As we enter the final stretch of what is usually a time of frenzied campaigning, it is difficult to ignore the sense that so far the race seems much more relaxed than in previous years. Surely the inhospitable weather can account for this? Yet in the absence of the high visibility methods normally used, we may ask how the voters will be able to a make an informed choice when the voting begins. Perhaps, as the rain fades the paint on the banners dotted around campus, so too does it act to diminish the face-to-face campaigning traditionally seen in library square. This election seems instead to be being fought via facebook groups, emails, in residences, and in lecture theatres. Despite this, Monday 9th sees what is perhaps the highlight of the campaigning process – the East Slope Bar hustings. Here each candidate has a chance to deliver their manifesto to a critical audience, and answer questions from the floor. It is here, perhaps more so than ever, that the election will be won or lost; as enduring impressions of the candidates are formed.
As anyone who picked up a copy of today’s edition of The Badger will notice, recurring themes appear in many of the manifestos. Many Presidential hopefuls seem to be running on a message of increased student interaction and participation within the Union. The implicit criticism of the Union being that up to now it has not done enough to involve the thousands of students in represents. Without doubt, the race for some positions is hugely competitive, with the Presidential battle pitting six highly experienced candidates against each other. The results are surely impossible to predict thus far, and no clear favourite has emerged as yet.
Similarly, the Activities, Communications and Welfare posts are being hard-fought by candidates, who seem well qualified and who are running on concise and well thought out points. Though many are campaigning on some of the same issues, a clear element of variety and of a real choice between candidates is still apparent. From promises of bouncy castles at exam time to pledges to stop exploitation of students by landlords in the private rented sector, it is clear that each candidate has a real chance of winning. Amazingly two of the sabbatical positions (Finance and Education) are uncontested, the option on the ballot paper being to either re-open nominations, or to vote for the lone candidate. Whether this offers any real choice at all is open to debate, after all how can a candidate claim that they were the best person for the job when they were the only ones to run for it!
Voting starts this Tuesday and finishes on Thursday. The next few days shall inevitably see a tightening of the race; as candidates are desperate to gain as much support as possible. Indeed, some of last years Sabbs won by only a fraction. In this sense every vote cast can make or break candidate’s chances. Though a feeling of apathy towards student politics is often noted around this time, the process of electing a new team of sabbatical officers is essential in improving and energising the Union. Watch this space.