Council Elections 2016 – The Voters’ Views, the Students’ Stakes

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by Noor Adilah (17S06B), Jeanne Tan (17A01B), and Carman Chew (17A01D)

Today marks the end of 3 days’ worth of Council Elections. Yesterday, we talked to the candidates and the secretaries to clarify some changes to the elections process and the effects they have had on this year’s campaigns. Today, we got in touch with the rest of the student body to learn more about student’s sentiments towards the elections thus far.

The grand elections board, telling you that YOU have a stake!

Just like yesterday, we started off the day with morning interactions. The candidates were relentless in their pursuit of gaining more votes by talking amiably with students in the canteen. They gave out stickers, sweets and even packets of jam to schoolmates while talking about the aims of their campaign, trying to win the hearts and minds of students. There was a constant chorus of ‘Vote For’s and ‘Choose Me’s, setting a lively and charismatic atmosphere in a usually sleepy school canteen. As time went on, the canteen was full of campaigners rushing to talk to as many people as possible, knowing that these moments could make or break future votes.

A candidate gives a voter some merchandise during morning interactions.

This atmosphere did not waver, even after a whole day’s worth of lessons. Most engaging were the speeches at the end of the day, when each candidate had 30-45 seconds to introduce and promote themselves, and a short spontaneous answer segment to a question posed by the elections board. A variety of speeches, not just individual ones but group speeches as well, were given in front of the whole Year 5 batch. After listening to the speeches, voting commenced during civics, and now we wait.

(From left to right) BW04: Chong Jia Xin Eleanor (R32), Jenny Chen (R34), Ho Wei En (R35), Wan Qian Hui Vanessa (R36)

After these few days worth of campaigning and candidacy, the students we spoke to had a lot to say about the general atmosphere surrounding the campaigns. On a whole, the school was aware of the intensive nature of the elections and generally did feel an underlying urgency behind the candidate’s charisma and enthusiasm, but there were various responses towards this atmosphere.

Some students were feeling optimistic about the elections and were excited to see the potential in many candidates. Yeo Jun Wei (17S03B) said that “it’s very exciting because there are so many new faces that are running for leadership in JC… they have a lot of potential and can bring the school to greater heights”.  Another student who wished to stay anonymous said that “the campaigning has been quite hardcore”.

Despite the changes made to the election system this year, many students we interviewed expressed that the elections were still tilted unfairly, in favour of the more popular groups. This was because many felt that the briefness of the campaign period prevented the nominees from having sufficient time to reach out the student body.  “I don’t feel like a lot has happened these two days, especially for the J2s… I didn’t get a lot of interaction with the council elections or the candidates,” said Ma Rui (16S03A). Hidayat Malik (17S06B) expressed his concerns about the fact that the “fun” atmosphere promoted by the candidates, alongside the short, intensive time period of two days worth of exposure, was risky because the students and council can never know when the elections could slip into populism despite the efforts to minimize the popularity vote as a factor.

He Zhou Zhou from HH01, one of the brave JAE students running for council

We also tried to understand how the school views the effectiveness of the campaigns. As can be understood from the previous article, Council is already implementing new strategies and efforts to make sure that the elections can be as effective as possible. Have these efforts come to fruition? Once again, the student body is quite varied in their opinions about this. Nur Umaira (17S06B) believes that the morning interactions have not been effective for her because she does not come to school early – “I don’t know most of the candidates, especially the JAEs … they are usually campaigning in the morning – I don’t get to see them interact with people on a personal basis.” However, most students do believe that the changes allowed for more exposure and better interaction.

We also asked the school population about the fairness of the elections. The biggest concern that came up was whether or not the elections were a ‘popularity contest’. “People are more likely to just vote for the people that they know, and that’s usually just the people who are well-known from previous years,” said a Y5 student, who wished to remain anonymous. On the other hand, there were also people who believed that as long as a candidate showed that they were passionate, people were still as likely to vote for them. Some commented that a longer campaign period would have evened the playing field for people to gain support from the student body. Still, on the whole, most students admitted that the ‘popularity’ element to the elections was unavoidable. “It’s impossible to expect every single person to take the time to evaluate every single candidate,” said Guan Xin (17S06B) commented, “ so it’s expected that some people will just vote for their friends or people that they’ve heard of.” The intrinsic nature of elections, as democratic as they are,  seem to depend on popularity, especially because students vote for genuine ability and commitment, but this can only be judged from personal relationships with the candidates – something that cannot be established within a few days but needs to be cultivated over a much longer period of time.

The general acknowledgement amongst students about the work and devotion put into campaigning, the structures in place, alongside students’ own responses to the campaigning, generated contrasting views about the elections which were unique to different people amongst students. However, a common concern across almost all the candidates was the little information which was afforded to everyone outside of council nominees about the elections process, and general information to do with council regarding its function and purpose. Some might prefer the school being given an overview of the campaign before its start. Almost all students agree that more time needs to be spent on educating the school population regarding elections, to make informed decisions and to clarify doubts.

BW05 going about their morning interactions sweetening people’s’ days

For many of the candidates, campaigning had been an arduous journey that pushed them to the best of their abilities. For some, the speech was the scariest 30 seconds of their life. For others, the morning interactions  really pushed candidates to present the best version of themselves to the school. It was hectic – nominees claimed to have received briefing emails as late as 3 a.m. at night – but the process had still been an enjoyable one and one that definitely challenged them to have even better time management for the work to come.

Although the journey was a tough one, it was comforting to hear that many of the candidates would still strive to make the school a better place regardless of whether they get elected or not. Candidate Vanessa Chong (17S06K) commented that “ for speech today, it could have gone like 200 times better but I tried, I really tried … even if I’m not in, I’m sure [I’ll] do other things with my time and that one of them is bound to help the school.”

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