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'Blackballing' accusations fly in row over RIBA election

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The RIBA has defended its voting system after a failed candidate for its newly elected board accused council members of operating a 'selfperpetuating oligarchy'.

Nathan Silver, who stood with Michael Wildblood and Roger Zogolovitch for a 'category C' place on the board, believes he was undemocratically 'blackballed' by 'provincial architects' in a system akin to a private gentleman's club.

'You'd expect blackballing in the Saville Club. It's not suitable for a democratic professional institute, ' said Silver, who runs his own architectural practice.

'The chief executive Richard Hastilow justified the decision, stating members have a right to choose who they sit next to - I disagree. Members of a democratic body do not have that right.'

Silver's chief complaint is with council members' apparent breach of election guidelines, which state a ballot is only necessary if the number of candidates for a category exceeds available seats.

He argues an election was not necessary for category C - a band specially created to attract people from alternative professions - because only three candidates were standing for the four vacancies. 'It turns out that category C is primarily meant to attract non-architects - so why was I invited to stand? The RIBA is trying to attract media types like Janet Street-Porter to raise the board's profile, ' added Silver. Wildblood and Zogolovitch both won seats, leaving two places vacant which the RIBA aims to fill by December.

RIBA chief executive Richard Hastilow rejected Silver's claims, pointing out that candidates standing in all categories for the board - which includes honorary secretary and honorary treasurer - were elected by the same democratic paper ballot.

'The election guidelines do not disallow a ballot from taking place if there are fewer candidates than places. It was decided, in the interests of consistency and fairness, to use the same voting procedures for all categories. That is the fairest system we could use in the circumstances - it is certainly not blackballing.'

Hastilow's comments were echoed by Simon Foxell, chairman of RIBA London region, who insists that council elections match procedures used in the House of Commons. 'It is a clear voting procedure, like that used by MPs to debate legislation.

Silver simply did not win the confidence of council.

His election campaign was considered limited, and he was seen as a bit of an outsider, ' he said.

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