Last week saw the culmination of the Students’ Union elections with a lower than expected turnout of 4478 votes cast, compared to the record high turnout last year of 5429 votes.
On the subject of the lower turnout Chris Davies, current Welfare and Communications Officer commented: “Every year Elections are different to the last. We wanted this year to be the biggest in terms of votes but alas it was not. The candidates and their teams worked very hard and we will be evaluating the lower turnout as part of the annual review of the Elections process.”
The elections also passed with considerably fewer complaints made during the seven-days of campaigning. Only seven formal complaints were received by the election officials administering the Union elections, and of these only two were found to be in breach of the rules.
Last year’s elections finished with various disputes between candidates ranging from allegations of candidates setting up alternative polling stations, to claims that candidates had abused loopholes in the rules to acquire significant numbers of t-shirts to boost their campaigns. This year’s elections saw a number of new rules introduced to prevent similar abuses occurring.
While the elections passed without complaint, they were not without incident. One candidate for the position of AU President was forced to withdraw from the election process on Thursday March 15, a mere day into campaigning, after an incident at The Lash caused his Union membership to be revoked
Candidates have also criticised the introduction of complex rules with regards to new rules on elections t-shirts, which this year could only be purchased from the Union directly. One candidate stated: “calling these new rules ‘overly complex’ would be an understatement.”
Indeed the uptake of the new rules seems lower than even the Union expected, of the 1000 campaign t-shirts sourced by the Union at a cost of over £2,000, only 177 were actually used by candidates.
Chris Davies explained, “The take up on Elections T-shirts, whilst being lower than expected, did mean that campaign ‘armies’ were avoided and complaints on this issue reduced to zero. As they were intentionally undated, the shirts will serve in future elections.”
A number of candidates, including one successful one, have voiced concern about the student awareness of the elections process, and specifically student understanding of the voting system which seemed lower than expected. Chris Williams, Head of Student Media-elect told gair rhydd: “Many candidates, myself included, had to tell people what the elections were, why we needed to vote and what our roles were. I spent a lot of time with potential voters talking about all of these things before I could start discussing my policies… simply because we didn’t feel enough people knew or understood the process.”
Some of the notable results included the election of Cari Davies, AU President Elect, the first female AU President Elect for six years since Lisa Gwinett in 2006. Winning her position by the tightest of the results, just a mere 50 votes stood between her and her nearest competitor, Larry Hunt. Following the announcement, Cari told gair rhydd: “I’m completely numb, it’s been a week of madness, such a rollercoaster.” Current AU President Ollie Devon added: “Cari campaigned really hard throughout the week. She had a great campaign, she had a great campaign team behind her.”
The officer team-elect will contain an equal number of male and female officers, with Megan Eleri David in the role of Welfare and Community Officer, Hannah Pask in the role of Heath Park Campus Officer and Beth Button in the role of Education and University Affairs Officer.
After winning by the highest majority of 835 votes, Beth told gair rhydd that her week had been “bloody tiring, so many highs, so many lows.
“I’ve made so many good friends with these guys and everyone deserves it, it’s just a shame that there are only eight positions available.”
Current Academic and University Affairs Officer Samantha Reid reacted with excitement to the news that next year’s team would be an evenly balanced male to female one: “There are four girls on the officer team, I’m so happy!” Indeed the last two years of officer teams have been heavily dominated by male officers, the change next year has been welcomed by some.
The position of Head of Student Media was the second closest result of the night after that of AU President.
Winning candidate, Chris Williams won with a 113 vote majority, only closely beating George Dugdale. George told gair rhydd that the closeness of the result was “a testament to the quality candidates from the media department this year.”
Chris Williams on his campaign experiences told us: “This week has been my best week of University so far, it has been the purest of University experiences.”
He added that on the feeling of winning: “It hasn’t sunk in at all yet.”
The newly created position of Union Development and Internal Affairs Officer was the most heavily contested of the elections this year, with eight candidates campaigning for the role..
Successful candidate Kieran Gandhi said that his plans next year are to “do things differently. I’m a bit of a maverick, I hope that will go down well next year.”
Nick Matthew, the current and last Finance and Commercial Officer once replaced by Kiran Gandhi in his new role next year, told us: “This new role is going to be very unique and very dynamic. I’m going to lead Kieran down the financial and commercial path, and then, as a collective we’re going to lead him down the charity path.
“At the end of the handover month we want to give him a real picture of what he can do with this role.”
Adam Curtis and Harry Newman were elected Societies Officer and President of the Students’ Union respectively.
On his success Harry Newman explained to gair rhydd that it had been due to “my top three campaigners that I had, being my girlfriend, Kimberly, and my two very good friends, Tim and Steph.”
He also attributed some of his success to his dog Loui, who joined Harry for much of the campaign week: “He was a very good dog!”
Current President Marcus Coates-Walker congratulated the success of the newly elected team and added: “It’s going to be a very interesting year next year, the new team will have 9K fees to deal with, a new Vice-Chancellor, it’s a new world and they are going to have a massive task on their hands, but I’m confident they will do it.”