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Where did the mixed votes go?

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The dust has settled over another KSU election and a landslide victory for SDM. While I wish the best of luck to the winning candidates for their upcoming term, I have taken the liberty of calculating how the student council would have looked like if only the 865 mixed votes cast had been taken into consideration. Subtracting each candidate’s vote tally from that of the student organization they represented, here are the hypothetical alternative results:

President

Clive Gerada 256
Gayle Lynn Callus 377

Vice-President

Robert Cachia 238
Mark Grech- 388

Secretary General

Paul Caruana Turner 320
Kenneth Terribile 213

Financial Officer

Jana Pace Cocks 236
Alistair Baldacchino 366

Public Relations Officer

Simon Polidano 237
Andrew Borg Wirth 375

International Officer

Michele Cardinali 253
Steph Dalli 361

International Coordinator

Cleaven Portelli  282
Daniel Vella 336

Culture & Entertainment Officer

Julia Farrugia 285
Steve Sammut Alessi 331

Culture & Entertainment Coordinator

Kyle Civelli 219
Rebecca Camilleri 601

Education Coordinator

Thomas Bajada 266
Francienne Muscat 352

Social Policy Coordinator

Mina Tolu 242
Andrew Muscat 379

These results show that SDM would still have managed to win the vast majority of their seats. In fact the only Pulse candidate who would have got elected to KSU would have been Paul Caruana Turner in the role of Secretary General. On the other hand, Kenneth Terribile, his SDM counterpart and the new KSU Secretary General, would have received fewer votes than any of the other 21 candidates. I do not intend to pass premature judgement on Kenneth Terribile and his merits but it is hard to deny that this is quite an interesting statistic…

Posted in News

Emphatic victory for SDM

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SDM have officially been re-elected to KSU, winning 1989 of the total cast votes that translates to a percentage of 47.8%. Pulse only managed to gather 1297 votes, that is 31.1% of the total sum. While the gap between the two student organizations last year was only 305 votes, it increased significantly this year to 692 votes. 865 (20.8%) votes this year were mixed and 45 (1.1%) votes were deemed invalid.

Celebrations on quad after official news of SDM's landslide victory was announced

Celebrations on quad after official news of SDM’s landslide victory was announced

Out of 12092 eligible voters, only 4196 (34.7%) decided to cast their votes this year. This reflects an increase by 1.7% from the previous year and is a new student-voter percentage turnout record at the University of Malta.

These results mean that Gayle Lynn Callus will serve as KSU President for 2014-15 and it is has also been confirmed that all the other SDM members contesting the election alongside him have all been raised to KSU too.

The final vote tallies are as follows:

President
Clive Gerada: 1553
Gayle Lynn Callus: 2366

Vice President
Robert Cachia: 1535
Mark Grech: 2377

Secretary General
Paul Caruana Turner: 1617
Kenneth Terribile: 2202

Financial Officer
Jana Pace Cocks: 1533
Alistair Baldacchino: 2355

Public Relations Officer
Simon Polidano: 1534
Andrew Borg Wirth: 2364

International Officer
Michele Cardinali: 1550
Steph Dalli: 2350

International Coordinator
Cleaven Portelli: 1579
Daniel Vella: 2325

Culture & Entertainment Officer
Julia Farrugia: 1582
Steve Sammut Alessi: 2320

Culture & Entertainment Coordinator
Kyle Civelli: 1516
Rebecca Camilleri: 2590

Education Coordinator
Thomas Bajada: 1563
Francienne Muscat: 2341

Social Policy Coordinator
Mina Tolu: 1539
Andrew Muscat: 2368

Posted in News

Of pancakes, hot dogs and beer

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Hello children, it’s me again.  Forgive the condescending tone, but you must all be pretty used to it by now.  After all, you’ve just spent two whole weeks being told what the nice people in the big photos are going to do for you if you tick the box next to their name, all the while being stuffed with free pancakes and hot dogs and beer.  The fatter the pig, the richer the meal.

This year’s student elections had their own beautiful oxymorons to reflect upon, and who better to do it than your not-so-friendly neighbourhood Nitpicker.  The first glimpse I got of this year’s campaigns were the approximately five thousand and seventy four colourful banners leading up to Quad, half of which were shouting PAVING THE WAY at me, which ironically turned the whole pathway into a narrow corridor of awkward shuffling of students rushing off to their lectures against others who were just casually strolling up to listen to that horrible One Republic song being played for the sixty sixth time that afternoon.  No more counting dollars, we’ll be counting how many times I had to listen to that tune while having to walk past the SDM vs. Pulse Daily DJ Mix-Off, gathering enough flyers and booklets to kill a tree or two on the way.

