This year’s McMaster Students Union presidential election was a wild ride from start to finish, after two candidates were disqualified and then later reinstated, all done over the course of the winter semester. Ikram Farah is the official president-elect, but the question still stands: why was she disqualified in the first place?
The MSU Elections Department recently published their meeting minutes, which outline the discussions their elections committee had when making sense of the complaints filed against each candidate. On their website, one may find the minutes from the Jan. 25 meeting, the Feb. 5 meeting and the Feb. 15 and 16 meeting.
According to these documents, Farah was initially disqualified due to a complaint from another unnamed candidate, who stated that it was unfair that she was not disqualified given the number of fines Farah received.
According the the Feb. 5 meeting minutes, the complainant stated that she had submitted multiple complaints against Farah during the election period which she felt had compromised the integrity of the election, and that she had taken her case to the Ombuds office and that they had agreed with her.
It should be noted that three of Farah’s violations were overturned during the Feb. 5 meeting.
The complainant stated that her trust in the Elections Department had been shaken.
“[The complainant] didn’t understand why [Farah] was not disqualified with the number of complaints and their nature, and that this was a blatant disregard of election rules and compromised the integrity,” read a portion of the Feb. 5 meeting minutes.
The complainant also stated there were other complaints she wanted to file but chose not to due to their personal nature. The complainant also argued that the number of broken links in Farah’s team members’ posts were deliberately done to maintain the focus on Farah.
All candidates are expected to add links to the MSU Elections Department on their social media posts in order to ensure that voters receive unbiased information about all candidates in addition to the campaign material.
After the complainant spoke, the elections committee reconvened and looked into the complaint concerning broken links being done in bad taste. After checking if it would auto-tag using a post from a member of Farah’s core campaign team, they found that it did and deemed this to potentially be deliberate and with large effect.
Thus, on Feb. 5, the elections committee overturned their original decision to not disqualify Farah, making Muhammed Aydin the unofficial president-elect.
On Feb. 15 and 16, Farah made her appeal to the elections committee where she argued that the broken links did not influence the election enough to garner a disqualification.
Farah offered the slides from her volunteer orientation package which showed the correct link and that any broken links were a mistake. She stated that these broken links were mistakes and should be deemed as a deliberate attack, especially when there were examples of the correct link in other volunteers’ posts.
Farah was particularly concerned with the labelling of the broken links as “bad taste”, as she felt it was clear that the broken links were not posted to deliberately sway the election. Farah also pointed out that the majority of the links were correct, proving that this was not a deliberate action.
Farah also reiterated that she had taken the steps to rectify this issue, contradicting the assumption that she was deliberately breaking a rule. She also stated that data from the backend of her campaign website showed that only 39 people had been referred from the links, and statements that links stopped people from accessing information about the election was unsubstantiated.
Farah also stated that she had proof that two candidates had conspired to get her disqualified and that the integrity of the election had been compromised.
“Farah stated that having someone come forward and imploring the Committee to look at their decision again was malice as they were the reason why she had so many fines. She stated that the idea of colluding should be held into account and encouraged the Committee to look at her package point by point,” read a portion of the Feb. 15 and 16 meeting minutes.
Ultimately, the elections committee voted to maintain Farah’s disqualification, and it was only through the Electoral Appeals Board, the highest electoral board in the MSU, to reinstate Farah.
During this meeting, the EAB overturned eight of Farah’s fines, upheld seven and amended four of her violations from severe violations to standard violations. Following these deliberations, the EAB reinstated Farah, making her the official MSU president-elect.
How this year’s tumultuous election season will affect future MSU elections is currently unclear. But for now, Farah will be the the next MSU president, full stop.