In an email sent by Union Democracy this afternoon, candidates were told that online campaigning would start from Monday 12 February 9am.
This has prompted discussion among candidates, with a significant number being unhappy at this announcement. Many have complained that this is unacceptable due to being given less than three days notice. Candidates’ are now forced to change their current campaign plans, which are based on the prior launch date provided – February 19th. This gives candidates an extra week of campaigning, but it comes an entire week earlier than what they have been preparing for.
The email sent to candidates said:
At the Candidate Briefing we had a few questions about online campaigning and how this would be effected [sic]by the manifesto’s being public with links that don’t go anywhere.
They continued, saying:
You will be allow [sic]to publish your facebook [sic]groups, pages and videos. This should mean that the links in your manifestos will link up.
Candidates will be allowed to discuss their campaign online, but they cannot put up posters, hand out flyers, or talk in person about their campaign. Physical campaigning can start from the previously planned date of February 19th.
One candidate called this “entirely unfair” expanding on the point that;
For a lot of people, social media is the main part of their campaign. Having to campaign for 3 weeks without planning for it will at best leave some candidates underprepared and at worst force some candidates to take up to 3 weeks off of studying/working/doing their dissertation.
Others have expressed their concerns about not being able to take three weeks out to do their campaign, and that is unfair to change the plans so late since this announcement was made today in the afternoon with minimal time to for candidates to object to the decision.
The reason for this decision, according to a second clarification email, is due to feedback from the candidate briefing. In the candidate briefing questions were raised about what candidates could and could not do during Media Week without breaching by-laws.
Union Democracy said in their email:
The decision that we made was not intended to advantage or disadvantage any candidates and we certainly would not want to put additional stress on you and your campaign teams.
Responses so far seem to suggest that this has had the opposite effect, with some candidates commenting that this will no longer be a fair election if the changes are not reversed.
One candidate suggested they agree among themselves not to publish anything online until later in the week, with another saying:
But would candidates be willing to peacefully restrain from online campaigning for a certain period of time so everyone is on an equal playing field?
While RON may not be trusted to do this, the general consensus is that this is the best option.