GEAR up South Ward; a by-election will be held on Friday, March 16, after the Fremantle magistrate’s court on Thursday overturned October’s council election results over the ineligibility of a candidate.
The two-day hearing was sparked by a formal complaint to the WA Electoral Commission by unsuccessful candidate Marija Vujcic who described the court’s decision as a “win for the ordinary people of South Ward by an ordinary person”. She’d challenged the eligibility of Ben Moodie to run, after it was revealed he was a Cockburn ratepayer.
The result means that the original winner Andrew Sullivan is now just Mr Sullivan and will have to campaign again if he wants to return to the council. By Thursday afternoon his name and mugshot had already been pulled from the council’s website and they’d turned his email off.
Mr Sullivan had won with 655 votes in a record high voter turn out of 54 per cent. Liam Carter came in second with 598 votes, with Ms Vujcic third with 517.
Ms Vujcic, who’s lived in South Ward for 50 years, says she’s disappointed no one at the council seemed concerned about the integrity of the election and left it to her to lodge a challenge.
“This is not about me losing, it’s about the principle, as the only thing we have when we go into an election is our integrity”.
“We should be able to trust in our democracy and our system, [the complaint] was the right thing to do”.
The by-election will allow new candidates to join the race. Mayoral contender Ra Stewart didn’t answer the phone, but former Fremantle mayor Peter Tagliaferri was a close confidante during her campaign and says she’s unlikely to run.
“I doubt it very much, it should really be someone that lives in the ward,” Mr Tagliaferri said.
Mr Carter confirmed to the Herald he’ll be having another crack.
“I’ve lived in South Freo for my entire life and as an active local I have delivered results for South Ward. This has been a difficult process but I’m now looking forward to getting on with engaging my local area and moving Freo forward.”
Mr Sullivan is currently down south and penned a tongue-in-cheek response to the decision on his Facebook page.
“Keys returned, marched out the door by security, four year term terminated… that’s how political opponents will view the fact that today I ceased to be one of the two South Ward councillors in Fremantle,” he wrote. But the light tone masked his anger, later describing the WAEC’s role in causing the problem as an “inexcusable blunder”.
“I worked extremely hard to be re-elected in October in what was always going to be a close race. Understandably, I’m very disappointed to lose my seat on council,” he said.
“I still have a lot to offer and have been working on a number of really important projects. I’ll be seeking re-election but acknowledge that in a by-election scenario it will be even more challenging than it was back in October”.
Mr Sullivan has previously flagged his displeasure in having to fork out for another campaign.
The WAEC will have to pay Ms Vujcic $2000 legal costs.
For anyone interested in running in the by-election, the roll close date for this election is 5.00pm, Thursday 25 January 2018. Nominations will open on Wednesday 31 January and close at 4.00pm Wednesday 7 February 2018.
by WILSON BELL