EUSA societies should not endorse candidates

This year’s EUSA elections will undoubtedly go down as one of the organisations most controversial. The whole process was tainted by accusations of racism, vandalism and intimidation to name but a few. Amongst the apparent chaos, it is easy to overlook a certain aspect of the elections which, by comparison, seems pretty harmless. Until now, very little has been said about the problematic practice of societies openly endorsing particular candidates. While it is the right of societies to do so, they must be aware that they do so at the risk of rendering the whole process nothing more than a glorified popularity contest, further demonstrating the existing cliques and factions which already have far too much dominance within student politics.
Both Labour Students and the Politics and International Relations Society (PIR) released statements highlighting the candidates which they would be backing, and encouraged their members to do the same. As if trying to dictate the voting of your members is not enough cause for concern, the motives behind the societies’ choices were clearly very nepotistic. While both societies would claim that their chosen candidates reflected the best interests of their members, it could just as easily be claimed that the reason behind their selections is less based on policy, and more on personal relationships.
In many instances, it would seem that the chosen candidates of societies often have close ties with their presidents. It seems incredibly unfair a for certain candidates to gain privilege because of their connections, and yet societies continue to endorse individuals, rendering the elections nothing more than a perfunctory exercise in student democracy. Indeed, even within socities who do not openly state an allegiance, there is often a clear bias.
This practice is just one of many facets of our elections which reveal some signfiicant flaws. Candidates already resort to flashy campaigns and exaggerated claims, widely believing their electorate to be more interested in the state of the Big Cheese, than other more hard hitting issues. The blatant partiality of the elections is exacerbated by the clear favouritism of candidates by societies. This, combined with shallow campaigns and crowd pleasing tactics, perhaps has to claim some responsibility for the rampant voter apathy. The importance of student elections cannot be contested, but it is difficult to view them as fair elections when tactics such as these are in play.
Furthermore, societies who indulge in this practice are only questioning the competency of their members. It is perhaps patronising to assume that Labour Students and PIR supporters would blindly follow the decisions of their leaders – but by the same logic – in publishing these lists, this is exactly the statement societies are making of their members. Elections by their very nature, can only be successful if voters express their personal preferences. The urge for conformity promoted by the support of individual candidates does nothing but undermine the very principles of democracy.
This year’s EUSA elections have already been embroiled in enough controversy, without adding nepotism to the mix. Moving forwards, it is perhaps clear that the election protocol needs to be re-evaluated and held to a higher standard, especially if we are ever to have any hope of establishing student elections as an important and viable way to instigate change.

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