from West Bay, voted in favour of switching to single-member constituencies. Although the majority of those who voted opted to support single member constituency, the number of voters casting their support fell short of “magic number” of 7,582, which referendum required to pass.
“The fact is that the ... [one man, one vote system] proposers did not get the required amount to change our electoral system. Our constitution plainly says that on the basis on which we called the referendum, they would have to get 50 per cent plus one. They have not reached that,” Mr. Bush said, adding “They have done well.”
He acknowledged the efforts of the “well-intentioned young Caymanians who started this movement, based on their beliefs. It is unfortunate that it was hijacked by political bosses so desperate to grasp power they will trample on anyone to get a platform.”
Mr. Bush also criticised the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce for supporting the “one man, one vote” campaign, telling his supporters: “You’ve never seen a campaign carried out by a business organisation the way they carried out their campaign against the present electoral system.”
He also levelled criticism at the opposition People’s Progressive Movement party and independent legislator Ezzard Miller for their roles in pushing the “one man, one vote” campaign, as well at members of the Generation Now organisation, whose members he described as “well intentioned, but misled”.
Speaking to reporters after his speech, Mr. Bush said that 33 per cent of eligible voters in Cayman had voted to change the electoral system, but the other 67 per cent had either stayed at home or voted not. “They said ‘stay the course, don’t dismantle the system’.”
He acknowledged that he would have liked to have seen more people cast no ballots, just as he had.
“I voted ‘no’ and will forever be voting no against dismantling the system until it is proven to me that this is so bad we have to try something else.
It’s not the system, it’s the people you elect,” he said.
In his own constituency of West Bay, the only district to vote no in the referendum, the results were close, with 1,027 people voting “yes” and 1,053 voting “no” – a difference of just 26 votes.
However, Mr. Bush said he was not surprised by the close call in West Bay because those results went “purely on party lines” and that many of his supporters had opted to stay at home or spend the public holiday with their families rather than voting in a referendum that they did not feel should have been held in the first place.
The premier said the public holiday, which he said the opposition and the “one man, one vote” proponents called for, had cost the territory $7 million.
Asked if he and his government would give any further consideration to introducing single-member constituencies, Mr. Bush responded: “No, I‘m not wasting anymore time on this – 15,000-odd people are eligible voters ... 33 per cent came out and voted. The constitution says that’s not good enough and rightly so; we should not set the bar low to change the democratic way that we do things. Why should we?”