This year’s elections were the first time in the University of Lincoln’s Students’ Union history that a count was suspended and a complaint was appealed against.
The count for the role of vice-president activities was suspended on March 21st, the day of the election but no reason was given as to why.
The complaint made, that was eventually appealed against, but it was never revealed why the count was suspended.
In the campaigning week period The Linc highlighted that Andreas Zacharia, the current vice-president of activities, had made use of union resources to encourage people to vote for him. People who were friends with the ULSU Activitiez account received a request to join the group “Fresh – Andreas – vote”.
Regulation 8(v) of the Students’ Union rules on how to run the elections restricts the use of unauthorised publicity materials which are then “detailed in the information pack and at the candidate’s briefing”, which lists SU resources as one of those banned.
The Linc also highlighted that two of the candidates, Ary Sharif, who went on to win the election for president as well as Zacharia, received the official backing from a sports and societies club.
The Lincoln Lakers, the basketball team, gave Sharif and Zacharias their support whilst the Lincoln Jets, the cheerleading team, gave their support to Zacharia. This was done through their Facebook group pages, by changing the profile pictures and adopted statuses that gave them their support.
Mark Crowhurst, the general manager of the Students’ Union, says that if an issue with how the regulations have been implemented or if they have been broken then a formal complaint must be made in writing to the returning officer.
However, even if the SU knew a candidate has broken a rule, a formal complaint has to be made for any action to be taken, as Crowhurst explains: “If a rule was broken but no complaint received there is therefore no complaint so therefore no ruling could be made.”
Once the complaint had been highlighted with the returning officer, Al Powell, the messages and the pictures were removed from Facebook as it was in breach of regulation 10 (ii) which says that no candidate should have the official backing of any sports of societies.
Since then it has come to light that as well as The Linc’s complaint one candidate running for the position also complained about Zacharia’s campaigning. The returning officer believed Zacharia should be disqualified under the regulation 8(v) because of his use of union materials. However, the complainant had written down the regulation 10(ii) on the complaint form. When this was taken to an appeal it was then overturned because of the listed regulation on March 24th.
The complainant attempted to make a further complaint where he would quote the right regulation but was told he could not and the count went ahead.
Paul Walsh, the clerk to the Board of Governors, is the person with the final say in an appeal against the decision of the returning officer. Walsh explains his small role in the SU elections: “The returning officer is empowered to adjudicate complaints about the conduct of the elections and if the complainants are not satisfied with the adjudication of the returning officer they can complain to me.”
He said that a lot of the job was dealing with interpretation, and the appeals process was a case of “is the complainant’s interpretation of what the regulation calls for correct”.
One of the appeals that were made to Walsh came down to interpretation and he commented: “The complainant’s interpretation of the regulations was different from the returning officer’s and I judged that the returning officer was correct and that he had the power to make that interpretation.”
Nothing was said about the process when the count was suspended because it “may have been detrimental to the process itself,” says Crowhurst. The SU has still not officially announced anything regarding Zacharia’s previous suspension.
Eventually, the count for vice-president activities went ahead on March 27th with all three candidates, Andreas Zacharia, John Conway and Michael Stewart, all still in the running for the position. Zacharia won with 946 votes, Conway with 399 votes and Michael Stewart with 132 votes, meaning Andreas continues with his role as a full-time officer in the Students’ Union.Tweet