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Student Power Coalition Wins Elections Despite Poor Turnout

By Barty Roberts, BA Politics and International Relations

Safia Shaikh (Activities and Events), Abel Harvie-Clark (Democracy and Education), Alex Cachinero-Gorman (Welfare and Campaigns) and Hamayal Zaib (Equality and Liberation) have all been elected to become SOAS SU Co-Presidents despite turnout failing to surpass 30% (full results can be found on the Students’ Union website). 

Polling took place between Monday 26th and Thursday 29th of February. The conduct of many candidates faced criticism; In announcing the results, Deputy Returning Officer Emily Chapman reported, without referring to any specific candidates, “behaviours that were undesirable and unacceptable in any form within SOAS”. One of the Equality and Liberation candidates, Hannan Asghar, was disqualified for an expense-related rules breach. 

The enforcement of the rules has been called into question. In the Conduct and Campaign sections of the Election rulebook Rule 4.4 stipulates that “Candidates may express a preference for other candidates, but they must not share joint digital or physical campaign material, manifesto promises or branding”. The four victors all campaigned together, distributing leaflets with a similar style of branding (see photo). They have even described themselves as a “slate” of candidates.

The four Co-Presidents elect responded with this statement:

“We do not agree that those of us elected sharing similar values has [sic] any bearing on how each of us ran individually, or the fairness of the elections. Each one of us spoke with rival candidates about working together beyond the elections, and many societies endorsed a mixture of candidates. Furthermore, promotional material designed with widely available and free design platforms with common templates like Canva is a positive thing for all candidates, which was highlighted by the SU itself in our election briefing. The results show overwhelming support for transformative change at SOAS and at the SU. We remain committed to transparency and accountability with the student body, which was a common factor around our separate campaigns.”

All four winners have pledged to be more present, more accessible and make the Union more democratic. They have all also criticised the Students’ Union’s status as a charity, rather than a Trade Union – the Students’ Union was registered as a charity in 2013. They have also criticised the existence of an unelected SU CEO. The oncoming Co-Presidents feel the position and title attribute too much power to one “executive” individual. The CEO title replaces ‘General Manager’, a decision made in June 2022.

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