An election boycott invalidated the 2009 Student Government Association (SGA) presidential election, after only 20.41 percent of the student body voted. A re-election will be held in March 2010, according to the Election Management Committee (EMC).
Voter participation fell 30.38 percent from last year's 50.79 percent, even after the EMC extended the election by one day to November 27 in an effort to reach the 50-percent minimum required for a valid electioin. The votes for the election were not counted.
"I am deeply worried as there are many things that the SGA has to deal with during winter vacation," said Lim Na-youn (Voice, 4), the EMC chairperson and current SGA persident. Lim said the SGA starts working right after the election to negotiate with the school on student welfare policies and tuition fees. It also prepares the freshman orientation.
A group called the Fair Election Committee (FEC) organized the boycott. The group includes members from two parties that both fielded candidates for the election, Real Ewha and Reset Ewha, as well as many other students.
The boycott was ignited afer Real Ewha was disqualified on November 20. The EMC disqualified Real Ewha after the party received three warnings for violating election rules. The two warnings were for campaigning before they were officially enrolled as a candidate and closed-door electioneering. The three notices, which are counted as one warning, are given against writing fallacies on their leaflets and being late for handing materials to the EMC.
Real Ewha said the EMC is "overly regulating" the election and that the committee's decision making process is obscure.
"It is not just about the validity of the warnings we received," said Jung Yoon-ji (Law, 3), the Real Ewha presidential candidate. "We want the committee to make the process of giving warnings transparent and take responsibility for making the election fair."
Real Ewha demanded that the committee retract its decision before November 23, but the committee did not reply. The representatives of the party shaved their heads the next day to urge students to boycott this year's election.
Reset Ewha dropped out of the election and joined the boycott, calling for a re-election. "Some of the three warnings were unjust," said Lee Kyung-jin (English, 4), the Reset Ewha presidential candidate. "The measures pursued by the EMC were too extreme."
Lim disagrees. "The rules for the 42nd SGA election were announced to the public on October 20 and we make decisions according to the elction rules, which are applied to all parties equally," Lim said. EMC members agreed unanimously to the first and second warnings to Real Ewha, she said.
Eight members of the 17-student EMC resigned on November 24, and five of them joined the boycott. The EMC includes the SGA president and vice-president, college representatives and a representative from the United Committee of Student Clubs (UCSC). Representatives of the colleges of Pharmacy, Nursing Science, Business, Law and the UCSC joined the boycott. The other three members who resigned, representatives of the colleges of Arts, Education, and Social Sciences, said they will remain neutral.
"The election cannot be proceed in this kind of situation," said Lee Hui-won (Education Technology, 4), the representative of the College of Education. "By taking a neutral stance, we mean that we will leave the decision of voting to students."
"It is hard to tell who in what group are participating in the boycott, but we share the opinion that this election is problematic," Lee Kyung-jin said. "The EMC has all the power and does not listen to election parties or students."
The election plunged into turmoil after representatives sympathetic to the boycott did not staff, or even install, polling booths at their college buildings. "We asked the resigning members to stay at the polling places so the election could progress without problems," Lim said. "We did not have enough supervisors to take care of the booths."
Committee members who resigned but remained neutral agreed to take care of polling booths.
Two booths were set up in the Ewha-Posco Building to replace ones in the colleges of Pharmacy and Nursing Science. The student governments of those colleges refused to set up booths in their buildings.
The 42nd SGA election ended on November 27. The nine EMC members decide unanimously not to extend the election. The re-election is planned for March 2010.
Lim said a "committee for an emergency situation," which will be made up of newly elected representatives from each college, will function as an SGA until the election in March.
"I am very worried that Ewha will have to spend the winter vacation without an SGA," Lim said. "It is an important period with many hard tasks."