New Cayman Islands coalition government appears set

New Cayman Islands coalition government appears set


Alden McLaughlin

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (CNS) — Following an inconclusive result to last week’s general elections in the Cayman Islands, Alden McLaughlin looks set to remain as the British territory’s leader in a coalition between his People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) and some of the independent MPs, following a weekend of deals, counter-deals, backroom talks and double-crossing.

While the front bench line-up is not yet firm, McLaughlin said on Sunday he “expected to have a government in place” and would be “going to the governor tomorrow”. Although the PPM leader has not revealed details about the make-up of his new coalition government, it is believed to include some former PPM members.

Already dubbed by pundits as ‘the weekend of the long knives’, since McLaughlin and Cayman Democratic Party (CDP) leader McKeeva Bush signed a deal on Friday afternoon joining their parties in a coalition, there has been an enormous amount of backroom dealing to arrive at a new government line-up and a significant amount of double-crossing.

The Sunday evening agreement will probably sit well with the territory, as it is believed to be a broader coalition and more reflective of what the people voted for than the first deal. The deeply controversial agreement the independents struck late Friday night, which had Bush back as premier, did not appear to reflect the election result any more than the first deal with McLaughlin.

Sources close to the final deal have indicated that Bush, despite his about-face on Friday, may have accepted the neutral position of speaker of the House.

The late night agreement that Bush struck with the independents Friday night, which was brokered by former MP Dr Steve Tomlinson, fell apart just as quickly as the deal Bush made with the PPM leader on Friday afternoon. But the West Bay veteran politician left Grand Cayman early Saturday morning, and almost immediately the elder independents made it clear they were not prepared to support Bush as premier.

Talks then went on throughout the weekend between the various groups of independents and the PPM, with deals, demands, counter deals, offers and proposals over the premiership until late Sunday. At one point, it appeared that the 19 elected MPs were going to struggle to form a government at all and a second election was on the cards, not least because of the difficulties of negotiating with the independents, who did represent a cohesive bloc.

In the end, however, some independents have apparently agreed to support a PPM-IND coalition, with, it is understood, subject to discussions, three cabinet seats going to the independents and four to the PPM.

Although the deal has taken five days to broker, it was somewhat less “closed-door” than days of old, with details of the talks leaking constantly and appearing on Facebook.

The last time anything like these types of negotiations took place was before the emergence of the party system. In 2000, it took several days to get the first deal, which fell apart within 24 hours, and it was not until the eve of ‘Swearing-in Day’ that a deal was struck that put Kurt Tibbetts at the head of a coalition of various teams. That lasted 12 months, when a 2001 ouster gave rise to the emergence of political parties, which has prevented this type of backroom horsetrading over the last three elections.

The resurgence of independent candidates in this national poll has underscored the problem of electing a group of non-aligned individuals who have not discussed their policy platforms with each other before being elected, leaving the question of who forms the government being answered, once again, in back rooms rather than in the ballot box.

While there is still the possibility that everything might change again, the existence of parties and the fact that almost half of the independents are aligned in a group has meant that a government that reflects the vote appears to have finally emerged.

But now that the government appears to have been settled, the next question is who will lead the opposition benches.

Republished with permission of Cayman News Service