On Nov. 11 the Elections Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) announced via e-mail that Céleste Pagniello, a candidate for the vacant vice-president (VP) internal position, has withdrawn her candidacy. The e-mail included a written statement from Pagniello citing threats as her reason for withdrawing.
“Due to personal attacks and threats directed towards my family, and myself, I have decided not to continue with my campaign to be VP Internal of SSMU,” Pagniello wrote. “These messages have escalated far beyond the appropriate level of a student government campaign, and I have decided to end this campaign in order to protect myself and all parties involved.”
The threats followed an anonymous Reddit post accusing Pagniello of blocking a McGill student from her election Facebook event. The other VP Internal candidate, Alexei Simakov, has since announced that it was his campaign that published the original accusation against Pagniello on Reddit.
The post accused her of creating false profiles to forge evidence that she had not intentionally removed anyone from her event, but had instead made an accidental change in the privacy settings of her personal profile that affected the event.
“Our purpose with this was it came to our attention that a student was saying he was blocked from the event which we found to be in bad behaviour by Céleste and we wanted to bring light to this because it would be obviously beneficial to our campaign,” Simakov said. “Afterward she posted this evidence refuting the blocking. Those we found very suspicious [… and] a lot of these accounts [used for evidence] are fabricated Facebook profiles.”
Ballots for the VP Internal by-election will now include a Yes or No vote on the remaining VP Internal candidate. According to the SSMU elections by-laws, if the vote fails, SSMU’s Legislative Council will have several options.
“If a position is vacant after the extended Nomination Period or as a result of withdrawals, the electoral period shall carry on,” reads Article 6.9 of the Elections and Referenda section of the Internal Regulations of the Presidential Portfolio. “To fill the position, Legislative Council may call a by-election, fill the vacancy by appointment, or delegate the responsibilities to a sitting representative.”
Simakov, while not feeling responsible for Pagniello’s withdrawal, is disappointed that students no longer have two candidates to choose from, and hopes that if he is elected, election reform will be brought before SSMU.
“I’m sad that there’s no longer an option in the race,” he said. “Last year I ran [for president] by presenting that [students] should have an option and I was hoping that this would be the outcome. So I don’t feel responsible for it, and all I can do is run. Hopefully someone else would have been running but […] we’re hoping that moving from the future, if we enact electoral reform then we can move away from these types of situations to talk about the issues.
Pagniello did not respond to requests for a comment.