Prestigious elections to find a new rector for the historic Aberdeen University have descended into farce amid accusations of dirty tricks and “banana republic” tactics.
The university’s election committee told students yesterday that the vote for the illustrious position had been declared “null and void” despite all ballots being cast.
Fresh elections are now expected in the new year, with students previously told that counting had stopped due to complaints of “irregularities in the voting process”.
And last night one of the high-profile candidates – Conservative MP Andrew Bowie – was revealed to be considering whether to stand in the re-run.
The university has declined to reveal the results, with the Aberdeen University Student’s Association (AUSA) writing requesting them following 13 complaints.
Previously held by the likes of Sir Winston Churchill and Andrew Carnegie, the distinguished rector position at the ancient Aberdeen university traces its roots back to the 15th century, with clarification in Acts of Parliament in 1858, 1889 and 1966.
Maggie Chapman, co-convener of the Scottish Green Party, currently holds the role and was competing against West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Mr Bowie, opera singer Fiona Kennedy and student Angus Hepburn.
Sources on all sides pointed fingers yesterday with allegations that posters had been torn down and covered over, “troubling graffiti” scrawled in the library and use of outside social media campaigns to promote candidates.
One source in the Andrew Bowie camp claimed that posters had been ripped down by Maggie Chapman supporters.
But a supporter of Ms Chapman said that the rival posters had come down in heavy rain as they had been secured by sticky tape in contrast to the more ”robust” Chapman posters.
The elections committee is comprised mostly of university employees.
A letter from AUSA to the committee read: “We fear the students will be disillusioned by these actions, since their right to vote was taken away.”
A statement from the Maggie Chapman campaign read: “We are in this situation because on the last afternoon of campaigning, having concluded they couldn’t win the election on their own merits, the losing campaigns chose to go, mob-handed, to pressurise the returning officer into disqualifying their opponent.
“They failed to do this, but did manage to convince him to annul the election. This decision undermines the votes cast by students in good faith for all candidates.”
A spokesman for Andrew Bowie campaign said: “We are obviously disappointed at the outcome, but we respect the decision that the elections committee has taken. We have no further comment to make at this time.”
But Mr Hepburn said that he was “happy natural justice had been served”.
A university spokesman said the election had breached rules.
He added: “Following consideration of an appeal in regard to the rectorial election, the elections committee have agreed to declare the election null and void and to rerun the election in the New Year.
“Further information on the timing of the election and the call for nominations will be issued in due course.”