Referendum bill passed
(CNS): The referendum law was passed on Thursday night, despite the fact that the deputy premier, a Cabinet member, voted against it. The government bill passed without any of the changes proposed by the opposition members. In order for the vote to carry some 7,550 people will need to go to the polls and vote ‘yes ‘on 18 July. Although this is a government and not a people-initiated poll, the UDP administration has opted for the higher threshold for the question to carry. This means 50 per cent of the electorate plus one vote and not a majority of voters who turn out will be required in order to change the country’s voting system, presenting an uphill, if not impossible, battle for the supporters of one man, one vote.
Although a people-initiated referendum would have also required fifty percent of the electorate plus one vote for it to pass, the opposition leader pointed out that under those circumstances government would have been obligated to take a neutral position. At the very least, it would not have been able to use the full weight of the government machinery and resources to campaign full on against the proposal, he observed.
Alden McLaughlin also raised concerns that many civil servants are now fearful about going to vote since, given the circumstances set by government, the only people who need to go to the polls are those voting ‘Yes’, which could leave them exposed to intimidation. McLaughlin said that despite reassurances from Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, many civil servants are not convinced that they are free to vote their conscience and still fear reprisals, no matter what Manderson has said.
Following a full day’s proceedings in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday to debate the law to facilitate the referendum on one member, one vote and single member constituencies, government refused to accept any changes requested by the opposition or the independent member.
“The government has now completely hi-jacked this process and will be placing its full weight and resources against the question to make sure it fails,” McLaughlin said in the wake of the debate. By emphatically stating its position against one man, one vote and having “polarized the environment”, McLaughlin said things have turned out very differently from what should have been a people’s poll.
He said that Bush had made it virtually impossible for the 'yes' vote to carry. However, the opposition leader said that, regardless of the odds now being well and truly stacked against it, the campaign would go on and no one was giving up. The major battle, he said, would be to try and persuade civil servants to go out and vote, despite what he said was a very real fear that they would suffer the consequences of doing so.
McLaughlin warned that some 1,900 more people would need to come out and vote in this national poll than in Cayman’s very first referendum for the constitution.
“It is important to recognise exactly what Mckeeva Bush has done with this process,” McLaughlin said. “He has done all he can to ensure its failure.”
During the debate in the House, Ezzard Miller also raised his concerns but was optimistic that at least the day had been declared a holiday. He said that by setting the threshold so high, Bush was punishing the people that cared about the political process and who cared about democracy.
By having a majority of electors needed to past the vote and not a majority of turn out, ‘no’ voters could stay home as their vote was now irrelevant, he said. The only thing that would count now was the 8,000 yes voters that were needed, he said as he urged the people to make history by carrying the vote regardless of government’s efforts to prevent the introduction of one man, one vote.
“Be proud to brag to your children and grandchildren that you were one of the 8,000,” Miller said as he called on every registered voter to come out and vote yes.
During the presentation of the bill, Bush denied the accusations about the vote be rigged against a ‘yes’ vote and said government had made it "as fair as possible,” as he launched into a tirade against the principle of single member constituencies.
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