You have all undoubtedly witnessed the election commotion on campus this week. The countless posters, the live blogs, the t-shirts, the hats, the wigs, the videos, the chats, the charm, the cheers… as this week draws to an end and voting draws nearer, it becomes questionable whether we realise what we are actually voting for: the candidate or the campaign?
There are undeniable merits behind running a successful and meaningful campaign. It displays a capacity for time management, tenacity and enthusiasm, in addition to an ability to engage with the general student electorate. Such propensities are all requisites to the success of any YUSU Sabb.
But how far is it really necessary for those who have already proven themselves in office? It makes one wonder whether the superficialities of copious fly-outs and monolithic placards are more appealing to the student populace than a capable and hard-working Sabb. For example, incumbent YUSU President, Tim Ngwena, who is running for a second term this year, has received some criticism for failing to capitalise on campaigning week. Despite his inauspicious presence across campus this week, Ngwena’s powerful yet calm approach to speech and debate in hustings and Nouse and YSTV’s Presidential Debate has proven incomparable.
A day has not gone by this week when I haven’t seen a candidate faithfully accompanied by a member of his or her campaign team. Whether tirelessly standing barely hip and shoulders apart, mirroring every mention of a campaign policy to whatever prey they have managed to find, or quietly sitting in the corner of The Courtyard clicking away on a laptop, pretending that they are less-than-noticeable when actually they are all-too-obvious, they have been there. This overbearing presence can become more damaging than advantageous for some candidates.
Of course, a campaign team is necessary for any candidate who wishes to lodge their passion and viability in the student mindset and the student media. But this has to be done with careful equilibrium: a candidate does not want to damage their chances by becoming overwhelmed by their committed comrade(s). Candidates have to ensure that, whilst having a popular set of campaigners supporting them opens up priceless opportunities, they establish themselves as autonomous and credible figures. After all, they will not be taking office with these people, and these people will never be answerable to the student population in the same way.
I remember writing a comment piece this time last year, labelling the Presidential race as a perpetuation of ‘the popularity contest,’ which very clearly echoes dubious Welfare Candidate Andrew McIlwraith’s comment regarding his opinion of elections this week. Whilst I do not wholly agree and do not think that these campaigners’ efforts and passion should be undermined, David Levene’s wonderful ‘fingers in pies’ analogy is so sharply accurate in this context. We have to remember that we should be voting for these people’s policies and personalities and promises; not the enormity or excitement of their campaign.
Paint, posters, cardboard cut-outs and campus celebrities will not carry these people through a year in office: integrity and capability will.