International UC Students Follow U.S. Elections





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With the U.S. presidential election impasse entering its fourth week, many Americans are beginning to ignore the spectacle of the candidates' increasingly complex legal maneuvers.

For many international students attending UC Berkeley, however, the ongoing struggle for the presidency has been absorbing, worrying, and bemusing.

At International House, located at the Southeast corner of campus and home to over 600 international and American students, a large crowd gathered on Nov. 7 to witness the election results. On each successive night, residents have gathered to watch the latest news about who will be America's next president.

Phuong, a Vietnamese national attending UC Berkeley who did not want to give his full name, said he believes much rests on the election's outcome.

"It shouldn't really bother me, because I'm going back in one year," he said. "But I see this as an important moment in American democracy. I like the democracy here. I wouldn't want someone to win (the) election when they don't deserve it, so I keep watching to see if democracy here is as strong as everyone thinks."

Phuong said the processes employed in determining the outcome would be ultimately more important than either candidate's actual election.

"I think they are right when they say there is not much difference between Gore and Bush," he said. "If this election is decided badly, however, it could weaken the whole structure. So that is why I am more interested now in (the) outcome than on election night - democracy in name is not true democracy; it must also work in practice."

Some international students said they are worried the delayed result may lead to political instability.

"I wish someone would just concede and get this over with," said David Johnson, a student from the United Kingdom who is attending English literature classes at UC Berkeley this semester. "There's a great e-mail going around saying (Britain) should take over (the U.S.) and sort this mess out. I'm starting to seriously believe it."

Several students pointed out that their nations might be harmed if the eventual U.S. leader is weakened by the ongoing dispute to the point that he is unable to carry out his duties. The United States' economic prosperity might also be threatened, some said.

While some international students eagerly await an eventual result, others appear to be less concerned with the ongoing presidential impasse. Purenza Wu, a member of the Society of Hong Kong and Chinese Affairs, said there had not been much discussion at society meetings of the election problems.

"We didn't talk about U.S. politics much (at our last meeting)," Wu said. "Nobody seems to (be) really worried (about the result)."

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