For the first time since 2010, two slates are going head to head in this year’s UTMSU annual spring election.
UTM Rise and UTM Reform, the two slates vying to be elected to the union’s executive team, began campaigning at noon last Monday.
Despite what presidential candidate for UTM Reform referred to as “many attempts to discourage [her] from running” against the other slate, both teams are continuing to compete for positions on next year’s executive team.
“They approached me when they found out that I had a team that was going to run, because it came to them as a shock because they hadn’t seen a team in many years,” said Maaham Malik.
By Wednesday night, both slates were pending disqualification because of the demerit points they had racked up.
According to the Elections and Procedures Code, candidates running for UTMSU executive can get a maximum of 35 demerits before being disqualified. For VP part-time candidates, that number is 30, with a cap of 25 demerits for candidates running for seats on UTMSU’s board.
By Tuesday morning, Rise was alleged to have violated the Elections Procedure Code for “improper distribution of campaign material”, according to statements issued by Ashley Toste, UTMSU’s chief returning officer on UTMSU’s “Wall of Transparency”.
This is the glass wall of the union office on which brief updates on rulings are posted during the elections.
The allegations resulted in eight demerit points for each Rise member.
Reform candidates racked up 12 demerit points each for the same violation, having been charged additional demerit points for “multiple violations in [the] same building/location”.
On Wednesday, Reform was charged with “malicious or intentional violation of election procedure code or policy” and was issued 20 demerit points. Rise was also charged 15 demerit points for “unsanctioned use of union resources” after “candidate(s) abused their position in the union during campaign time” the same day.
In separate interviews with The Medium, both teams addressed the charges.
“We just have to make sure that our volunteers or people helping with the campaign are following the EPC,” said Ebi Agbeyegbe, presidential candidate for Rise and the current UTMSU VP external.
Reform also discussed the allegations.
“There [have] been some mistakes from our parts as well, which we did unintentionally,” said Muhammed Talha Mahmood, the candidate for VP internal & services.
The demerit points were later reduced for both teams.
On Friday, the Elections and Referenda Committee retracted 15 demerit points from Rise, 14 demerit points from Reform, and 13 demerit points specifically from Rise part-time contender Amir Moazzami.
The details of the rulings are unknown. As of press time, Toste had not responded to requests for clarification.
CANDIDATES TAKE QUESTIONS
Members of both slates gathered on Thursday for a two-hour Q & A at the Blind Duck.
The public forum carried on despite both slates being disqualified at the time.
“We held a meeting with both teams on Wednesday evening to discuss their disqualification and their options to appeal. As the CRO I allowed them to both participate in the all-candidates debate on Thursday because their appeals would only be heard by the Elections and Referenda Committee in the late afternoon. They were not allowed to campaign until the ERC decisions were made,” said Ashley Toste in an email on Saturday.
Questions from the audience were vetted by election representatives before being asked, to make sure they were “appropriate”, according to services manager Nausheen Adam.
One candidate from each slate answered each question. The responses and platform promises are tabulated in the accompanying infographic.
All executive candidate positions were present at the forum except Rise’s Amir Moazzami, the sole candidate running for a second term as VP part-time affairs. Toste said Moazzami was unable to attend.
“There is a wall that exists between the students and the student union,” said Maaham Malik, the presidential candidate for Reform. “One of my main goals this year is to break that wall.”
Unlike Rise, which has a full roster of executive candidates, Reform has candidates for only four of six positions, having never had a VP part-time affairs and following the ineligibility of their VP university affairs & academics candidate, Taras Yasynovsky.
According to Reform, Yasynovsky was disqualified one hour into campaigning as he was not considered a member of the union.
Toste, however said that Yasynovsky was not “disqualified” but was “an ineligible candidate because he has not paid membership fees in the Winter 2015 session”.
According to the UTMSU Constitution and Bylaws, “membership is only valid for the session paid”.
According to Reform, Yasynovsky was not a student in the winter semester and therefore did not pay the levy for that term, although they said he plans to return to classes in the fall.
Reform appealed the disqualification on the basis that the code was “vague” and “unfair”, but were denied their request.
The nomination period drew a total of 31 candidates for both executive and board positions prior to closing on February 27.
CANDIDATES FOR THE BOARD
Shortly after the nomination period, Ali Al Wafi and Ryan Persaud pulled out of the race for Division 3 director.
Vibhuti Razdan was also disqualified from running for Division 2.
Several candidates vying for a seat on the board of directors were also present at the candidates’ forum on Thursday and were briefly introduced, but did not participate in the discussion.
No candidates are running for the two part-time representative positions available within Division 4, or the sole seat representing the Mississauga Academy of Medicine within Division 5 of the union’s board of directors.
Both positions will remain vacant until a by-election is held this fall along with the Division 1 candidates vying for the two positions representing first-year students.
Voting for next year’s executive and board positions will take place from 9 a.m. on Tuesday until 6 p.m. on Thursday.
The results are to be announced next Monday.