One of the easiest criticisms to whip out when it comes to student elections is the commonly-held belief that SDM is as much of a collection of Nationalist puppets as Pulse is a Labour megaphone.  Representatives from both organisations have over the years done their very best (which is clearly not nearly good enough) to overcome this dogma, and yet, here we are, in 2014, with a now one-year-old new Government, with both groups opting for slightly different shades of blue, and most people still can’t tell the difference between student elections and national ones.  All we know is that one of them has a larger bearing on society in general and our futures, and that we have an obligation to vote since our voice will have an overarching difference in the grand scheme of things – I’ll let you be big boys and girls and decide for yourselves which is which (NB: be wary of trick questions, it might be neither).

The sheer beauty of it all, however, came about when, during a heated (it was around 21 degrees if I’m not mistaken, and I stupidly had a jacket on) debate between SDM and Pulse, if one had to – if only for a second – deviate their awed stares from the two gods-to-be on the panel, they could see Lino Bianco, a Labour Party MEP candidate, sneaking around, talking to disinterested people at the back of the crowd, handing out business cards like there’s no tomorrow.  He eventually made his way towards me, and because my affectionately cradling a pint of beer at the far back didn’t put him off enough, actually started talking about why he was there.  I’m honestly not trying to play the part of a nonchalant cool kid here – I have no idea what he said.  All I know is that by the time he was finished, I grinned and said, “What a way to promote non-political allegiance to a student group by coming here to do this today of all days, am I right?”, to which he smiled, said he agreed, shook my hand and left to harass another lonely soul.  The poor bugger didn’t even get my snide sarcastic comment, and he wants my go ahead to go to Brussels.

I’m writing this on midnight of Thursday the 10th of April.  In a coupe of hours’ time, my phone is going to start going off every couple of minutes, with people I barely know from sight calling me up and speaking to me as if we were long-lost lovers.  I’m actually going to leave my phone charging all night, with the hopes that it would be ready to face the day with a much-needed 160% battery.  One can only hope that this year, I’m offered a chauffeur service to campus, with an all-inclusive pit-stop at the new McDrive on my way there, so I won’t be forced to vote on an empty stomach.  The funny thing is, I’m probably not even going to add anything to this rant after the results come out. I would have, but then again it wouldn’t make any difference whatsoever.  This feels like that one time when Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of South Park, had finished an entire episode that was pretty much all to do with the presidential election on the eve of the results coming out and of the episode airing, and then just added Obama as the protagonist instead of whoever the other guy running against him was.  Different name, different country, same bull.

Now I understand that no one can afford to do the incentives we’ve seen happen these last couple of days all year round (unless whoever gets elected receives an additional 250,000 Euro just to spend on more pancakes and hot dogs), but why splurge on this one-off occasion? Why does Quadrangle need to be literally dead and dull on practically every other day, only to be transformed into the Paceville stairs when the people behind it expect something back for all the air hockey and Nutella they’re willing to offer for free (given you line up like hungry dogs and wait an hour or two in the blistering sun)?  Surely, the people who get my vote are the ones who want it to be this way as often as possible? Who am I kidding though, talking about votes as if I was actually considering voting this year round.   Of course, I’m not in any way urging you to do the same; brainwashing was never my forte.  If you feel like things will really change if you vote for one specific group of twenty somethings and not the other, or if you’re afraid that your candidate friends won’t speak to you anymore unless you rush off and vote for them, then by all means, go forth and tick boxes.  As for me though, when I feel that there’s a bigger difference than a couple of names (because I can’t even say I prefer one colour to the other anymore), then I might actually have a ponder or two about the matter.  But until then, it’s downing free beers and listening to One bloody Republic yet again.

 

 

Posted in Opinion

KSU Elections 2014|Election Day: Live Updates

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KSU Elections 2014: Live Updates

Livestream: http://www.livestream.com/insitemalta

———–

01:02 Official Results: Pulse 1297, SDM 1989, Mixed 865, Invalid 45

00:32 SDM begin to blast campaign tune after campaign tune, spanning over the past 2-3 elections, as Carl B [podcast] is cut short at the unaffiliated hot dog stand close by.

A certain student’s ecstasy has revealed some inner primate characteristics, having climbed up the (significantly high) Pulse structure for a nice view of the door at students’ house. He however quickly climbs back down.

We would like to remind followers that official results are yet to be released, and that no indications have been given by the commission.

00:20 A little update from the outside of Students’ House, like other years – news from inside students house have made it out. SDM have begun blasting music to drown out any sense of uncertainty, as candidates start to be raised on supporters’ shoulders. While there is no official result from the commission, the atmosphere from around the SDM stand is nothing but celebratory, make of it what you will.

