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New constitutional crisis over Board of Deputies election as candidate outlines concerns

Advice given on nominations has been contested

    Sheila Gewolb
    Sheila Gewolb

    The Board of Deputies could face a challenge over the validity of its election process after it emerged that the head of its constitutional committee disagreed with advice sent out by its office earlier this week.

    On Monday, just three days before the closure of nominations for officers, the Board told deputies they could nominate more than one candidate for president and more than three for vice-president.

    The guidance was seen as helpful to late entrants into the electoral contest, in particular to Dr Simon Hochhauser, who reversed his previous decision not to stand for president and announced he would bid for the presidency earlier this week.

    But it has emerged that before the guidance was sent, Tony Leifer, chairman of the Board’s constitution committee, had advised against it.

    In an email to Board officials, he had stated: “There is no reason why a deputy should not nominate two or three, but not more, persons for vice president. 

    “Although the constitution is silent on nominating more than one person for a single job (president or treasurer) it makes no sense and makes a nonsense of the support which a nomination gives. 

    “My advice is therefore to reject a second nomination by a deputy for a single post.”

    Whether he was persuaded to change his mind or who overruled it is not yet clear.

    Apart from Dr Hochhauser, three candidates - Sheila Gewolb, Marie van der Zyl and Edwin Shuker - have come forward for the presidency.

    There had been controversy earlier this week when the suggestion emerged that current president Jonathan Arkush should stay in post for an additional six months.

    A supporter of Dr Hochhauser acknowledged this would have helped him organise his business affairs before taking the reins.

    But Dr Hochhauser said that, if elected, he would take office following next month’s election.

    Dr Gewolb said today she was “very concerned” and had “grown weary from the sniping and internecine warfare at the Board, which has been in evidence over the past few days”.

    She said it was “true that, at its highest, it was unusual for a call for additional nominations to be made, and forms to be sent out, only days before nominations closed, when this could have been done far in advance. 

    “It is somewhat suspicious and has certainly been taken by all of the candidates I have spoken to and all of the deputies I have spoken to as a sign.”

    She said the row was “damaging” and was a “public expression of a serious lack of confidence in the abilities of any of the candidates already standing”.

    In a statement to deputies, she said: “Should I have the honour to be elected president of the Board, I will make it my very first, principal and predisposing priority to eliminate as much infighting and backbiting of this sort as possible, in order for the Board to become far more effective and able to get on with its business, clearly more crucial now than ever."

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