Kent Union elections 2021: What has changed?

Alejandro Javierre and Tarini Tiwari 27 February 2021

Photo by: Ainy Shiyam

The 2021 Kent Union Sabbatical Elections have begun in earnest, and will be fundamentally different to previous years.

Due to the national lockdown and internal changes to the election processes at Kent Union, this year’s election will be very different to previous years, including a new candidate canvassing style and fully online campaigns.

This year, candidates will not be asked to produce manifestoes, and will instead be encouraged to base their election bids around key issues voted for by students in an online poll.

A spokesperson for Kent Union said: “The overall rationale for the change from manifestoes is to ensure we are more student-led as an organisation and so students can directly shape the work of the Officer team next year.”

Kent Union states that the new system is designed to avoid Officer candidates being held accountable for manifesto points that are impossible to put into place, either due to Union rules or changes to campus life.

However, ex-candidates for previous elections had mixed views on the changes.

Meghan Warwick, who ran last year for Vice President for Student Experience, said: “Without policies of a manifesto, then there is nothing to base a vote upon and there is also no solid evidence of what they are pledging to do when in office.”

“It will be difficult for students to see whether they have delivered on what they have set out to do.”

Last year, election manifestoes included promises such as providing free alcohol to students and lowering the price of Co-op foods, something which was later found to be impossible due to funding constraints.

However, ex-Presidential candidate Ethan Basso said: “Removing manifesto points and allowing candidates to focus on their achievements and experience is an absolutely brilliant move by Kent Union.”

“It allows voters to compare candidates based on what they’re done already to better the student experience at Kent, rather than a list of promises they hope to achieve but often never do.”

In another significant deviation from previous years, voting will also take place online on a single day on the 11th of March, with results being announced the next evening.

Officer candidates have also begun their campaigns, with 18 individuals vying for the five official positions.

Like previous years, debates will be held for each sabbatical role between the 2nd and 5th of March, in collaboration with KTV, however this year they will be conducted via zoom.

Controversy has already impacted the campaigns of two candidates, as Vice President for Student Experience candidate Connor Tomlinson stood down, and accusations of past extreme political views for Presidential Candidate Samir Sadeghi.

For more information on the elections, and for detailed interviews and analyses of every candidate, check the InQuire website.

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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