CUSA elections see decrease in candidates

The Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) elections saw a significant decrease in candidates for the 2018 elections. A total of eight candidates—two independents and six from the One Carleton slate—were in the running on the first day of voting (Feb. 7), leaving four positions uncontested.

Only the vice-president (student issues) and vice-president (student life) positions held two candidates as the independent candidate for vice-president (finance) dropped out of the race on Feb. 5.

CUSA president Zameer Masjedee said he thinks the lack of candidates is partly due to the voter gap between the One Carleton slate and the Change slate in the 2017 elections.

A previous article from the Charlatan reported that 3,957 students voted for Masjedee, the One Carleton candidate, for president, followed by 2,848 votes for Change candidate Ashley Courchene in 2017.

Kenneth Aliu, a fourth-year law and African studies major and a 2017 Change slate candidate for vice-president (student issues), said he thinks students are tired of the undemocratic electoral process.

“[Candidates] don’t have a shot . . . you can go there and give your most brilliant ideas, but you don’t necessarily have a shot,” he said. 

Aliu said the same slate wins every year because the elections are based on popularity and “institutional power.” He said not every student can afford the cost of campaigning or has the backing of sororities and fraternities.

“There’s already a very entrenched institutional power system which doesn’t advantage every student,” he said. 

According to Aliu, everyone from the former Change slate has moved on.

“I think most people are tired, especially the Change slate,” he said. “There’s some times when you have to go back and regroup and come back stronger, and I think that’s what they’re doing.”

Masjedee said Change had been the largest opposition throughout the last few years and the lack of opposition this year is unfortunate.

Graphic by Mariam Abdel Akher

“[Change] always brought to the table ideas that would sort of challenge our own, and some of those are ideas that are happening on campus right now,” Masjedee said, referencing the debate around the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).

He said he believes the “CU Later CFS” campaign is another reason why an opposition slate may not have formed. While the CFS was a talking point for last year’s campaign,  he said the defederation process is now on-going and students are questioning the organization more.

“I think everyone running on the opposing team knew they would have to take a very pro-CFS sort of stance if they wanted to really engage in the conversation with us that way, and I don’t think they were comfortable doing that,” Masjedee explained.

But, Aliu said he supports the CFS and doesn’t think it’s a divisive issue for students.

“I don’t think that argument holds up,” he continued. “It’s One Carleton making the CFS a divisive issue.” 

Masjedee said Carleton is a “politically charged campus”—referencing the high voter turnout in comparison to other universities—and candidates didn’t step forward simply because they chose not to.

“That is a possibility that I think some people aren’t willing to accept,” he said.

This year, many students are pledging to vote ‘no confidence’ after a Facebook campaign was started by fourth-year computer science student James Brunet. He said he hopes ‘no confidence’ will receive a majority vote, resulting in a byelection with more candidates.

In 2017—the first time ‘no confidence’ was included on the election ballots—the option received the third-largest amount of votes for the president position, according to a previous article from the Charlatan.

Brunet’s Facebook campaign argues that the CUSA elections are undemocratic because students have no voting options and weren’t informed of the election far enough in advance. 

But, chief electoral officer Nada Ibrahim said she thinks the elections process is “definitely democratic.”

“Why are people saying there needs to be a change in the process, it’s the same process we’ve used every year,” she said. 

She also said students have the choice to vote however they wish.

“I think everybody is entitled to a vote and a voice,” she said. “If they feel no confidence, they can go ahead and vote no confidence.”

She said if ‘no confidence’ takes the majority vote “then I think that speaks volumes.”

Aliu said he hopes the election process will be reformed in the future.

“I think there’s always space for change,” he said. “I’m an optimist, so hopefully there are some fresh minds with fresh ideas to challenge those that are in power for like four to five years now. If that’s not possible, then I don’t know.”

Photo by Aaron Hemens