Campaign Launch

During Malaysia’s national election in May 2018, I worked as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at a high school in the outskirts of Kota Bharu, Kelantan. In the month leading up to Election Day, party flags and political signs began to cover every inch of the city’s highways and intersections.

First, a sole flag for the state’s governing party coalition appeared over an intersection (during a beautiful sunset).  

A flag flies over a busy intersection in Kota Bharu, Malaysia as the sun sets.

Quickly, our city roads grew more colorful by the day:

Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and Gagasan Sejahtera (GS) coalition flags hang from a highway overpass in Kota Bharu, Malaysia.Gagasan Sejahtera (GS) coalition flags hang along a highway in Kota Bharu, Malaysia.

When Election Day finally came, my coworkers posted pictures of their index fingers, dyed with indelible ink from the voting process, on social media.

Hand of a Malaysian voter displaying indelible ink.

By evening, we watched the news and observed the unexpected: against all the predictions of my students and peers, the governing party lost.

The final vote results heralded the first regime change in Malaysia's history.

While I was involved in politics, voting, and elections back in the United States, this event represented my first experience with campaigns and elections abroad.

Aesthetic campaign differences aside, I grew more interested in the procedural and substantive contrasts between the U.S. electoral system and the processes in new and emerging democracies. After my research fellowship with William & Mary’s Election Law Program during the school year, I hoped to continue developing a legal perspective on elections over my 1L summer.

Therefore, I am excited to serve as a summer Legal Fellow at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems with the support of W&M Law’s Center for Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding international internship program. IFES is a global, nonpartisan nonprofit organization based in Arlington, Virginia. Since 1987, IFES has worked in more than 145 countries, from developing to mature democracies. I am eager to build upon my understanding of electoral law and democracy promotion by assisting the work of IFES over the course of ten weeks.

In my next posts, I will detail my work with IFES on electoral systems and anti-corruption efforts in Mexico, Ukraine, Morocco, Libya, and other democracies. Consider this introduction my "campaign launch" –– I will see you next at the Primaries.