#HalalanUPD2024: Lack of student council candidates continues

Voting lines for the university and college-level student council elections open on Thursday, May 30, even though several colleges and schools within the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD) grappled with incomplete slates and sets of candidates. 

The issue was observed not only in local student councils but also at the University Student Council (USC) itself, which only has five college representative candidates in this year’s polls.

Still fragmented

Several schools and colleges will forego their participation in the regular student council elections primarily due to the lack of candidates.

No student filed their candidacy for any position on the College of Fine Arts Student Council, the college’s Office of the Secretary said in a May 11 email exchange with Tinig ng Plaridel (TNP).

The college added that it will discuss the possibility of holding special elections in lieu of the regular polls.

Similarly, there were no candidates for the local student councils of the UP School of Statistics (UPSS) and the College of Architecture.

In a post dated May 13, the UPSS Electoral Board announced that they will soon post updates on how the vacancies will be filled.

Some schools and colleges, meanwhile, proceeded with the regular student council polls despite the low number of candidates.

The UP School of Economics only has one candidate, while the College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD) and the College of Home Economics (CHE) each have two candidates. 

In response, the college student electoral board of CSWCD decided to hold a student assembly in place of their miting de avance to begin a conversation “on the current state and future directions of student leadership and participation” in the college.

Moreover, only three independent bets are running for the Business Administration Council.

Other schools and colleges have also informed TNP beforehand that they will not participate in the regular polls, including the Technology Management Center, and the School of Labor and Industrial Relations. 

The Institute of Islamic Studies also shared with TNP that it plans to conduct elections in the first semester of the next academic year.

The College of Human Kinetics, School of Archaeology, Center for International Studies, and the School of Urban and Regional Planning have not released their respective calendar of activities for this year’s elections. 

The said colleges and schools also did not release any election-related announcements previously in 2023.

Read: #HalalanUPD2023: Kakulangan sa tumatakbong kandidato para sa mga tatayong lider-estudyante

Since 2020, which marked the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of students running for council positions has decreased.

The lowest number of candidates in 10 years was tallied in 2021 when the elections became online, with 22 candidates vying for positions in the USC. 

The 2022 USC polls followed with only 20 candidates in total.

In 2023, only 18 candidates appeared in the ballots on the day of the elections. The polls also became historic, when for the first time in at least 20 years, abstentions defeated the chairperson and vice chairperson candidates, leaving the top two posts of the council vacant.

Read: New USC short of standard bearers, swept by independent councilor bets

This year, both independent candidates for the top two posts are running unopposed. Eleven councilor bets are running independently, while one is under the campus political party UP Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran (UP ALYANSA),

Dwindling parties

Also observable over the recent years is the downtick in candidates running under a political party, alongside an increasing number of candidates running independently.

All candidates running for the CSWCD, CBA, CHE, School of Library and Information Sciences, and College of Mass Communication (CMC) student councils in this year’s elections are independent.

The political party Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP) said in a May 5 statement that it would not participate in the 2024 student polls to focus on rectifying its errors and “addressing the surfaced cases of sexual harassment” from within its ranks.

This came after allegations of the party’s mishandling of sexual harassment cases came to light during the 2023 Aktibisita elections forum, causing local chapters and candidates to disaffiliate from the university-wide party.

Related: CMC slate leaves STAND UP banner, runs independently

STAND UP and its candidates to the USC eventually withdrew from the polls hours before the official miting de avance.

On the other hand, the campus political party Nagkakaisang Iskolar para sa Pamantasan at Sambayanan (KAISA UP), has remained inactive in the past student council polls and has not fielded any candidates since 2019.

Declining voter turnout

For the past 14 years, less than half of the UP Diliman electorate has participated in the university-wide student council elections. 

After its suspension during the pandemic in 2020, the 2021 elections had a 46.18% voter turnout, data from Halalan UPD showed. 

The 2022 elections saw an all-time low at 35.32%, while the previous 2023 student polls recorded a 36.7% voter turnout.

In an attempt to fill in the vacancies at the USC, a special election was held and given a two-day voting period, eventually tallying a new all-time low record at 8.29%.

Read: Special elex tallies low voter turnout, fills five USC vacancies

This year, voting lines for the student council polls will also be open for two days until May 31. Students may cast their votes online or at in-person voting precincts organized by Halalan UPD.