Liberal president for day or two

THE Liberal Party’s Wodonga branch has been left red-faced after this week’s secret ballot to elect a president was ruled invalid.

Johnathon Allen toppled Graeme Welsh for the post, but the party headquarters confirmed the new man wasn’t a Wodonga branch member, making him ineligible.

The embarrassing mix-up has come at the end of a turbulent year for local Liberals with the defeat of Sophie Mirabella in Indi, and less than 12 months out from the Victorian election when member for Benambra Bill Tilley will be chasing re-election.

The Benambra state electoral council chairman Ben Clifton admitted yesterday a fresh election for branch president would be held early in the new year.

Mr Clifton explained once a member joined a party he or she was registered with the federal and electorate councils and then had the option of nominating a local branch.

“They may or may not nominate a branch,” he said.

“I am guessing Johnathon didn’t tick the box for Wodonga when he did his membership.

“Technically at the moment he is not a member of that branch and so the vote is not constitutional.”

The locals are consulting party headquarters in Melbourne.

Mr Clifton admitted Mr Allen’s membership status was raised at the annual meeting and it was decided that if the vote was proved invalid another election would take place at the next branch meeting, most likely to be held in February.

“There may even be new candidates who nominate,” he said.

“Graeme may come back and nominate.

“We don’t know what is going to happen.”

Mr Allen and Mr Welsh couldn’t be contacted for comment yesterday.

Mr Clifton said the invalid election was unfortunate.

“I wouldn’t call it embarrassing,” he said.

“I guess it shows one of the strengths of the party — we are transparent and everything is above board.

“It shows we definitely follow procedure.”

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