While domestic students have been preparing to cast their votes on Nov. 8, many internationals have also been enthusiastically following the 2016 elections.
Some international students shared their opinions of the election and how the electoral system in their countries differed from the United States’.
“I don’t particularly like either of them (the candidates), but if I had to vote, I would vote for Hillary Clinton,” said Xochi Celis, a sophomore political science major from Apure, Venezuela, referring to the Democratic presidential nominee.
Coming from Venezuela, Celis found the process of voting in the United States unusual.
“In my country, it’s different from here because here they have an Electoral College system, and we directly elect our president.”
Bikash Ruwali, a freshman economics major from Kathmandu, Nepal, said that he found the difference in the democratic structure of his homeland and the United States interesting.
“In Nepal we have a similar form of democracy, but here, in the United States, they have a two-party system, and in Nepal we have a multi-party democracy,” said Ruwali. “We did try the two-party system some decades back but it failed.
“Right now, we have more than 100 parties contesting the elections, but only about 40 win elections, and it’s filtered along the way.”
Transparency in the United States election process was another topic that drew comparisons from the internationals. Celis said the hold of the Venezuelan government in every sector of the country has made it easier for the government to manipulate the results of the elections.
“In my country the government oversees every branch,” Celis said. “They can do whatever they want because they have the power, you know.
“Even in the voting system, they can manipulate the votes. They can say, ‘I win’ because, if you sue them saying, ‘You did something wrong,’ then you can’t because they are in charge of the judges.”
Another international student, Gabriela Niccolai, a junior political science major from Franca, Brazil, drew parallels between the electronic voting systems of the United States and Brazil, which also has a multi-party system.
“The voting system is really good back at home,” Niccolai said. “But then the problem is the way the government works.
“The president—even though he is the major power in the country—he doesn’t rule independently. He needs the approval of all the other parties. So, I think the corruption creeps in here, not in the voting directly.”
According to Niccolai, the Brazilian public tends to vote not for the parties but for the person they’ve nominated.
“I think that this is, like, the most different thing that happens in Brazil from here (the U.S.)—the selection of candidate is more personal,” she said. “If the person is capable of making you vote for them, then you vote for them. It is not for the party.”
Some internationals also commented on the older generation’s influence on younger voters in the United States.
“I have friends from Alabama who support Republicans,” said Ruwali. “I like the policies of the Republican Party, but the candidate is not good. And when I ask them why do they choose the Republicans, their decision boils down to the fact of their parents being a Republican.”
Ruwali said that while he weighs in the party’s beliefs, it is the candidate representing the party that becomes the deciding factor for his vote. And while he said he prefers the policies of the Republicans to those of the Democrats, he views Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as an inept candidate.
“In Nepal, there is a parliamentary system; therefore, people don’t get to directly elect the leader of the country,” Ruwali said. “But in the United States people do get to choose their own leader, which is good in some sense.
“But then again, the way Donald Trump was chosen as a candidate by the Republicans is a loophole of this system. If it was a parliamentary system, then this wouldn’t have happened.”
There are other reasons internationals find the 2016 elections exciting. As political science majors and women, Niccolai and Celis both said they find the prospect of having a woman president in the United States fascinating.
Niccolai has already seen it happen in Brazil when Dilma Rousseff was elected in 2011. Niccolai said that Rousseff was impeached because the opposition was “trying to take her out of the power.”
“They called her bad names and created a bad image just because she was a woman,” Niccolai said. “I’m pretty sure, had she been a man, they wouldn’t have told the same things about her.
“They question the beauty of the president—the way she walks—but when it’s a man no one gives a second thought. But then again, this is same reason why a woman should be the president of the biggest economy in the world—like to prove something.”