A former Cayman Islands premier who faces 11 criminal charges and was ousted from leadership last year is heading into Thursday's general elections with an outside chance of returning to power in the British Overseas Territory.
McKeeva Bush's United Democratic Party is one of two parties with a distant shot at winning outright in Wednesday's vote for all 18 seats in the legislature. But no party is fielding candidates for all the seats and most observers say a coalition government is likely for the three-island territory of about 56,000 people.
There are no reliable political polls in the Cayman Islands, which is the world's sixth largest financial center and a major haven for mutual funds and private equity.
Bush's main rival is attorney Alden McLaughlin, head of the People's Progressive Movement, which has a slate of 15 candidates. Bush's party has 12 candidates. Ten seats are needed to win control of the 18-seat legislature.
In December, Bush lost a no-confidence vote and was ousted as premier after being arrested on suspicion of misusing a government credit card, abuse of office and other charges. He says the police probes are politically motivated and he will clear his name.
Despite the criminal charges against him and his high-profile ouster as leader, Bush said he's confident he can lead his party to victory once again.
"I've been knocked down a lot but I get back up and I don't dwell on the past," Bush told TV station Cayman 27.
After Bush's removal as premier, a breakaway faction of his splintered party formed a lame duck government as the People's National Alliance. They are fielding five candidates, including Premier Juliana O'Connor-Connolly.
Election officials say there are 18,492 eligible voters and they expect a high turnout. There are 56 candidates in all, nearly half of them independents. The recently created Coalition for Cayman, a potentially influential political advocacy group, has promoted seven independents.
Results are expected Thursday morning, but it could take a week for a coalition government to be forged and a new premier to be chosen if neither of the two main parties dominates the vote. If no single party wins, Cayman's constitution mandates that all elected members of the legislature cast their votes in a leadership ballot.
The two main parties have similar manifestos pledging to protect the islands' financial services industry, boost tourism, create jobs and lower the cost of living.
McLaughlin has blasted Bush's previous administration, saying the last four years has been a time of "tense relations with the United Kingdom" and "corruption and rumors of corruption." He said Bush's arrest on corruption charges had damaged the territory's reputation and harmed the government's credibility with foreign investors.
Relations with Britain were strained under Bush, who described Britain-appointed Gov. Duncan Taylor as his "enemy" and implied he was behind his arrest.
First elected in 1984, Bush was the islands' longest serving politician.
The vote is being observed by a team from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.