UKM polls: Anti-establishment students draw first blood

Fauwaz Abdul Aziz & Jimadie Shah Othman (Malaysiakini)
The anti-establishment Pro-Mahasiswa group at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) drew first blood at the campus polls by bagging four seats at the end of nomination period today.

Of the 23 ‘faculty’ seats on offer, the opposition group claimed two seats from the Engineering Faculty and another two from the Faculty of Islamic Studies.
Other than the contests to represent the respective faculties, UKM’s campus elections on Jan 15 will also see the undergraduates vying for 11 ‘general’ seats.
According to Pro-Mahasiswa candidate Mohd Hariszuan Jaharudin, the four unopposed wins were declared by the university’s Students Affairs Department (HEP) at about 12:45 this afternoon.
Hariszuan, who is from the university’s social and human sciences faculty, said the wins were due to the failure of the pro-Barisan Nasional ‘Aspirasi’ group to nominate candidates for the engineering faculty’s two seats and one of the seats for the Islamic studies faculty.
The other remaining seat at the Islamic studies faculty was given to the Pro-Mahasiswa candidate after objections against the Aspirasi candidate resulted in the latter’s disqualification.
In recent years, the UKM campus has been controlled by the Aspirasi faction.

Barometer of influence

The nominations process today started at 9am and ended at 12:45. The university’s Students’ Representatives’ Council was dissolved last October, and will be refilled after elections on Jan 15.
The results are expected to be announced on the same day.
Pro-Mahasiswa activist Saidatul Hafizah Mohd Shubaii said that the group had a large group of supporters at for the nomination process today.
She said that about 200 of their supporters marched from UKM stadium to Dataran Pusanika – the nominations venue – chanting various slogans such as “Student power!” “We unite for students!” and singing “The Students’ Wave”.
About 100 Pro-Aspirasi supporters were also present at Dataran Pusanika, said Saidatul.
UKM’s campus elections are widely watched as they are regarded as a barometer of influence enjoyed by BN or Pakatan Rakyat on university students.
Other than UKM, USM announced yesterday that it will also hold elections on Jan 15.
Pro-Mahasiswa hopeful is USM
Nominations of candidates who will be contesting for 37 seats will take place for three days starting Jan 12.
When contacted, USM’s student leader Muhammad Ashraf Mohd Saleh said the Pro-Mahasiswa grouping believed it will be able to nominate one candidate for each seat contested by the Aspirasi students.
He said further that he hoped the coalition could reverse the predominance of the Aspirasi students, who last year won 28 of the 37 seats on the university’s Students’ Representatives’ Council.
Yesterday the Pro-Mahasiswa representatives submitted a memorandum to USM Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Student Affairs and Development) Prof Omar Osman, which Muhammad Ashraf said was “positively received”.
The memorandum contained students’ demands for the abolition of the Universities and University Colleges Act, the presence of an external group to monitor USM’s campus elections and the appointment of an independent body to conduct the election process.
“Prior to this, we have found that the university tends to choose ex-USM students working in its Student Affairs Department who had themselves been Aspirasi students during their student days to run the campus elections,” Muhammad Ashraf explained.
“We hope that this time and in the future, they could appoint other staff or employees of the university who would be less Aspirasi-inclined,” he added.