By Riley Faulds
The most successful Guild ticket for the past quarter-century, a fixture of Guild politics and campus life, STAR has seen five of its eight Office Bearer (OB) candidates decide to withdraw from the ballot this morning and two others withdraw from active campaigning. In recent days, the STAR candidates for Women’s Officer, Education Council President, Public Affairs Council President, and Environment Officer have made the decision to withdraw from the ballot for a variety of reasons, while the General Secretary and Societies Council Presidential candidates will not actively campaign on the booths. Many Ordinary Guild Councillor candidates will also refrain from actively campaigning this week, leaving Sports Representative candidate Doug Jackson as the most prominent STAR candidate still actively running.
Amid a tense election season that began with their Presidential candidate stepping down prior to the Ballot Draw and marked now by various allegations emerging around the Cruickshank-Routley Memorial Prize being a part of preferencing discussions, representatives of the ticket have referenced personal welfare concerns as a central reason for their withdrawal.
It’s been a challenging election from the very beginning for STAR. Without a Presidential candidate to lead the ticket, they were facing an uphill battle in terms of exposure and momentum. The usual pressures on and criticisms of an incumbent party were intensified by other tickets’ accusations of a STAR-controlled Guild’s perceived inaction on the University’s staff and course cuts, as well as the allegations over the Cruickshank-Routley being included in political strategies.
It’s important to emphasise that a number of STAR candidates have asserted that they were unaware of the Prize being included in conversations around preferencing, and that they felt disappointed and blindsided by this. They have also noted the likelihood of strident opposition and active criticism from other tickets around this issue and others on the booths, and listed this as a key reason for their withdrawal. One senior OB candidate stated that the campaign has placed serious pressures on them already, and that they could not face a week of polling that could potentially have an even greater negative effect on their welfare.
This comes after the majority of the OB candidates from the COSTA ticket withdrew from active campaigning also, with a number of them citing disappointment at the approach and background toxicity of that ticket and the elections overall.
Many of the criticisms of STAR are legitimate, including those coming from within the ticket itself. However, what this withdrawal of candidates represents is a striking example of the oft-criticised toxicity of student politics at this University. A culture of win-at-all-costs campaigning by a significant portion of student politicians over a long period at UWA has produced outcomes that nobody should want to see. Students with good intentions enter a system that normalises the kind of political practices that you’d expect more from Canberra or even House of Cards than from candidates for a student representative body that is supposed to be focused on ensuring good outcomes for students. For the politics at UWA to be in a position where candidates are pulling out for the sake of their welfare and lives beyond uni politics, for reasons both own-party inflicted and because of the conflict between tickets, is deeply concerning.
For first-time candidates, many of whom will be first-years unlikely to come anywhere near winning a place on Guild Council, campaigning on the booths and being privy to some of the behind-the-scenes conversations that occur will simply normalise the toxic culture of these politics. Whatever the result of this election, tickets in future should make accountability, positivity, and respect the genuine cornerstones of their approach to Guild politics. Otherwise the problems will only continue to get worse, and surely, in the words of one withdrawn candidate, a Guild election is “just not worth it.”
Editor’s Note: information on which candidates have officially withdrawn from the ballot will be placed at polling places. We have also received word that OB candidates from other parties may have withdrawn from the ballot also, and will update this article as we receive confirmation from official sources.