Chairman of AU’s Election Committee: "A lack of respect for the wishes of the voters”

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Professor of Law Jørgen Albæk Jensen, who is chairman of the Election Committee at Aarhus University, describes the decision by all candidates on the Arts Council list to withdraw their candidature yesterday as “highly problematic“, after it became clear that the list had surprisingly won one of the two mandates to the university board. The Arts Council thereby affects the election result by allowing its mandate to be transferred to the Student Council's other lead candidate.

2016.12.05 | Marie Groth Andersen

Professor of Law Jørgen Albæk Jensen is also chairman of Aarhus University's Election Committee. Photo: Private

Professor of Law Jørgen Albæk Jensen, who is chairman of Aarhus University's Election Committee, emphasises that there is nothing illegal in the Arts Council’s decision to withdraw.

"We can’t stop the candidates from withdrawing, because students don’t have the same contractual obligation to participate in governing bodies as employees do. But it shows a lack of respect for a democratic process and for the election that was held," says the chairman.

 

The Student Council and the Arts Council give the following reason for the decision: that during the entire election campaign, the Arts Council had said that a vote for them was a vote for the Student Council's lead candidates, and that it is therefore correct to allow the mandate to pass to the Student Council's lead candidate. But, according to the law professor, this argument does not hold water.

Because you cannot interpret the voters' motivation.

"They can’t know what’s going on inside the head of voters. They have no idea whether that was the voters' motivation. You can’t just decide to interpret the voters' motivation and say: that’s probably not what they meant. That is precisely where the lack of respect for the result lies," says the professor and continues:

"If the voters want to have the two lead candidates on the board, they can simply vote for them."

The Student Council and the Arts Council reply is that they run for election using local degree programme council lists to make the local support for the lead candidates visible.

"Yes, but then you must also take the consequences of the method you’ve chosen. Fundamentally it has to do with a lack of respect for the decision made by the voters. Why hold an election in the first place if you’re not going to pay attention to the result?" says the law professor.

Looks suspicious

Five candidates choosing to withdraw at the same time also leads to speculation about whether the candidates were pressured into withdrawing, says Jensen.

"That’s hardly implausible, and at the very least, it looks suspicious. The decision is highly problematic."

Worried about turnout at coming elections

The decision will not as such impact coming elections at AU, but the professor is still worried about how the events at this year’s election will affect turnout in the future. And all this in a year where the Student Council made an extra effort to increase the turnout at the election.

"I can well understand students thinking they can’t be bothered with the whole thing, if those they vote for, just let the mandate go to someone else."    

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