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Alisha Aitken-Radburn likely to be the new President of the University of Sydney Union

Sophie Gallagher and Joanna Connolly report on the USU executive election.

Honi understands that a preliminary deal for the upcoming University of Sydney Union executive election has been signed, with Student Unity candidate Alisha Aitken-Radburn likely to become President. The arrangement will see Liam Carrigan (Grassroots) appointed to the Vice-Presidency and Ed McMahon (Grassroots) made Treasurer, with the final Grassroots director, Marco Avena, also voting for Aitken-Radburn.

Until now, independent Olivia Ronan looked likely to take the top job, with rumours circulating that she had secured the votes of both Senate-Appointed directors, along with Michael Rees and Kate Bullen (to whom she had reportedly promised the position of Treasurer).

However in aligning herself with the Grassroots directors, along with fellow NLS, Unity and SLS directors Jack Whitney, Atia Rahim and Shannen Potter, Aitken-Radburn now appears to have the numbers to edge Ronan out completely.

Director Kate Bullen told Honi that she tried to play “the middle man” between the two, asking both to sign a deal for President and Vice-President on Monday. Instead, Aitken-Radburn reportedly signed a deal with Grassroots on Wednesday, telling Bullen that Ronan had offered her “too little too late”.

It seems it was a particularly messy week in the world of student politics, with both Aitken-Radburn and Ronan claiming they had been the one to offer the other a deal of an interchangeable President/Vice-President pairing. Both claimed it was the other who had turned the deal down and both also alleged that the Grassroots directors had been ready, at various points, to sign with them to make them President. While Aitken-Radburn appears to have come out on top, Ronan said she will keep continue to try to shift votes before the upcoming elections, though admits if the election happened today, she would likely lose six votes to seven.

Aitken-Radburn’s alignment with Grassroots is controversial on a number of fronts, as notably last year she worked with liberals on campus to form the ‘Swag for Honi’ ticket in the SRC Elections. Yet Grassroots director, Ed McMahon, insisted that the decision of the three Grassroots directors to vote for Aitken-Radburn was not an endorsement of her politics. Instead he said that he and Carrigan had worked well with Aitken-Radburn over the last year and he was keen to form a functional executive, in which he could push Grassroots’ reform agenda in the coming year. Pointedly, he noted this was also the only way to form a student majority around a presidential candidate, given Ronan’s election would likely be dependent on the votes of the two Senate Appointed directors, who are neither students nor democratically elected positions.

Not so, according to Ronan. She told Honi that Aitken-Radburn and Carrigan had leveraged the promise of Senate-Appointed Director Simone Whetton’s vote in negotiations. Indeed, Aitken-Radburn confirmed that most directors going for an executive position had been (literally) wining and dining the Senate Appointed Directors in the lead up to the election, in an attempt to win their vote. Aitken-Radburn, who admits she has a good relationship with Whetton, says the Senate Appointed Director is still unsure of whom to vote for.

Bullen said the decision to even appoint Grassroots members to executive was enough to make her seriously reconsider her position on board as “Grassroots has a penchant for leaking confidential documents”—a reference to the reignited controversy over a leak by former Union Vice President Tom Raue, and subsequent unsuccessful attempts to oust him from his position. As Carrigan and McMahon will now have access to far more confidential material, she said she has to consider whether she should remain on board, believing their appointment may place her in a position where she could be put through legal proceedings. She vehemently opposes Aitken-Radburn’s decision, telling Honi, “For the first time in living memory, a Presidential candidate literally got to choose their executive. And Alisha chose Liam and Ed.”

Director-elect Tiffany Alexander (independent) has confirmed that she is likely to nominate for the final remaining spot of Honorary Secretary. With no one else yet confirmed to nominate, she might just be a shoo-in, dodging the usual bloodsport that, evidently, is USU exec negotiations.

The vote will be held by secret ballot, next week.