ICA Governance Committee launches enquiry into General Assembly election

The enquiry follows a dispute over the validity of 64 board-at-large election ballots where delegates mistakenly voted for too many candidates

The International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) is conducting an enquiry into its elections for president and board at large, after several delegates raised their concerns over the process.

Held at the ICA’s General Assembly in Spain on 20 June, the elections ran into a hitch after the online voting system failed, forcing a switch to a manual count – with only half a day allocated for the vote.

Delegates were also concerned over election for board-at-large elections taking place before the result of the presidential election was known, due to a lack of time. Some delegates say this caused confusion because Jean-Louis Bancel from France was standing in both elections. Had he won the presidency, he would have automatically gained a seat of the ICA board at large, and would not have needed to take part in the election for it.

It has been claimed that the situation left some delegates unclear as to how many candidates they should vote for – and that some voting instructions were misinterpreted when translated into other languages.

The enquiry follows a dispute over the validity of 64 board-at-large election ballots containing votes for 16 candidates, instead of the required 15. The Elections Committee initially declared these invalid and communicated the election results accordingly but revised the decision after receiving legal advice.

This led to Ben Reid, representing the Midcounties Co-operative (UK) replacing Simona Cavazzutti from Confederación de Cooperativas Rurales del Paraguay (CONCOPAR), Paraguay.

Related: UK’s Ben Reid re-elected to ICA board after recount

The presidential election was won by Ariel Guarco from Argentina, who won with 455 votes. Melina Morrison from Australia received 164 votes and Bancel had 160 votes.

After the election, Guarco apologised on behalf of the ICA for the issues with the online voting system. “We are all victims of this failure,” he said at the time.

Bancel also took to the floor shortly after the elections, calling for unity while asking the re-elected president and board to see what happened at the election and “try to find a way not to go in that type of failure again”.

In the aftermath of the election, Bruno Roelants, director general of the ICA, said in a message to members on 1 July that “a number of issues” had come up during the vote, with the failure of the electronic voting system forcing a switch to a manual vote. He added that the issues were caused by “a combination of different circumstances”, including disruption to language interpretation, adding that these had nothing to do with the Spanish hosts.

The system had been used four times before the election “without a hitch”, added Roelants, who thanked the ICA Elections Committee for “their very difficult task”.

The ICA has been approached for a comment on the enquiry, and said it would wait for the results of the ongoing investigation before making further statements.