THE UNIVERSITY of Aberdeen's student body has described as "undemocratic", a decision to scrap the Rector election over "unsubstantiated" allegations of "dirty tricks" by the campaign for Maggie Chapman, the co-convenor of the Scottish Greens.

A leaked appeal decision reveals the university's elections committee agreed that it was "undoubtedly true" that "many, if not all, of the allegations could not be substantiated."

They also show that at least one other candidate wanted Ms Chapman, the current Rector, removed from the ballot in a row over hundreds of campaign posters being torn down which led to the election being scrapped.

Loading article content

But the university elections committee which heard an appeal against the re-running of the election agreed that disqualification of one or more candidates was "not an appropriate remedy" and "strengthened" its rules to allow the option of annulling the vote.

HeraldScotland:

Green co-convenors Patrick Harvie and Maggie Chapman unveiled the party's 2016 manifesto last . Picture by Gordon Terris.

A re-vote is now expected in the New Year, and the committee decided that the result of the election should not be declared.

There were complaints a smaller number of posters were also removed by other candidates but it was claimed Ms Chapman's campaign was the worst offender.

The Aberdeen University Students’ Association said it was "disappointed and very worried" that the results of the vote were not published and strongly criticised the scrapping of the vote.

"The precedent set that an election can be annulled on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations runs directly contrary to the principles of the Venice [Commission], and of democracy itself," the association said in a letter to the university.

"In the name of democracy, and to honour an otherwise fair and legitimate election, there must be a release of the breakdown of the results and an explanation to the students of the goings-on of the past two weeks.

"Students have a fundamental democratic right to know the outcome of an election they have partaken in.

"Not publishing the results of an election that has not seen any illegal behaviour such as voter fraud runs contrary to all precedent and natural democratic principles.

"We fear the students will be disillusioned by these actions, since their right to vote was taken away.

"Turnout for elections on student campuses is already low, and deciding to keep vital information like the outcome of a fair and legitimate election unpublished just strengthens this disillusionment.

HeraldScotland: The research was carried out at the University of Aberdeen

Ms Chapman who is believed to be confident that she had won the three-yearly election, had an appeal against the revote dismissed.

The Chapman campaign team say it "beggars belief" that it was agreed to scrap the vote without substantial evidence saying it "undermines the votes cast by students in good faith for all candidates".

Returning Officer Professor Mike Greaves said he had in part based his decision on the number of complaints raised during the campaign.

An appeal decision document says: "The test used by the elections committee, is proof on the 'balance of probabilities' and not 'proof beyond reasonable doubt'. Put simply, when considering whether an event occurred, the elections committee considered on the basis of all evidence presented whether the occurrence of that event was more likely than not.

"The elections committee concluded by a majority that the conduct of the election considered in the round and informed by all that had been heard during the appeal hearing, fell well short of the standards expected for a Rectorial election.

"It was satisfied, in particular, that a significant number of campaign posters had been deliberately removed or covered up and it was very concerned about the [hostile] conduct of the hustings.

HeraldScotland:

"These were actions and events that had the potential to influence the outcome of the election unfairly."

The committee also unanimously agreed that before agreeing to scrap the vote, Mr Greaves should have given the Chapman team the opportunity to respond to some allegations "in the interests of fairness and natural justice".

A decision document said: "It was quite possible that the Chapman team may have been able to rebut all or some of the allegations made or may have been able to provide additional information that would have influenced his decision."

But the committee concluded: "Having considered the evidence carefully, the elections committee concluded by a majority that the conduct of the election had been materially prejudiced by serious breaches of the Rules such that the Returning Officer’s decision to annul the election should be upheld.

"It should be noted, however, that the election is annulled in its entirety and that a subsequent election should be conducted under its own new (strengthened) rules."

The ancient post of Rector of the University of Aberdeen has a rich tradition dating back to the foundation of the institution in 1495 and has been held by notables such as former Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Herbert Henry Asquith, steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie and actor Iain Cuthbertson.

HeraldScotland: winston-churchill.jpg

The Rector since 1860 was the students' only representative, and, in more recent years, their main representative on the University Court.

Ms Chapman's opponents were University of Aberdeen alumnus Andrew Bowie, the MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, student Angus Hepburn, from Kippen, near Stirling and the singer, broadcaster and producer Fiona Kennedy.

A university spokesman said: "Given that the committee has decided that the election had been materially prejudiced by serious breaches of the rules, it would not be appropriate to release the results of the election.”