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Elections, of all types, are bound to be a stressful period no matter how big or small. Let’s be honest, I’m sure it was pretty tense in the Miliband household when Ed and Dave were both campaigning for leadership of the Labour Party. The pressure of campaigning, the interviews, the debates, and constantly being in the public eye for some is too much. And rightly so.
The reason I am writing this article is not to complain about the basic idea of elections (that’s something which has been debated more than enough in recent weeks!) Instead, I feel we need to spend more time questioning the real reason why so many people do not feel good enough to run for these positions in the first place or why people feel the need to drop out mid-election.
LUSU promote the FTO elections weeks in advance making it explicitly clear that the elections are open to everyone and the positions are appropriate for ALL. In my personal opinion, this is quite frankly wrong. LUSU, as a body, are insistent that these roles can be done by anyone – and they have made that very clear. It is also clear, however, that the pressures of the election period put a lot of people off from nominating themselves.
Let us assume that a tiny 1% of the University’s undergraduate population is actively involved in student politics, then this would mean that almost 100 people care about the Students’ Union and its practices. Now, let’s compare this number to the measly 20 who have nominated themselves for an FTO position. In reality, the number of people actively involved is much greater than this.
Call me a pessimist, but personally I feel and I hope that more than 20 people would actually care about what LUSU does, and would have considered running for a role. For this reason, I really cannot understand why the amount of students putting themselves forward for the FTO positions is so low. The real question is WHY don’t people want to put themselves forward as an FTO candidate? It’s easy – people simply don’t feel good enough.
Since nominations have closed, I know of at least 3 people who have withdrawn their applications, and this has left the position of VP (Education) uncontested. Often, people can’t cope with the pressure, but more sadly than this, many are scared out of applying or worse – such as being forced to withdraw when they feel incapable. Without mentioning the candidates individually, I know at least 2 of these withdrawals materialised because they had a lack of belief in their ability to be an FTO.
I hope, for the Union’s sake, that this is not going to be a reoccurring event. To have a position completely uncontested should be unheard of. That is not how democracy works. Of course people will argue that you can still vote to reopen nominations, but unless the candidate does something awful then the likelihood of this happening is almost zero. I hope in the future the Union can encourage more people into applying for positions and choose to support candidates through the challenges that arise whilst campaigning. There needs to be more focus on the wellbeing of the candidates; otherwise, in the future more, people will continue to withdraw after nominating themselves.
Obviously I, along with the rest of the student body, can pick holes in what LUSU have done wrong when it comes to the elections, and honestly I don’t have the solutions to these issues. If I did have all of the answers, I would be running for an FTO position myself! But I know that it is something that needs to be addressed by LUSU, and I know that the majority of the Union would agree with me when I say we need to see change to encourage everyone to be more engaged in student politics.
If the students don’t care, then make them care. And by this, of course I don’t mean force people to be involved, but instead show them what the Union and the FTOs do for them. They need to understand how important the FTO elections are and they need to know that how they vote matters, not just for them but for the future generations of students. Because after all, what is a democracy without debate? And if so few people continue to nominate themselves for positions, the future of our democratic Union is jeopardised.