UPDATED Thursday 6th December
A report issued by the tribunal investigating last term’s Union Presidential election is highly critical of key figures involved in the allegations, Cherwell24 has learned.
Disqualified candidate, Krishna Omkar, is reprimanded in the report for showing a “disturbing arrogance” towards the rules of the Union and the tribunal. In particular, Omkar is alleged to have intimidated a key witness from giving evidence at the tribunal.
The witness, a senior figure at the Oxford Student, was said to appear “intimidated and upset” while giving her evidence, and produced a text message from Omkar that appeared to corroborate her claims.
The electoral malpractice charges against Krishna centre on a meeting held at Magdalen College the evening before the election, which was supposedly a ‘slate party’. Krishna and his associates are alleged to have been ‘lining’, a practice whereby candidates encourage members to vote for a string of other candidates, all of whom attract votes for one another.
Alex Priest, Returning Officer of the Union, said, “I am aware that in the past there have been slates but they're bad for the Union because they mean the wealthy and the popular but not necessarily hard-working get ahead…They're inherently unfair." When approached, Krishna declined to comment due to Union regulations.
The panel of three who authored the report also state their ‘dismay’ that outgoing Union President Luke Tryl and “at least one Deputy Returning Officer” were present at the ‘slate’ meeting, when their positions “demanded the discouraging of electoral malpractice.”
Several other members came under fire for displaying “a startling lack of integrity”, for seeking to disrupt the tribunal proceedings, and the panel lambaste what they see as a “culture of arrogance” where “overt and complacent disregard for the Rules is tolerated.”
Under the tribunal ruling, Krishna Omkar is disqualified from standing in a re-run of the polls next term, although it is suggested that Charlotte Fischer, another Presidential candidate who brought the original complaints, will not seek to stand either.
UPDATE: Krishna Omkar today lodged a formal appeal against the tribunal's ruling. Union Returning Officer Alex Priest told Cherwell24 that "Mr Omkar has lodged an appeal on the grounds of Rule 33(d)(i) (1), (2), and (3)."
These relate to: breach of tribunal procedures as outlined in the rules, that the decision of the tribunal was founded on an error of law, and that there has been a breach of any of the Principles of Natural Justice. Further details of Omkar's claims based on these grounds are not known.
It is not yet known when the hearing will take place. However, the Appellate Board must report back within 28 days of Notice of Appeal.
The Appellate Board is convened by the Returning Officer under the instructions of the Senior Officers of the Union, and consists of three members of Convocation, which is the body formed by all graduates of the University.
Check back to Cherwell24 for more coverage as events unfold.
Additional reporting, Laura Pitel