00:15 Lots of commotion in the common room as the commission tried to urge the officials to confirm counting. Expecting an official result in 10-15 minutes but it’s pretty apparent that SDM have won this election.

00:12 Pulse are evacuating quad. Still waiting for an official result.

00:05 All officials are rushed to their tables by the Commission in order to accelerate the counting process as much as possible.

00:02 The Commissioner is verifying dubious votes.

23:51 Electoral commissioner asks for everyone’s utmost attention as we reach a delicate stage of the counting.

Common room box 2 closed.

23:45 Common Room box 2, Sir Temi Zammit Box 2 are now being counted.

23:36 Sir Temi Zammit box 1 is complete. Block votes are still being counted. Official results will be published when they are divulged to us.

23:08 We are more than halfway through with the counting of the block votes. We will give you the official result when we have it.

22:34 Valletta: 1 SDM, 2 mixed

22:32 All 3 Gozitans block voted SDM.

22:29 Piles of 50 are being placed on each table to be sorted. Block votes are being counted. Dubious votes are to be placed aside, to be reviewed by the Commissioner himself.

The Commissioner was interrupted by a loud bang as a chair was knocked over, and he threatened to kick Ernest Mercieca out.

22:24 It has been confirmed that a total of 4196 students voted.

2:16 The Electoral Commissioner is sternly reminding those present to remain focused so no other mistakes are made. They are being recounted.

22:04 The votes of Junior College box 1 were not all reconciled, with a discrepancy of 10. They are being recounted.

21:53 Common Box 1: 2066 eligible, 582 voted

Sir Temi Zammit box 2: 2029 eligible, 574 voted

21:48 Junior College Box 2 (2nd years): 1040 eligible, 272 voted

Gozo: Eligible 151, voted 3
Valletta Campus: Eligible 77, voted 3

21:44 Some figures as they come to us.

Common Room box 2: 817 voted
Medical School Mater Dei: 1778 eligible, 454 voted

21:34 Before any counting or sorting can begin, the ballot sheets are split into piles of fifty each.  This process is expected to take a while longer.

21:30 A healthy dose of energy drinks have arrived for everyone present including us.

21:28 Follow our livestream on http://www.livestream.com/insitemalta

21:20 The ballot boxes have been opened and Sir Temi Zammit box 1 votes are all on the tables.

21:04 Representatives from both parties have started streaming in.  They are taking their places at each table in order to supervise the process.

The Electoral Commissioner is giving instructing everyone about the process.

Tensions are clearly high.

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20:25 The common room smells of Pizza as the electoral commission takes a well-deserved break before the counting of votes.

20:18 Voting is now closed. The boxes are being carried in. Follow our live blog for updates during the counting of votes and watch out for our livestream.

19:07 This afternoon, InsiterTV met up with Graziano Geremia, an Erasmus student who, despite not being able to vote in today’s KSU election, was seen around campus trying to encourage those who can to do so!

 18:48 According to the Electoral Commission, 3941 votes have been submitted by 6:30 pm. This is equivalent to 32.6% out of the total number of eligible voters. The final voting percentage last year was 33.43%.

18:25  A dispute has broken out between members of Pulse and SDM as well as the Electoral Commissioner. When questioned, Christopher Vella, vice-president of Pulse, claimed that SDM had tried to win some last-minute votes by setting up a stand right outside Gateway with the intention of offering free coffee and sandwiches to those emerging students whose lectures at Gateway will soon finish. He described such a move by SDM as simple ‘propaganda’. The situation has now been resolved and the sandwiches have all been eaten. Rumour has it that the coffee boiler will be transferred to Quad.

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17.48 There seems to be a general aura of disapproval over the retention of promotional banners around campus. ‘Silent day’? What ‘silent day’?

16.26 According to the Electoral Commission, over 2900 students have cast their vote up to this point in time.  This is equivalent to 24% of the eligible voters.

This is relatively similar to the figures from last year, where by 3pm 3191 students had cast their vote out of 13405 eligible voters (23%).

A similar turnout to that of last year is therefore expected by the time the voting ends.

Gayle Lynn Callus (left) and Clive Gerada (right) share an intimate moment with the camera before scrambling away to continue convincing people to vote

Gayle Lynn Callus (left) and Clive Gerada (right) share an intimate moment with the camera before scrambling away to continue convincing people to vote

14.58 Latest updates from the Electoral Commission:

The Valletta and Gozo ballot boxes have arrived on campus with a total of 6 votes collectively.

