The recent Students’ Union full-time officer elections at the University of Essex resulted in protests on campus after the winners were disqualified.
On 11 February, the whole of the Yes Essex slate were elected to the seven sabbatical positions available.
Five days later, every Yes Essex candidate was disqualified on the grounds that one of their nomination forms had been submitted fraudulently and further, that they had used coercion in order to gain votes.
The incumbent Union appointed, as is general procedure, an Independent Returning Officer from the NUS to oversee the voting process. She investigated complaints alleging coercion and fraud in the Yes Essex campaign, and found grounds to disqualify them.
Every student at Essex has been told that Yes Essex forged the signature of one of their candidates on his nomination form, and also that they approached voters in the computer labs to “farm” for votes.
This latter practice is strictly prohibited, as the labs are seen as ballot stations.
There is allegedly CCTV footage of a Yes Essex campaigner standing over two female students, pressuring them to vote, and watching while they did so.
A spokesperson from the university’s Students’ Union, said: “Coercion in elections is always a serious matter and this is no exception… the Union will be looking at its regulations and will ensure that they are tighter for future elections.”
Sadiq Al-Hasani, the Yes Essex Presidential candidate, refuted all the allegations made against his slate. Although he has not been given access to the CCTV footage, he acknowledges that the alleged coercion did take place and denounces it as “clearly wrong”.
Mr Al-Hasani claims that the person in question was not officially involved in the Yes Essex campaign: “He’s just some guy I don’t even know very well”, he said.
He also expresses outrage at the allegations concerning the nomination form, claiming that the candidate in question was unavailable to sign it himself, so gave permission for it to be signed by proxy, which took place in front of a member of the Election Committee.
Mr Al-Hasani feels that the reason his slate have been disqualified is a result of bias on the part of the incumbent Union, who supported Vision Essex and were, according to him, “grooming their own people for the job.”
The votes are to be re-counted, with all first preferences to Yes Essex candidates removed, and the results are to be announced on Friday 11 March.
Meanwhile, the Yes Essex slate has appealed to the university’s academic registrar, who will launch an independent investigation into the election results. They have also sought legal advice.