Now that democracy is over for another year and all scandal has been swept back under the sabbatical suite rug, let’s take a look back on the elections – and see what they mean for UCLU in 2015/16.
Let’s start with the basics. 6315 students cast 29,092 ballots, which is a turnout of 16.7%. Even though 6,239 students cast votes in 2014, the percentage turnout is lower than last year’s record-breaking 20.6% (it’s difficult to call 20% ‘record-breaking’ without a tipple of sarcasm), due thousands of IoE students being able to vote.
Basically: the numbers are confusing. So, while you could congratulate UCLU for a higher number of students voting, you should probably ponder how badly things have worked out if, with 8000 new students, only 76 more people voted. On the bright side, there were far fewer abstentions than last year – and the majority of abstentions were cast by me. Clearly the other 6314 students were more impressed with some of the candidates.
The elections were a clear victory for the candidates commonly associated with the Islamic Society (ISoc), who beat their competitors by a 2:1 or 3:1 margin. Mohammad Ali, the Amateur Boxing Club President, took the role of Sustainability, Engagement and Operations Officer (SEOO) job in the most interesting race. Ali was competing against David Dahlborn, who represented the Left, and James Simcox, who was seen as Sports’ candidate, as well as having a number of backers from the Arts.
As the role with the least coherence (through being a merger of EEOO and DC and having the most meaningless buzzwords in the title), the race was to decide what future SEOOs will be doing. Dahlborn ran on a campaigning platform – an interesting choice, since neither EEOO or DCO are ideological positions – while Ali and Simcox ran on a similarly management platform. And, so, it looks like the SEOO will begin its new life as a relatively apolitical role, and life shall carry on its merry way.
The other most interesting race was the one for Welfare and International Officer. Always a popular one, it attracted five candidates, most of whom had the same (admirable) platform. The victor, Tom Robinson, was the most outwardly political, however, and won in the 5th round of voting.
The top three, Robinson, Dom Meehan and Emma Zürcher, were the real competitors in the race, with Robinson having the support of the Left, Meehan being popular with Sports and having the President of ISoc seconding him, and Zürcher just being a very active campaigner. Robinson may have won (to become the only member of the established Left in the sabb suite), but it’s interesting to see that Zürcher was very clearly the second preference of many of those voting – if only five more people had run, perhaps a war of attrition would have won the day.
The other elections were, frankly, not surprising. One competitor for the Education and Campaigns Officer position didn’t bother showing up to results, allegedly having given up on his campaign a week ago. That was probably for the best, really.
There was, however, much scandal. Hannah Sketchley, the DCO, announced that Helen Chandler-Wilde’s candidacy for Women’s Officer had been withdrawn that day. Gasps of shock around, as people wondered what had happened. It’s now emerged that Chandler-Wilde was taken out of the race due to not being a registered student at UCL.
In a statement to Pi, Mohamad Fahed said, “Helen Chandler-Wilde’s candidacy for the position of Women’s Officer was withdrawn as she did not meet the eligibility criteria for standing as a candidate for a sabbatical officer position… the Returning Officer is obliged to ensure that all regulations relating to elections are fully complied with by all parties.” Chandler-Wilde did not respond to request for comment.
The other Great Election Scandal was that of Asad Khan being docked 1% of votes due to a founded allegation of misconduct. Khan told Pi that “had it not been for the short appeal time, I would have appealed to UCL.” In any case, it’s unlikely that Khan will worry too much, given that, with 3000 votes (3x more than his competitor), he has a year as Activities and Events Officer to restore any damage to his reputation that might have occurred.
The 1% docking is controversial given how small an amount it is (around 30 votes in a race that always attracts thousands), and there has been some backlash against why it was so lenient, especially for a position that gives him a large degree of responsibility for the UCLU Trustee Board. In a statement to Pi, Mohamad Fahed, the Union Chair, said:
“The Returning Officer would like to reassure all students that all complaints alleging electoral fraud are investigated robustly, efficiently and impartially. Where electoral fraud has occurred, the Returning Officer will use the fullest range of sanctions and measures to ensure that the fairness and legitimacy of UCLU elections are properly maintained.”
So, whatever did happen, it looks a tad unlikely that Khan did anything particularly serious – if anything at all, of course.
Which seems like an excellently symbolic place to end an article on UCLU elections: What started off as a huge democratic deal petered out into apathy and a realisation that nothing really happened, and, if it did, it didn’t really matter anyway.
Best of luck to all successful candidates – especially Mohammad Ali: that E in your new job title is going to be fun.
You can read a full breakdown of results here.
Follow Ben on Twitter: @BenMonteith