Valletta: 3/77 3.9%

Gozo: 3/151 2%

The Gozo ballot box arriving on Campus

The Gozo ballot box arriving on Campus

13.51 The Nitpicker just brightened up our day a little bit and sent us his take on the elections.

Read it here: http://insiteronline.com/comment/opinion-comment/pancakes-beer-hot-dogs/

13.15 More photo updates:

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12.45 The Electoral Commission has just announced that the turnout up until 12 pm was of 1463 votes cast, which is 12% of the eligible voters.

11.00 More photo updates:

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10.55 Official update from the Electoral Commission: everything is running smoothly at Junior College, with a positive turnout, especially from first years.

10.05 Some photo updates from this morning:

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8.47  Most boxes are now open, with the exception of those at the Valletta and Gozo Campus, since presumably, electoral commission members need a little more time to get there – happy voting! We’d like to remind everyone the voting venues – which can be found below in a previous update.

STZ Box 2014

 

8:30 - We’ve  been informed that there was a slight delay at Sir Temi Zammit due to the computers, which are used to verify students by the registrar, took longer to arrive. Pulse candidate Paul Caruana Turner was first to vote.

8.00 Voting at the Common Room and Sir Temi Zammit Hall is now open

7.55 Pulse and SDM have had qualms over the banners which both organisations have placed strategically around campus grounds. Pulse seem to have been under the impression that there was an agreement to take all banners down at 10pm. SDM on the other hand seem convinced that the agreement allowed them to keep some of the posters up.

After a heated argument, a new agreement has been reached.

7.30 The longest day on campus is finally here, and as always, we will be with you every step of the way.

The Electoral Commission has informed us that there are 12092 eligible voters for today’s election.

In order to be able to vote, students will have to provide their Identity Card, Passport, Driver’s Licence or Smart Card.

The following is a breakdown of the voting locations on campus:

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The box at Junior College will be open from 08:00 to 17.15

Posted in News

Campaign financing: how to spend it like SDM and Pulse

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With the  hectic carnival like nature of quad during KSU elections many have wondered where both political organisations get their money from and how they use it.  Andrea Gonzi and Michelle Grech sift through Pulse and SDM’s financial records to show how an election campaign on quad can make you € 4,000 poorer.

Asking for Pulse and SDM’s bill for the KSU elections hasn’t always been a straightforward affair and it comes as a great surprise to not only be given an account of how much money was actually spent during the election week itself, but also be given a half yearly financial report by both parties. This gives the electorate a rare opportunity to see what goes behind the scenes in quad’s busiest time of the year.

At first glance it is crucial to point out that both reports are not audited therefore making it impossible to verify how accurate or factual the figures given actually are. Secondly, the half yearly report given to insiteronline by SDM does not contain a breakdown of expenses or income making it harder to form concrete conclusions however Insiteronline was allowed to glimpse the report during a meeting in person with SDM. Secondly, all of Pulse’s reports are significantly more detailed than SDM’s reports with their election breakdown being sent 3 days earlier than SDM’s.

With total half yearly revenues numbering to a princely *€20,586 and €11,493 for SDM and Pulse respectively, it serves as a testament of these two political organisations’ dominance over the political scene at Junior College and the University of Malta especially since the major source of income for both organisations being from activities and seminars. Pulse have made a revenue of  €9579.25 (83%) from the aforementioned alone. Sources of revenue such as sponsorship and advertising, a crucial source of income for many student organisatons, aren’t even given a mention within both financial reports.

Both organisations have spent roughly the same amount of money during the 2014 KSU election week totaling to *€4,000 and €3,662 for Pulse and SDM respectively. The biggest expenditure for both organisations being the set up of their stands at €1,250 (with another €575 to run the stand) and €2,112 respectively – making Pulse’s stand significantly cheaper than SDM’s.

On the otherhand Pulse have invested a lot of their money on printing material and social media totaling to €1,325 as compared to SDM’s expense of €550 on printing. Pulse have also raked up a higher bill when it comes to freebies and food totaling to €775 against SDM’s given figure of €550. Interestingly both organisations have spent exactly the same amount (€450) on T-shirts during this elections campaign.

* Pulse’s half yearly report dates from May 2013 to January 2014 whilst SDM’s dates to January 2014-April 2014

*Both organisations are also donated a lot of items to be given out or used during the election campaign

Posted in Features

Gerada vs Callus: who came out on top?

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In case you missed it, and in which case I suppose you can be accused of being possessed by the demon that is student apathy, then yesterday at UoM saw the last major pre-KSU election event, where Gayle Lynn Callus and Clive Gerada, SDM and Pulse’s respective presidential hopefuls, squared off against each other in a heated and very well-balanced debate.

