Edinburgh University Students' Association's October by-election this year saw a marked increase in participation, with an average of 4 per cent of the student population voting in each race and 105 candidates standing in an election which has traditionally suffered in the face of student apathy.
In his opening speech at the election count, held in Teviot Debating Hall on 14 October, EUSA Vice President (Academic Affairs) Mike Williamson spoke of a "big improvement" in the number of candidates standing for election. Mr Williamson was later elected as a delegate to both the UK and Scotland conferences of the National Union of Students, winning the highest number of votes in both races.
He is joined there by former Defend Edinburgh presidential candidate James McAsh, likely 2011/12 presidential candidate Hugh Murdoch and incumbent Vice President (Societies & Activities) Emma Meehan, who all won seats on both delegations.
Two other Scottish seats were won by Mike Shaw, currently EUSA SRC Editor and a key figure in Defend Edinburgh, and Labour activist Stephen Donnelly.
The by-election was the second outing for anti-cuts coalition Defend Edinburgh, who succeeded in dramatically increasing their representation on the Student Council. But political moderates at EUSA, which has recently been dominated by Labour supporters, have criticised what they claim is move towards organised faction politics which may serve to alienate ordinary students and independents looking to run for election in the future.
The democratic impact of a Re-Open Nominations (RON) vote was less marked than in last year's election, but took a harsh toll in the election for first-year undergraduate representatives, where only eight of 20 seats were filled.
The same problem did not occur in the race for undergraduate school reps, where bloc-voting for RON in the last election left nine out of ten seats unfilled. Sophie Marshall won the ballot outstandingly, with other seats taken by Defend Edinburgh's Max Crema and Stephen Donnelly.
NUS Scotland president Robin Parker, who was present at the count, told The Journal: “The turnout can always be improved, but it’s the same across the country.”
He stressed that the elections are not the “be-all and end-all” as the most important thing is to get students involved, as the association generates achievement through involvement.
Mr Murdoch also pointed out that the "turnout [is] higher [in EUSA] than other student unions".