Tuesday, February 10, 2009

NEGST Politics: Running for Student Council

Since my arrival here at NEGST, I have noticed that the student government here, called the student council, seems much more useful and powerful than my previous experiences with student government. Members of the student council are obvious leaders on campus, and they are much more in touch with the inner workers of the school and student life in general. As I considered my involvement at NEGST, the student council seemed a good way to get to know the school and other students better. Thus when I was approached to run for secretary, I agreed.

Elections are being held tomorrow, and I am running against a second year student I have actually not met. There are only 3 contested elections for the 11 positions on the cabinet, and mine looks to be one of the closer one. I’ve heard different opinions: one of my friends (currently on the council) is optimistic I will pull it out, telling me “the stats on the ground are with you,” but I’ve heard from two others that it is very close, so I’m curious what will happen. Obviously I don’t really want to lose, but otherwise its not like a huge deal, and I don’t plan to campaign much if at all. We’ll see what happens. According to another of my friends, my opponent being Kikuyu has the “Kikuyu coalition” behind him, but I have the “international student block” behind me, as well as most of the “first year block” as well. I’m not sure people vote in those categories here, but maybe he’s right. Definitely a different mindset than I’m used to. American politics are analyzed according to demographic, so that’s the same, but not tribe. It is an interesting introduction to NEGST politics, if perhaps not representative of African politics in general.

I’ve had a few people comment on differences between American and African political styles. I gave a brief speech to the single group when we met this past Thursday to watch a movie, and someone asked if the rumor that I won’t be back in September are true, and I replied that it is true, I will possibly (likely) take a year off to work. When I was asked to run, I was very upfront about that, which means if I win (and I find a job) I would only serve half a term and then they would have to replace me in September. Someone commented that in Africa, you wouldn’t say that, but American’s are much more open about those types of things. I have also had several people tell me that all I need to do for campaigning is pass out brown envelopes to everyone. Clearly they’re joking, but obviously there is a reality behind that as well. I suppose if I get desperate enough, that would be one way to contextualize myself for African politics…

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