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Obama clinches mock poll


Pannasastra University students throw their weight behind Barack Obama,

delivering him a landslide victory in this year's mock US election


Pannasastra University's Ray Leos sits with ballot boxes at the Norodom Boulevard campus. 

FAR from the chaos of Washington, DC, students at a small university on the other side of the world have voted for Obama in a mock election held to raise public awareness of the American electoral process and what the US presidential choice means for Cambodia.

At Pannasastra University's mock election, held Tuesday in the campus library, Democratic candidate Barack Obama was victorious with 292 votes over Republican John McCain, who won 75.

Cann Sothet, 22, a student of international relations, offered his explanation for Obama's popularity among the student population: "I think most people at the university support Obama because they think he is interested in other countries and that he can understand them".

"McCain has the unfortunate pressure of being associated with the Bush administration, which is hugely unpopular," he added.

The mock election was organised by the US Embassy, which sponsors a corner of Pannasastra's library, providing copies of magazines, including Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, and the satellite news channels CNN and Bloomberg.

Ray Leos, a professor of media and communications at Pannasastra, helped to organise the event. "It was an opportunity for students to learn more about world affairs, which is vitally important in this age of globalisation," he said. "The election will have, in some way, an effect on Cambodia."

It is becoming clear to students that america’s choice does matter.

Librarian Sok Vanna, who took part in the ballot counting, thought the event was a good opportunity for students to exercise their right to vote.

"This was a vote of the heart, as students were not obliged to cast their ballots," she said.
She added that many students in the university are excited about the election and that it is being widely discussed, especially in light of news that the financial crisis is beginning to impact Cambodia. It is becoming clear to students that America's choice does matter, Sok Vanna said.

American professors explained the significance of "battleground states", the impact of party finances on the campaigning process, and some of the major differences between American and Cambodian elections.

Students were given the choice to vote for either Obama or McCain,  but not for minor candidates. Leos said he was disappointed by their exclusion and has voiced a complaint to the US Embassy.

But embassy spokesman John Johnson said the minor candidates were excluded for simplicity's sake, adding that most Cambodians only knew about Obama and McCain.

"We run mock elections every election as a way to inform people about America and the process of participatory democracy," he said.

"It's very interesting that students voted so overwhelmingly for Obama, I look forward to talking to some of them after the election."

Students will gather today from 7:30am onwards in the university library to watch the election results with their professors.



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