The fairness of the Graduate Students Association election is in doubt this evening, with calls for it to be rerun. At the close of voting yesterday, only 10 people, less than 0.3 percent of postgraduates, had turned out to vote in the election of the first Graduate Students Association Chair.
In light of the extremely low turnout, the Returning Officer and DPGS, Shama Rahman, has taken the decision to withhold the results. In the meantime she has called for an Emergency Executive to meet ?as soon as possible? to order a rerun of the election. The decision was made with the rest of the sabbatical team, with the exception of DPFS Jon Matthews who is a candidate in the election.
Explaining her decision to ask for a rerun, Miss Rahman said that it is not possible to describe an election in which so few people had voted as a fair election. She hopes that a rerun will happen at the end of this week, offering the opportunity to try ?more methods to publicise the elections?. Unusually for an ICU election, no emails targeting people who had not voted were sent out during the election and presumably this would be part of the different publicity methods used in a rerun.
Indeed, this has been a fairly invisible election, with only one general email sent to postgraduates about the process. Moreover, neither of the two candidates for GSA Chair, George Bazoua and Mr Matthews, appear to have done any active campaigning which undoubtedly contributed to the low turnout. Mr Bazoua did not submit a manifesto and has not answered emails from the Returning Officer, indicating that it is possible that he is unaware he stood.
Aiden Roche who was a candidate for GSA Chair withdrew from the election shortly before the close of voting.
The GSA Chair is a new position which replaces the troubled DPGS role. It will be a volunteer position, although a small wage will be paid over the summer and a new staff member will offer support. With a seat on Council and Executive, it is envisaged that its status will be roughly equal to that of a Faculty Union President.
Concerns have already been raised about the legitimacy of the elections, with problems during the nomination process. The number of seconders required to stand was lowered from 11 to just one after it emerged that undergraduates were able to second candidates and even stand for election.
Editor's Note: Shortly after this article was submitted Live! was told that one of the candidates in the election had been informed of the result by the returning officer. Consequently the election has effectively concluded, with no opportunity to extend voting. The constitution appears to make no provision for an election to be re-run because it received too few votes (only referenda have a quota for votes cast), only in the case of unfair practices as described in the elections regulations, point 87. More details when we have them.