As election week 2005 at Melbourne University comes to an end today, it's worth reflecting on one of the more peaceful campaigns in recent years. Having seen the skullduggery of the 2003 election in the State of the Union (the official website even refers to it with the adjective 'skullduggerous' - nice work, lads), one expects all sorts of silliness to be going on. To the casual observer, though, there was little smoke nor heat.
The most visable presence on campus was the Left Union ticket, who were out in force last week and again during the election. Combining the considerable resources (oh, the irony) of Socialist Alternative and the left wing of the Labor Party, Left Union were the well organised voice of the left. In what was a real trademark of the entire election, there were few issues of substance raised by the Left Union folks. Apparently, they're really truely absolutely positively opposing VSU. And the war in Iraq. Still, these guys in their suave red t-shirts are an electoral force to be reckoned with.
The rival on the left were Activate, replete in Green. These guys are the non-aligned left, without a formal politial affiliation but their hearts in the right place (shit that sounded patronising). These guys were running on many of the same issues as Left Union, although with slightly less Stalinist zeal, which is most definitely a good thing. Given the connection with Students for Change, a worthwhile group trying to inject some integrity and transperancy into a union which desperately needs it, these guys were focused on life on campus as well as off it. For a fence-stradling centrist student like AOTW, Activate was the lefty ticket I could vote for with confidence.
Surprisingly disorganised this time around was the right wing (yeah yeah 'a broad cross-section of students' and whatever other spin they might want to try) coalition of Labor Right, Liberals and AUJS, under the banner of Fusion. Completely unsighted on campus until election week, they were later hard to miss in their camp bright pink t-shirts. Fusion were pushing a rather populist message during the campaign, promoting its completely unviable 'free gym membership' policy. Yawn. Still, the last thing that the union needs are a bunch of mad lefties wasting money and breaking stuff, so there's some merit in getting some Fusion folks elected.
Rounding out the Melbourne (Uni) Cup field were the Liberals, who made a sad sight prostituting the party brand name to act as a preference funnel for the Fusion ticket, where the Liberals had scored themselves some juicy positions. Old hack candidates, no real message beyond the oh-so-hilarious "You know we're Right" slogan... the only thing going their way was the superslick full colour leaflet thrust into my hand. Obviously the campaign was not quite as anorexic as it could have been.
Honourable mentions of course must go to the chilly-loving Kung Fu Banditos, Ken Courtis, the committee-loving, afro-wearing Josh Cusack, and of course the wonderfully dedicated Farragon of Virtue Farrago ticket. But the question must be asked, where was everybody's favourite nutter, Menachem Gunzberg? His absense was disappointing.
Predictions. For those whose memories extend back far enough, a left wing dominance of Union House is business as usual. Without a strong incentive to vote, turn-out is slack, usually dangling in single-figure percentages. Those who do vote are the highly motivated, politically aware students, and overwhelmingly these are on the left. Headstrong socialists are much more likely to cast a vote than lazy conservative engineering students, if only because they have no shame being caught within range of the ballot box. Incentive voting distorted the balance for a couple of years, bringing otherwise apathetic students out to vote if only for the promise of an $8 food voucher. Without this, we're likely to see a big swing back to the left.
Most likely, the Left Union guys will sweep the pool when it comes to Office Bearer positions. With resources, their roughest edges smoothed, and a hard core of lefty arts students, it's hard to see LU falling short of union dominance. Committees will be a little more finely balanced, with the 7 positions on each likely to be around about a 4-2-1 split (Left Union-Fusion-Activate), although there are enough minor parties and indies to upset the balance. In the battle for Farrago, Farragon are in with a chance although will be hampered by the momentum other candidates will recieve through running a full slate of candidates. As for turnout, the look of complete and utter boredom on the face of the four polling booth staff sighted on Wednesday, as well as the absense of a queue, suggests that the campaign has failed to ignite the imagination of most students. Look for a turnout between 5 and 10 per cent. Sad but true.
Disclosure, disclosure: I got links to just about everyone, so I suspect I'm biased in all directions. I'm a member of AUJS, scrutineering for Lib member Ken Courtis, wrote an article for the left-wing Farragon guys, am mates with one of the ALP guys. So get over it.