The two were never really at odds over the importance of certain implementations. Both Callus and Gerada highlighted the need for KSU to continue bridging the gap between University and the workplace. The two both plan to ‘go green’, partly through increasing the number of available bicycle racks on campus and through the promotion of carpooling strategies. Both of them also made their stances on the civil union bill clear; both agreed whole-heatedly with it, with Callus arguably going against SDM’s recent press release that suggested the student organization’s willingness to engage in ‘discussions’ about the issue. Clive Gerada also praised SDM for their soon-to-be successful Quad Refurbishment Project and Gayle Lynn Callus promised Gerada that Pulse’s plans to make Gozo Ferry trips transport-refundable for Gozitan students will be drafted into SDM’s ambitions for 2014-15 should they win the election.

All they really disagreed about was each other’s strategies for dealing with the same problems faced by UoM students. For example, with regards the parking problem, Gerada argued in favour of a future deal with the government to extend their current Park-and-Ride scheme to cater more effectively for those students who live in the south of the island and of a future negotiated deal with the University regarding the resurfacing of Car Park 6. Callus’ proposals included the setting up of a sensor system within the car park outside Quad that will automatically inform students as soon as it reaches its maximum parking capacity, thus saving them from frustrating and fruitless drives down the narrow road leading up to that car park. He also pledged to continue working on last year’s white box parking proposal that will, after midday, allow students to park in the white parking spaces that are currently reserved for lecturers. The argument that was raised by Gerada against this scheme concerns the fact that the white parking spaces will still not be available to students before midday which is when students have most trouble finding parking. However, I find it highly unlikely that University officials will allow for the possibility of lecturers not finding any parking spaces in the morning and having to cancel or arrive late to their lectures as a result. It is students who need lecturers, not the other way around, and as such it is only right that they possess certain privileges that students do not.

With regards events, Gerada criticized the previous KSU for focusing too heavily on them. While they are important contributors to student life, he asserted that KSU should not have spent almost 50% of their annual funding on them. It is a point that many KSU-critics have raised against them and by looking at their financial report you will find that KSU’s expenditure on events including Freshers’ Week during 2013 was a whopping grand total of around 147,000 euro. However, you cannot just focus on one side of the coin and indeed KSU’s income generated from events including Freshers’ Week throughout 2013 comes up to 159,000 euro, around 60% of their total income. It still remains difficult, in my opinion, to justify the splashing out of over 70,000 euro on one single Grad Ball though and perhaps the educated cutting of some event costs is not a bad idea.

One of Clive Gerada’s major proposals was the creation of a far more transparent KSU, particularly where finances are concerned. I do not in any way claim financial and legal expertise so I will not linger too long on this point. Gerada proposed the publication of monthly KSU audits in a transparent manner. Callus reminded him that KSU cannot just decide to publish an audit whenever they feel like it and that their financial reports are already available on their website. I will leave the first point to the lawyers but, with regards the second point, I have to admit that I did not find such financial information after three minutes of browsing through their website. Surely it should be front-page information.

Finally, with regards the thorny issue of ‘student apathy’ which I have already stated my personal view on in a recent article, both parties seem to me to have their heads faced in the right direction. Both Gerada and Callus proposed schemes aimed at reducing the bureaucracy within KSU and at granting students, including those students who do not form part of an organization, a platform where their opinions can be heard. Of course such opinions should extend far beyond students’ thoughts on the locations of two new water fountains or their input in a Facebook competition to decide on the new face of Quad. Both Callus and Gerada promise to do just that but then again do the two parties not promise the same thing every year? What were their campaign slogans last year? ‘Together, Authors of a Better University’ and ‘Youniversity’. Will things be different this time round? I hope so, but I certainly won’t be getting my hopes up.

As a concluding remark, I strongly believe that a positive first step in tackling bureaucracy within KSU involves students voting for a mixed council. From listening to last Friday’s ‘KSU Candidates in the Hotseat’ debate and from personally speaking to several of the candidates from both sides, I believe that Pulse are stronger than SDM in some areas and SDM are stronger than Pulse in others. Not everybody knows this fun fact and indeed I only discovered it within the past few weeks but the KSU election voting system is a first-past-the-post one. This means that candidates are elected to KSU depending on how many votes they themselves personally garner. A meritocratic mixed council based on the individual merits of every single candidate and not on their allegiance to the more popular party on campus is therefore possible. I will be voting in this way tomorrow and I encourage everybody who is reading this to do likewise.

Posted in Comment, Opinion