President-Elect Izzy Westbury has survived her first test in office as an Oxford Union tribunal ruled that her campaign was not in breach of society rules.
Rival presidential candidate Jack Sennett, reported Westbury to the Returning Officer for using a surprise birthday party thrown just days before the election to ‘hack\’ or canvass votes.
Sennett issued a formal complaint against Westbury and Cyrus Nasseri for breaching Union rules which classify \”actual or attempted soliciting of votes for or against any candidate\” as electoral malpractice.
The event, held at Camera on the 28th February was publicized as \”Izzy\’s Surprise 21st\” on facebook by Nasseri and described: \”A great night to celebrate our friend\’s birthday.\”
Guests involved some of Westbury\’s closest friends from the Society, including former Presidents Laura Winwood and James Kingston, and the new Treasurer-elect, James Freeland.
One guest commented \”It was only about 60 or so of her closest friends who would probably have voted for her anyway.\”
The following day Westbury\’s facebook status read \”Went down to Camera for a few drinks and BOOM, there was a party!!!\”
The complaint, made to Retuning Officer Katherine Sidders, was \”brought against Mr Nasseri and Miss Westbury, under the rule [against]: organised treating by or on behalf of any candidate either between the opening of nominations and the close of poll, so as to draw attention to the candidature of a member.\”
A friend close to the unsuccessful candidate, who wished to remain anonymous, told Cherwell \”He was annoyed.
\”He lost the election to her and he thinks that the party had something to do with it.
\”Even if she didn\’t know, it can\’t have harmed her campaign.\”
The tribunal, made up of three ex-Officers, ruled in favour of Westbury, dismissing Sennet\’s complaint.
On the evening of the 10th March the tribunal \”found that there was no case to answer against Miss Westbury, and Mr. Nasseri was found not guilty.\”
\”As a result, Mr. Nasseri continued in his role as Treasurer-Elect until he succeeded to the office of Treasurer at midnight [on Wednesday] night and at the same time, Miss Westbury took up the office of President-Elect.\”
The incident has prompted wider calls to examine electoral practice at the Union amongst claims of malpractice. Several Union members reported the illegal practices of \”hacking\” and \”slating\” as standard features of Union elections.
One Union insider who wished to remain anonymous told Cherwell: \”If the Union took electoral malpractice seriously, it would have disqualified everyone and disbanded itself long ago.
\”Nobody ever gets to the top without actively campaigning or forming a slate – and that\’s not to mention dirty tricks.\”
Friends of Hasan Ali\’s, outgoing Librarian and unsuccessful Presidential candidate have accused both Westbury and Nasseri of electoral malpractice in the past.
A close friend of both of the candidates commented: \”They\’re great people. The tribunal found them not guilty, and it wasn\’t their fault that Hasan was losing the election. Izzy worked hard for the win and she deserved it; she\’ll do a great job.
\”Slates aren\’t really anything. What you get is a natural group of people who all think each other are the best for the job and so they support each other.\”
When contacted by Cherwell, Westbury and Sennett both refused to comment in keeping with Society rules, which prevent Union officers from communicating with the press.