(CMR) Domestic Election Observers said the 2021 General Election was fair and credible. However, there were concerns about the political affiliation of candidates who presented themselves as independents yet were covertly aligned.
The Domestic Observer report stated that “This shadow party system could lead to consequences such as a lack of accountability from candidates who do not disclose their allegiances and alliances.
The report added that this could also lead to a greater likelihood that the electorate will vote for an individual rather than a set of declared principles or policies. This could mean a lack of understanding of the candidates’ position, if any, on prominent issues. With the shadow party system, elected members could be untethered by their pre-election promises and not held accountable for them, leaving them free to abandon their commitments in the pursuit of office.
The report also stated that Electoral inertia gave incumbents a significant advantage and enabled an inequality of arms between nominally equal political forces.
“Electors have a right to know about a candidate’s political affiliations so that they can evaluate a group’s candidates on clearly stated policies and platforms. Of particular concern to Cayman, the absence of pre-defined political affiliations (and their accompanying requisite policies and platforms) means that an individual candidate, or small group of individual candidates, could be influenced to align or re-align themselves in a way that does a disservice to the electorate,” the report continued.
The Domestic Election observers recommended developing a framework for political parties that promotes political stability and improves democratic accountability. This would help to address transparency in political financing, which was also a concern.
According to the report, there were many concerns about election financing. The report stated that significant funding from individual wealthy Caymanians might distort the integrity of the campaign and damage confidence in the electoral process.
“It is beyond our resources to recommend any specific financial structure, but it is clear that political financing needs comprehensive reform. A register of political donations made and received would be a first step. A framework for lobbying and lobbyists seems appropriate, and it may be worth considering the role of third-party financing,” the report added.
Meantime, Governor Martyn Roper said he was pleased to meet with the team of Domestic Observers, led by Hadleigh Roberts.
“They presented me with a copy of their report, which confirmed that the election was entirely legitimate and credible. We have a strong reputation in the Cayman Islands for holding free and fair elections, and I am delighted that this one was no different. The report confirms that the elections were organized to a very high standard and rightly points out that the Elections Supervisor and his team deserve praise for organizing the poll effectively and transparently,” Roper said.
The report makes 23 recommendations for improvements to the elections process.
The Governor said the report from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the International Observers who carried out remote monitoring of the election, will be published in the second half of June. He said it would be for the Government and Parliament to consider how they plan to take forward both sets of recommendations.
“I am most grateful to the Domestic Observers for all of their hard work in producing their report, not least because they were only appointed when it became clear that the team of International Observers could not be physically present because of the global pandemic. As a result, their preparation time was limited. The Observers gave up their time freely to support our democracy, and I express the community’s gratitude to them for their valuable service,” Roper added.