A WAR on social media.
That was how Universiti Malaya’s (UM) campus election was won.
Students took to the virtual world to present, and debate, their manifestos in the week-long run up to polling day, said Campus Election Committee (CEC) president Vanessa Eunice Scully.
But no untoward incidences were recorded during the campaign and voting period which ran from Feb 25 until March 3.
“Overall it was good. We only saw a war on social media. No argument, chaos, or physical fights on campus.
“We’ll have two more by-elections for the vacant faculty seats soon. If there are still no candidates on nomination day, it’ll be assumed that the two faculties do not want the extra representation,” she told a press conference after the election results were announced at the campus on Tuesday.
For the first time in almost 50 years, UM’s campus election was independently run by students.
Suara Siswa, a pro-student movement group, won all eight of the general seats, and 15 of the 32 faculty seats, contested.
Suara Siswa elected representative Gan Xhi Yan won a general seat with 3,683 votes - the highest among those who contested.
Blushing as his friends teased him about winning because of his boy band good looks, the third year medical student said he was surprised to have had so many votes as he didn’t have much time to campaign.
“I didn’t give many speeches so I didn’t expect to do so well,” he said, adding that the results showed that UM students did not vote according to race.
A total of 70 candidates from five groups were vying to be the voice of their fellow students at the country’s oldest varsity.
Twenty-five of the candidates contested in the general seats, with another 45 contesting for the faculty seats.
To be an eligible candidate, students must have a CGPA of 2.75 and above and are active in their courses, have not committed disciplinary offences, are not in debt to the university and not members of the CEC.
Suara Siswa president Mohd Akmal Hazieq Ahmad Rumaizi said the group comprising three movements - Demokrat UM, Angkatan Mahasiswa, and UM Association of New Youth (UMANY) - was elected for two terms.
Twenty-seven Suara Siswa candidates contested, winning a total of 23 seats.
Mohd Akmal Hazieq, who won a general seat, said the group’s main agenda is to make students equal partners with the university administration.
“The first thing I did after finding out that we’d won the majority of seats, was to meet UM deputy vice-chancellor (Student Affairs and Alumni) Prof Dr Abdul Aziz Abdul Raman to discuss this.
“He agreed that students must be part of the decision-making process at varsity, faculty, and college, levels.
“With the voices of students being heard, hopefully many of the issues we now face including fee increase, bus scheduling, and WiFi connectivity, can be resolved,” he said, adding that this was the first step towards setting up a student union.
The third year Education Faculty student said young adults are capable of managing their own affairs.
“At the moment, there’s a lot of red tape and bureaucracy involving the administration of student movements. For example, financial matters have to go through the university administration system.
“We need more freedom to realise the full potential of our students.”
Suara Siswa election machinery chief Wong Yan Ke said the group would continue to push for full student autonomy on campus.
“This is the start of a reformation in UM.
“Students are intellectuals who should have the right to be heard especially on policies and regulations that impact them.
“We’ll even critique Government policy if it’s not right,” he said, adding that Suara Siswa was willing to share its reform experience with student movements in other varsities.
Prof Abdul Aziz said the election was part of the varsity’s best practices as it led to student empowerment.
Students went to the poll on Monday. A total of 61.2% of 13,671 eligible voters cast their votes.
Scully said it took 12 hours to count the votes.
“The biggest challenge was the process itself as we only had two weeks to prepare.”