Candidate Disqualified and More Campaign Penalties in PARSA Election

Aries Meng’s candidacy for PARSA Education Officer has been declared “null and void”. The Returning Officer, Ian Walker, found the ANyou candidate breached an electoral regulation against offering inducements in return for votes. The Returning Officer also banned independent Presidential candidate Zhizhen (Jayson) Liu from campaigning. Finally, Walker has reprimanded rival ticket Progress for not making clear that an event they were thanking students for attending was run by PARSA, rather than Progress.

Meng’s ban follows a complaint into alleged attempts to bribe students in return for votes through the Chinese-language social media site WeChat. Meng’s campaign was suspended by the Returning Officer over the weekend while an investigation took place into a complaint made by a rival candidate. Observer reported on Monday on a WeChat post which read “Once you’ve voted for Aries take a screenshot and I’ll send you a red packet”. ‘Red packets’ allow users to transfer virtual credits to others, which can be withdrawn as real money from the app.

The Returning Officer stated that “whether unwittingly, Aries Meng’s candidacy was particularly compromised by actions in breach of Election Regulation 13 f. i.”. 13 f. I. of the PARSA Election Regulations states that it is an electoral offence “to offer or provide gifts, bribes, money, food, drink or any other enticement to any person to influence the person to exercise their vote in favour of the candidate.”

Liu has been banned from campaigning for the remainder of the election period, after the Returning Officer noted “actions in breach of Election Regulations 13. f. i. & xi. (B)”. 13. f. i. is the same provision used to disqualify Aries Meng, while 13. f. xi. (B) makes it an offence “to campaign (whether on or off campus) in a place normally used as a place of study by students”. It is not immediately clear what events led to the ban. Liu is an independent candidate for Treasurer and ANU Council.

The Progress ticket also came in for a reprimand from the Returning Officer, after their candidates thanked attendees at the PARSA-run Friday Unwind drinks last week without making it clear that it was not a Progress event. “Some candidates from this ticket did not make it clear when thanking students for attending an event that it was a PARSA-hosted event, not an event hosted by the ‘Progress’ ticket,” the Returning Officer wrote. “Progress members were wearing badges with our team name, and were talking to students,” said Progress Presidential candidate Alyssa Shaw. “The ANyou team have complained citing that it ‘blurs the lines’. We think this is a long bow to draw but respect the decision of the Returning Officer.”

Aries Meng, ANyou’s Presidential candidate Paul Taylor, and ANyou University Council candidate Chris Wilson were contacted for comment but did not respond by time of publication.

Update 16/08

The Officers of the ANU Indian Students’ Association (InSA) were reprimanded today for a Facebook post endorsing four Progress candidates. The candidates in question were members of InSA. The post was ordered to be taken down under Election Regulation 13. c. i., which makes it an offence to publish “any election-related electronic communication” which “does not clearly identify that the communication is sent on behalf of the ticket or candidate … in font at least as large as the most commonly used font in the communication”. Shaw expressed her disappointment at the decision, stating that “this is upsetting as it undermines the agency of student clubs and societies to support their own members to participate in PARSA”. InSA previously endorsed a candidate for the 2016 PARSA election, in a post that still remains on their Facebook page.

You can read more of our coverage of the PARSA election here.

Valerie Ng contributed to this report.