By Dominic Gwinn
On Thursday, November 3, Students from Roosevelt’s International Student Association, in conjunction with the International Studies Program, held a series of lectures discussing the differences in elections throughout the world. Moderated by Roosevelt professor of political science and international studies Phillip Hultquist, the student-led panel detailed election methodologies in Pakistan, India, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as some of the problems faced by citizens of those countries in their own unique electoral processes.
With the intent of bridging cultural divides, students talked about the structures of their governments, the differences in voting procedures, as well as some of the challenges faced in conducting elections.
“The student presenters did a great job of showing how elections work in their countries,” said Hultquist. “They highlighted some troubling aspects for democratic norms, such as undue influence from the military, corruption, and political dynasties…You know it’s a good event when you have to cut off discussion to stay on time or when people stick around after the presentations are over to keep talking about the issues.”
Bernice Kasongo, an 18, year-old Biochemistry student from the Democratic Republic of Congo, spoke earnestly her country, and found insight in how other others, despite their cultures differences, deal with local elections, political corruption and the disillusionment with the political process.
“It was good to hear about the elections from people that have no interest in lying about it,” said Kasango. “They told us the truth about how elections actually go even if the process was unfair sometimes due to corruption.”
Kasango explained that in many countries democracy is hard to achieve due to dictators or disaffected citizens who feel that they have no say in their countries. “I feel that it was important for students to know how elections go outside of the U.S because they can realize that it is important to vote,” Kasango said. “Statistics show that people of the age of 18-35 are the ones that vote less. So, we wanted to show them how important it is to vote because some people do not even have that opportunity.”
Samawi “Sam” Al Helli, a 29 year-old student from Iraq working towards his Masters in computer science, spoke about Iraqi elections and urged students about the importance of voting.
“…The whole point of the event is sharing with [students] how elections work overseas and comparing it to how it works here in America, and how important it’s even if it was one single vote. It can make a difference. No vote goes in vain even if the candidate you voted for didn’t win.”