After a week of campaigning that commenced on Wednesday 23rd January, the polls opened around campus on Monday 28th with just over 1300 students voting before the ballot boxes closed at 7:30pm on Tuesday 29th. The count began on Wednesday afternoon with Joff Manning announced the results in TommyÂ’s Bar to a nervous crowd several hours later.
The voter turnout was just below the level last year (which had been a record vote by a considerable figure) which would suggest that student interest in Union politics has slipped this year. While the list of candidates running comprised a generally familiar assortment of names, there were a couple of students who were unknown within Union circles, most notably Adam Cadoo who ran a successful campaign against SU veterans Rebecca Clarke, David Moss and Patrick Schneiders.
The level of complaints during this yearÂ’s elections was reported to be somewhat lower than that of last year. It is believed that this is partly due to the Union imposing a complete ban on the use of Facebook and instructing candidates that they must deactivate their Â“wallÂ” for the entirety of the campaigning period.
The drop in voter turnout has been linked to the governance review that was put through by last yearÂ’s president Rob Coveney, which replaced the old Â“General MeetingsÂ” with the favoured new, Â“Union Council MeetingsÂ”. The Union Council Meeting is a streamlined version of its predecessor which mandates fewer members to attend (although any Union member may attend if they wish). Furthermore, last yearÂ’s ballot slips included a decision on the NUS referendum which was widely covered and hyped up by the StudentsÂ’ Union and campus media.
Naturally, the race for president was the most keenly anticipated result with SU veterans Liz Owen and Chris Chapman going head to head. Mr Chapman, who arguably represents the political right of students at Royal Holloway gave a very confident speech at the hustings on Thursday and utilised Marks & SpencerÂ’s new branding with regard to his own campaign with posters stating: Â“This is not just any President, this is Chris Chapman for PresidentÂ”. He founded Conservative Future at Royal Holloway and was its President for over two years, resigning from the role just before Christmas. Mr Chapman has also been the Commercial Services Officer for the StudentsÂ’ Union for the current academic year. Liz Owen on the other hand openly holds left-wing political opinions making her support for the Labour party clear during a presidential debate hosted by Insanity Radio on the Friday before voting. Miss Owen has now sat on the Executive Committee of the StudentsÂ’ Union for two years in a row, currently holding the position of Participation Officer and feature the slogan Â“A little less conversation, a little more action pleaseÂ” on her campaign literature.
Eminent SU spectators on campus had been predicting a very close competition between the two candidates, however Liz Owen completely smashed all expectations with a relatively large margin over Chris Chapman of some 164 votes. On winning the position of President, Liz Owen spoke to our Podcast Editor Tom Matthews: Â“I just feel numb and I feel really, really sick. I never thought it could happen, I didnÂ’t think I had a chance.Â”
Any further discussion of the elections at this stage would only be speculation but do keep an eye on our coverage of the Sabb-elects as we will be doing as much as we can over the coming months to predict the future of the StudentsÂ’ Union for the coming academic year, 2008-2009. If you would like to discuss the elections further, get online!