The U.S. Election Goes Global

By Ginnie Seger (Africa), Gabby Laverghetta (Europe), Erica Sanchez (Latin America), Echo Xie (Asia), and Fatemeh Shakolahini (Middle East)

When President Barack Obama won re-election on Tuesday evening against GOP challenger Gov. Mitt Romney, reverberations were felt throughout not only the United States but also the world. In the midst of uncertain financial times, shifting world politics, unpredictable environmental disasters, and increased globalization, the implications of the U.S. election impact the world.

Europe

When Barack Obama first ran for president in 2008, he garnered overwhelming support across Europe. Politicians and the general public alike saw him as good for America and good for the world. During his first term, he developed strong relationships with many European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron. After Obama was re-elected on Tuesday, the overriding sentiment in Europe was not overt enthusiasm but cautious optimism. For much of Obama’s presidency, U.S.-European relations have centered on the financial crisis in the euro zone. European leaders expressed relief that they could continue on the road to economic recovery with a familiar ally.

European media maintained a consistently high level of interest in the elections. Over the past few days, election-related stories took top billing on newspapers and online media outlets in countries throughout Europe, including Italy, Sweden and Romania. Most major publications endorsed Obama, although many were reserved in their praise.  Obama wasn’t the perfect choice, but many in the European press felt he was better than Mitt Romney. Romney is still largely unknown in the region. The European media generally view him as too conservative and unfamiliar with European affairs. Coverage of the presidential debates reflected insecurity about how a Romney presidency would impact the region. Romney also did little to ingratiate himself in the United Kingdom when he criticized the preparations for the London Olympics. Overall, Europe welcomes four more years of Obama stability and remains grateful it avoided four years of #romneyshambles.

Africa

Is Africa over Obama? The outcome of the 2008 election saw unprecedented support of Obama, including declaring the day after the election a national holiday in Kenya, the home country of Obama’s father. Yet, after four years of what many define as underwhelming policy towards the region, has the thrill of Obama magic worn off?

Images of Kenyans celebrating in the streets in 2008 flooded coverage worldwide, in this election the coverage is more subdued. “Enthusiasm for President Obama is probably 40 percent what it was in 2008,” said Henry Owuor, foreign editor of the Daily Nation, Kenya’s biggest newspaper. “People used to call and demand that I publish Obama’s pictures and stories. Not any more.” A contributing factor to waning enthusiasm might be due to lackluster aid packages in the region. While former president George W. Bush contributed vast amount of aid toward HIV/AIDS funding in Africa, Obama’s aid has flat lined. Throughout the region, coverage of the election fluctuated between international wire services reporting and opinion pieces, which divided readers. On the news website Allafrica.com, the most e-mailed story from Nigeria, entitled “Is Obama the Anti-Christ?”  is an opinion piece attacking Obama on what is perceived as a pro-Islamic stance. In a country deeply divided by religious tension, Obama has become a lighting rod for the issue.

Despite the muted enthusiasm of this election, the overwhelming feeling is positive along with advice on a strategy for the region. Dr. Kituyi, director of the Kenya Institute of Governance, says, At the end of the day, the greatest benefit for Africa … must derive from a nation getting its act right, thinking clearly about where we want to go and engaging the US on the basis of sound self-interest. Otherwise, the bulls we slaughter to celebrate the Obama victory will linger as the only testimony of fading ties that bind this clever American and the land of his ancestors.”

Latin America

Heads of state from different Latin America countries have been giving their views on Barack Obama’s re-election. Many have expressed hope for continued cooperation, while others are skeptical about any change. The new president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, is prepping for an upcoming meeting with Obama. Emilio Rabasa Gamboa, commenter for El Universal, stated that he sees an opportunity to “write a new chapter in (Mexico’s) diplomatic history, full of achievements with the U.S.”

However, analysts who participated in a forum organized by the same newspaper said that the future Mexican head of state should aim for a more “egalitarian relation with the U.S.”  Rosario Green Macías, former senator in Mexico, said that Mexico needs to be able to see eye to eye with the United States.

Other country leaders congratulated Obama through social media, such as Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Chile’s Sebastián Piñera. Peru’s Ollanta Humala joined them in congratulating the president, adding that he hopes to foster “prosperity and economic growth with social inclusion” through strengthened bilateral relations.

As might be expected, Evo Morales and Hugo Chávez were the most skeptical about the re-election. Morales stated that “whoever wins in the United States does not affect the Bolivian people.”  Meanwhile, Chávez had previously stated that whoever won (Mitt Romney or Obama) would not change relations with Venezuela, or even with the region. 

Asia

Nov. 6, 2012, was a big night for both Asia and America. The next president of the United States was elected, vote by vote.  As for China, it was also the night before the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, where new party leaders were officially announced.

Interestingly, the Chinese media seemed more willing this past week to discuss the presidential election in the United States than the upcoming CCP Congress that determines their own future. Almost every major news website has a special page for the U.S. election, closely monitoring the progress. As enthusiastic as the Chinese media were to the election, most of the coverage was merely on the news side. Op-eds from foreign media were widely cited (mostly negative ones), with very limited analysis focused on the foreign policy impact on China.

Election news and results also topped the trending topics across Chinese social media. Almost 25 million users reposted “Obama wins American presidential election” on Sina Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter), some Chinese expressed their hope and despair in the democracy process in China.

For most Chinese people, the whole American presidential election was like a soap opera – very entertaining, somewhat inspiring, but not at all realistic. It offers some talking points to social activists, a thin slice of democracy to the public, but not enough to make a difference.

Middle East

When President Obama ran for office in 2008, Middle Easterners was hoping for a change they too could believe in.  In the summer of 2009, when Obama addressed the Muslim world with promises of peace in the region, change seemed possible, as if the United States could restart its relationship with part of the world that seemed to be foreign and dangerous under the Bush administration.

Fast-forward a couple of years and skip over the Arab springs and summer, uprisings and changes in governments, and you find that the Middle East is not enthusiastically celebrating the re-election of Obama. According to The Guardian, there is no sense of renewed hope across the region with the president’s re-election.  Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi hopes for stronger ties between the two countries. Yet, many Arabs, are no longer optimistic about the policies and empty promises of the president. The Council on Foreign Relations featured a blog of reactions of citizens throughout the Middle East. Syrian Umm Omar stated: “He changed nothing during his first term and he won’t improve things in the next four years.” Many Middle Easterners, however, are relieved that Republican contender Mitt Romney did not succeed in his attempt at the presidency, which could of led to more discontent in the region.

Photo by wiredbike (Greg Elin) through Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/gregelin/3003122896/).

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