Kwame Asamoah Kwarteng, a candidate who was banned from campaigning due to allegations of misconduct, has been elected General Secretary of the University of Manchester Students’ Union (SU).
Four candidates, running on a ‘slate’ – or a common platform – were banned from campaigning in-person in the final days of voting after some students accused them of snatching their phones to then vote for themselves. Some students also told The Mancunion that they were “intimidated” by the candidates. The candidates appealed but the ban was upheld.
Rana Phool, who was also banned from campaigning, was elected to become the inaugural Postgraduate Officer.
At a dramatic results evening, the position of International Students’ Officer wasn’t declared due to allegations of misconduct. The Mancunion understands that a result is expected from the 11th of March.
In a statement, an SU spokesperson said: “Following a number of complaints about four candidates in the Manchester Students’ Union Elections 2019, the independent Returning Officer reviewed the evidence provided and came to the conclusion that these candidates should be banned from further physical campaigning until the close of polling.”
The other two slate candidates were Anas Riaz and Dishika Bhalotia, who ran for the Activities and Development and the International Students’ Officer roles respectively.
Riaz lost in the last round of voting to incumbent Lizzy Haughton by just 39 votes, and Bhalotia will not know her fate until an NUS Returning Officer concludes their investigation into candidate-wrongdoing.
Dylan Routley, who stood for the position of Welfare and Community officer, told The Mancunion: “As somebody who ran in this election in a separate category this is really disappointing, not only does it undermine the whole point of elections but it diminishes the hard work of so many candidates.
“[It] also demonstrates a new level of sh*thousery from the SU & NUS [as] the candidates involved were reported several times and received no sanction.”
When asked by The Mancunion about the accusations during the campaign, the newly elected General Secretary Kwame said: “[The allegations] made me stronger. They realised they had a tough competitor and so they had to do anything to draw me down. For me, it is part of the competition and you will always have these things happening. For me, it just made me stronger. it made me and my team extremely stronger.”
The newly elected Postgraduate Officer Rana Phool said: “To be very honest, this has affected me a lot. Everyone now knows that our slate has been accused of numerous things, but I was not accused of anything personally throughout the process.
“It saddens me, but at the same time, it makes me strong. I have to rise above, inshallah I will do this and I will prove everything wrong.”
Another surprising result was incumbent Education Officer Olivia Meisl’s loss to Chloe Salins, who said: “I don’t think it’s been the smoothest of campaigns, but overall most candidates I can honestly say hand on heart they deserve it. Stuff happens but the right people will win.”
The other new Exec team members include Ayla Huseyinoglu, who takes over the Women’s Officer role from Sara Heddi. The 2019/20 Exec team will still contain a Sara however, as incumbent Access and Liberation Officer Sara Khan comfortably retained her role.
Adam Haigh, notable for his campaigning work with anti-climate change activist group Extinction Rebellion, was elected as the new Welfare and Community Officer. When interviewed by The Mancunion shortly after his victory, he said that candidates who were banned from campaigning could potentially have been disqualified: “There are some candidates who I potentially would have suggested should have been disqualified because of there actions, but I guess the NUS has decided that there isn’t enough evidence at the moment.”
7,771 students voted in the 2019 SU elections, a turnout of around 19.4%. This is down slightly on 2018’s 19.8% turnout. SU elections rarely see high turnouts, with previous years recording figures of 16% in 2017 and 28% in 2016. Prior to that, 2015 was a record high of 34.4%.
One anonymous student said: “If the SU has any shame they will make sure that the people who cheated and then got elected step down or resign. Cheating is fine as long as there is no clapping at the students union.”
Anuli Changa, a third-year Law student added: “If there is enough damning evidence of the misconduct then those candidates should be removed, it’s about the perception of misconduct as much as proven misconduct because if people don’t believe that the elections are fair, the executive officers lose authority.”
Prasham Sheth, a first-year economics student said: “The SU elections did not decide who’s the best for the roles, but it decided who was the best at marketing. In the first three days, those who voted probably didn’t even know who or what they were voting for, quite a few people randomly voted just to get the free stuff.”
Jack Swan, a second-year Politics and Sociology student said:” One thing I noticed in the campaign is the winning slate had an absolutely huge volunteer team. I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing – if anything it’s a very healthy sign for student democracy – but the SU should offer more to regulate and train not just candidates but their volunteers.
“We already make sure candidates have a level playing field for finances, so we should do our best to make sure that voter canvassing is subject to the same standards of fair play. All candidates should know how to build their teams, what they can and can’t do, and how to use them to best effect.”