And then there were three: Sultani bows out

For a brief moment, Zahra Sultani left the Concourse speechless.

Rather than providing an opening statement at the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union open forum on Tuesday afternoon, Sultani, one of the four presidential candidates, announced her resignation from the race. Sultani then proceeded to throw her support behind former opponent Michael Onabolu, before being cut off by forum moderator Kory Preston.

“I’m rather sold on a candidate who has greater experience than I,” Sultani told the crowded upper Concourse. “I’m sold on Mike Onabolu.”

During her speech, Sultani noted that there were difficulties in her campaign, telling the audience that “besides the challenges of putting a campaign together I had to face the challenges of people attacking my character.”

According to Sultani, nearing the end of last week, accusations were made against her. When asked to clarify this in an interview following her announcement, Sultani said that she was unable to provide details about the matter as of yet because the matter is still under investigation. “I will let you know as soon as I get more details because it is something I would like people to know about,” she said.

Sultani added that though she hadn’t considered stepping down until the events that transpired late last week, she had admired and respected Onabolu from early in the campaign.

“When I first met Mike at the beginning of campaigning, I said to myself ‘if I wasn’t running for this position, I would be in this guy’s campaign,’” she told The Cord. “So after facing a lot of challenges, I decided to step down as a candidate just to endorse Mike because I don’t want this election to become a popularity contest. I want people to make an informed decision.”

While Sultani’s resignation shocked most of the crowd, Onabolu had a bit of warning.

“I did get a chance to talk to [Sultani] before hand and she did let me know that she was potentially thinking about endorsing me,” he said.

“But I didn’t know she was actually going to drop out of the race. I was really shocked at her resignation, but going forward I think she was very humble in saying she feels like she has the capacity to keep running and the capabilities to run.”

WLUSU’s chief returning officer Jesse Finn also had some indication that Sultani’s announcement was coming.

“Yesterday [Monday] we spoke to Zahra, she was expressing some interest in ending her candidacy and we simply filled her in on the process to do so,” he said.

For the other two presidential candidates, Nolan Kreis and Jenny Solda, Sultani’s resignation was a complete blindside. Particularly for Solda, whose opening statement followed Sultani’s announcement.

“It was pretty shocking, that’s never really happened before, but she made her choice and I respect her for it,” said Solda. “I’ll admit, it was a little hard to follow, but I tried my best.”

Kreis, meanwhile, expressed similar sentiments.

“To actually come out and resign at an open forum, that takes a lot of courage. I can respect that,” he said. “Obviously, she put a lot of thought into it.”

As far as the issues that came about late last week that drove Sultani’s resignation, the other candidates all said they didn’t have any knowledge on the matter, while Finn stated he could not comment on it.

Down a candidate, the election will continue as planned. According to Finn, WLUSU has already begun the process of altering the ballots to remove Sultani’s name.

Sultani thanked her campaign team and all those that supported her and told The Cord that this resignation does not mean she’s finished with WLUSU, expressing potential interest in a position at WLUSU or elsewhere at the university.

“Even if I was thinking of taking a break from the WLUSU body, I think I would there are other things I can do in Laurier,” she said.

-With files from Mike Lakusiak and Justin Smirlies

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