ISA Speaks Out On U.S. Politics

Misha Khan

Photo Illustration by Grace Singer

In latest primary election news, Newt Gingrich has won the South Carolina primary increasing his chances of winning the Republican nomination by 25 percent. Current U.S. President Barrack Obama has about a 55 percent chance of being reelected.

As Americans everywhere prepare for another election year, the rest of the world keeps a close eye. People all over are curious to know who the next Commander in Chief will be, and Jacksonville University students are no exception. The International Student Association of JU represents young men and women from over 40 different countries. These foreign representatives may not be able to vote in the U.S., but a large number keep a close eye on the headlines, especially since a new president means new foreign and economic policies, which will either directly or indirectly effect situations back in their home countries.

Since they cannot cast votes, primaries for the Republican candidate are not necessarily what the international students are largely concerned about. They are waiting for the actual election to begin to merely decide their preference. As 18 year old Americans register to vote and familiarize themselves with the election process in the U.S., the way elections are carried out world over is looked at.

Luka Vukadinovic, junior, is a political science major at JU and identified a major difference in the election process between the U.S. and his native Montenegro.

“They are significantly different,” Vukadinovic said. “The pre-election process itself is quite different. In my country, campaigning starts actually two months before the election and in the U.S. the whole campaign lasts a year. I think people here get overwhelmed with the amount of information they get every day for the entire year.”

Venezuelan Antonella Landaeta, sophomore, also spoke about the election process in her country. She admits to not following the American primaries but is knowledgeable about the processes.

“We have primaries in my country,” Landaeta said. “We have elections for office, congress, everything all in one year though. Primaries back home will begin in February. But in my country you can be reelected any number of times. Chavez changed that.”

Tanya Singh, junior, calls the world’s largest democracy, India, home. According to Singh, there are relatively few distinctions between the election process in U.S. and India; however, she describes the race between various candidates as a festival because of how involved everyone becomes.

“India is the largest democracy and everyone gets to vote and have a say in the votes,” Singh said. “It is pretty much the same process actually. People listening to all these debates, deciding whom they are going to vote for. We have a lot more political parties though, for sure.”

For Tulsi Patel, junior, the election process here is equally important to the election process back home in England. In her opinion, most people do keep up with U.S. elections because it influences a lot of other countries. She even explained the different ways elections are carried out back home.

“Back home we don’t have primaries,” Patel said. “The parties themselves elect someone first. And we don’t have a president, just a prime minister. After the parties have elected a candidate, the public, we go and vote. The majority votes win unless we have a tie. Then we have a hung parliament. Then the royal family comes in to help pick the majority party.”

Differences in political procedures exist world over and not everyone easily agrees with the way U.S. primaries are carried. Ninoska Nunex, sophomore, is a native of Honduras and voiced her dislike of the way politicians in the America “say bad things about each other.”

“I find it surprising that how in commercials they are talking bad about the other candidate,” Nunez said. “I watch videos on YouTube and their advertisements and they were talking about the good things Obama has done and all the bad things the other guy has done. Like, we don’t do that. That’s not allowed.”

In Patel’s opinion the elections here make perfect sense when she compares it to the size of her own country. The United Kingdom is too small for there to be any need for senators and representatives, whereas people in the U.S. need more people to represent their individual states.

Vukadinovic expressed similar concerns about the electoral process and how he would not mind seeing some changes.

“I think it could be done with shorter campaigning,” he said. “Shorter campaigning means a lot less money so younger politicians can run. In the U.S. in order to have a campaign you have to have at least a few million dollars, but if campaigning time was reduced the younger independents could run for office.”

Singh sees it from a different perspective. India houses over fifty different political parties but in order to get ahead in major elections, the candidate has to have a strong following from the get go.

“It’s different in the sense because India has a caste system,” Singh said. “There are parties that support a particular caste and support the minority so that is how they get their supporters. So it’s different not just on what you stand for but also who you stand for.”

Election processes vary from region to region, but the intent behind them is always the same – for the people to elect their own leader and represent them in the best possible way. This is not achieved easily or even world over. As every American watches closely at potential candidates for the U.S. presidency, foreigners to this nation follow in their footsteps, each one concerned about how any future move can impact their own homeland.