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Ahmad Nawaz clinging to Union presidency after vote forces his resignation

Freya Jones reports.

Freya Jones
Freya Jones
Freya Jones is a News Editor at Cherwell. When she isn't writing, she studies German at Oriel College.

Ahmad Nawaz, President of the Oxford Union, finds his presidency hanging by a thread after the access committee voted to reject his explanation for missing the previous meetings, triggering an automatic resignation. Now, he must find the necessary signatures to overturn the motion, which will trigger a vote on his presidency at the debate next Thursday. 

The Union Access Committee meets every Thursday and the President is obliged to attend. Failure to turn up on three occasions triggers an automatic resignation unless a valid reason for absence can be given. Under Union rule 23 (c)(ii)(2), “Any member of any Committee… having missed three ordinary meetings of that Committee without good reason in the same term, shall be deemed to have submitted his resignation from that Committee.”

Union rules state that a valid reason includes attendance at Public Examinations, “disabling or infectious diseases”, as well as other engagements deemed to be pressing, unavoidable or important to the Society. Nawaz claims he missed the meetings due to illness, but members of the committee disputed the truth of this. A senior member of committee called it “[Y]et another in a long string of derelictions from the President.”

Nawaz posted pictures of himself with a guest speaker, Bhad Bhabie, on Thursday 2nd November, the same day as the meeting he claimed to have missed due to illness.

He also chaired that evening’s debate in a filled chamber, but cited a high temperature as having prevented him from attending the Access Committee earlier that afternoon.

In an attempt to pass the validity of his excuse due to this alleged illness, Nawaz called to move it through committee. However, multiple members registered their objections, triggering a secret ballot among the committee; he required a simple majority to be successful. He lost with 9 votes against him, 7 in favour, and 1 abstention. This meant the auto-resignation would come in full effect on Friday 11th November.

Nawaz can attempt to prevent this if he can collect the signatures of 30 members, which would permit him to bring a vote on his presidency to the debate chamber on Thursday 17th November (Week 6 of Michaelmas Term). 

Union members who spoke with Cherwell were critical about the term so far, saying that despite the number of big names on the termcard, Nawaz’s interviewing rendered many speaker events disappointing.

One member of the committee said Nawaz’s leadership was “quite terrible” with “no predictable decision-making”. 

Remarking on Nawaz’s absence from Access Committee, a committee member told Cherwell: “It shows that he is irresponsible and in the Union for his clout rather than for the sake of [our] events or principles”.

Even if Nawaz succeeds in collecting signatures and bringing a vote on his presidency, it is “possible” he will be permanently removed.

If he is removed, the role of President will be covered by another member of the Union’s Senior Team for the remainder of term.

Rule 38(b)(vi) states, “The President-Elect shall be succeeded by the Librarian, the Librarian-Elect shall be succeeded by the Treasurer, and the Treasurer-elect shall be succeeded by the Secretary.”

Nawaz told Cherwell: “I am extremely disappointed by the manner in which the rules appear to be arbitrarily and selectively applied to some but not to others. For instance, the individual who objected to me passing an absence due my own illness had passed her own absence on the very same grounds, the previous week. This level of hypocrisy is completely unacceptable in any setting but is certainly not what members should expect from elected committee. I would also add that the role of President is extremely time-consuming often with multiple speaker meetings, events and internal meetings in the same day which is why I have had to miss parts of earlier internal meetings this term. It is clearly absurd that illness is not deemed an acceptable reason for an absence with a grossly disproportionate penalty. Nonetheless, I have acquired the necessary number of signatures to put the motion before the house where I am convinced that the membership will vote for common sense.”

Correction: This article initially claimed that Nawaz was pictured drinking. This claim was incorrect, as Nawaz does not drink, and has been removed. Cherwell apologises for the oversight. A full retraction will be published separately.

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