News

Point of View — International Perspective on the US Elections

Argentina

Martin Gorosito, Contributing Writer

1. From the point of view of the government of your country, which candidate are they supporting and why?

When Argentine President Fernando de la Rua openly expressed support for Al Gore in the US presidential elections of 2000, he ended up supporting the non-winning candidate and had a hard time post-elections. Perhaps for this reason, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, has been more careful in making public statements. Nevertheless in the only press conference held since she assumed office, she told reporters that, “I must confess to you that I’ve never follow an American election campaign with so much interest (…) I shouldn’t make statements about this, but fortunately my Foreign Secretary (Jorge Taiana) is not here. But the fact that a colored man is today a US presidential candidate shows a truly surprising and admirable vitality among the American people.”ÿHistorically, as some might recall, Cristina (as she is known in Argentina) launched her own campaign in July 2007 with a picture of Hillary Clinton on the wall behind her and expressed admiration for H.C. on several occasions during the US Primaries. Perhaps some conclusions could be drawn from this.

2. From the point of view of the people of your country, which candidate should win and why?

So far two surveys have been carried out in Argentina about which candidate should win, both of them run by Poliarquia Consultores. The first was conducted during July and August 2008 among 164 opinion leaders in Argentina, from the financial business and academic sectors and from civil society, as well as prominent intellectuals, journalists and different political leaders. The second study was a survey of 1000 cases among the general population and was conducted in 40 cities during the first days of September.

Barack Obama was the favorite candidate of opinion leaders. When asked “Who would you like to win the upcoming presidential elections in the U.S.?” 64% of respondents expressed a preference for the Democratic candidate, while only 19% supported Republican John McCain. ÿ17% had no preference either way.ÿ Among society at large, Barack Obama was also a strong first choice with 56% of the “votes” while only 10% of Argentines preferred John McCain. However it is interesting that 17% were indifferent and a further 17% did not answer.

3. How do you explain this overwhelming support for Obama?

In general, Argentina’s opinion leaders would like to see Latin America in general and Argentina in particular occupy a higher position on America’s foreign policy agenda, especially with regards to investments, which have declined during the years of the Bush’s administration. To many, McCain (rightly or wrongly) seems to promise more of the same thing. For the rest of the population Obama seems to represent the American dream, not just for North Americans but for South Americans too. There is a widespread hope that a Democratic President will also bring an end to the war in Iraq which is highly unpopular throughout Latin America.ÿ Finally, Latin America has a very young population and this undoubtedly plays a role for Obama’s support. Young, African-American and different from all the American leaders of the past thirty years is a winning combination for many Argentineans.

The presidential election will have big consequences not only within the US, but also across the borders. In this article, students share views on the US elections from the international experience they have had. By no means do we claim that this is the view of the countries represented, nor the view of the individual authors, it is merely intended to give you a sense of views regarding the US elections from across the globe.

Mexico

Patricio Gil (NC), Contributing Writer

The Government

Mexican government has been very political with this sensitive subject of the US presidential campaign. They figured it would not make sense to publicly back or express support to one of the candidates, because supporting one candidate when another could still win could be very dangerous for our relationship with the future President of our most important partner.ÿ Therefore, they have not supported either of the candidates, at least not in public.

The Public

The general public, at least the young and educated professionals, is divided.ÿ The general feeling is that both candidates are very capable, and both have spoken about the importance of maintaining an open relationship with Mexico.ÿ There could be a slight trend towards Obama, in the sense, that he embodies the flag of change more transparently than McCain. This is especially important in a time where the economic crisis in America will have a huge impact on Mexico in the near future.ÿ In addition, Obama tends to be more charismatic and Mexicans can clearly identify with a person who comes from a minority and has succeeded.

Venezuela

The Government

Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan President, is a socialist and fierce U.S. critic. He has openly warned that relations between Caracas and Washington could worsen if Republican candidate John McCain wins this year’s presidential election.

Earlier this year during one of the democratic candidate debates Obama stated he would be willing to hold talks with world leaders the US considers our “enemy,” including Chavez. This was used as part of McCain’s attack on Obama’s proposals. (The TV ad can be seen on: //www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHQwsxHiaY0.)

As Obama continues to harden his international image, he has taken a tougher line towards Chavez in recent weeks.

Recently at a meeting of his socialist party, Chavez said that Venezuela should not get their hopes up over Obama. He said, “The two candidates for the US presidency attack us equally, they attack us defending the interests of the empire. Let’s not kid ourselves, it is the empire and the empire must fall. That’s the only solution – that it comes to an end.”

The Public

The vast majority of the Venezuelan people are not that interested in politics in the US.

Spain

Cira Cuberes Hernandez (NJ), Contributing Writer

The Government

In Spain, theoretically, the government may be more inclined towards Obama. However factually, there is no public disclosure, to my knowledge, of any kind of preference. I assume that the government wants to keep a good relationship with the US regardless of the winning party, therefore, I don’t think they are going to be very clear about their preference.

The Public

Regarding the public, it also depends a lot. In certain parts of Spain the population tends to be more conservative, but overall there is a majority of liberal people. Thus I think that the balance would be inclined towards Obama also in this case. ÿAgain, I don’t really know if the situation may be comparable, but historically the liberal parties have been more successful in Spain. Therefore, I guess that support for Obama may be higher.

France

Heloise Temple-Boyer (OB), Contributing Writer

The Government

Since President Sarkozy was elected in 2007, I have a feeling that things have changed a little in France. The attitudes are more moderate towards Republicans, whose policy, historically, was in open conflict with that of President Chirac (notably on the war in Iraq). Ending a long tradition of suspicion and anti-Americanism at the French government level, Sarkozy has several times been pro-American in his statements. His new government keeps on saying that they will gladly work with either one of the candidates – the official message – but there is this more diffuse idea that it is mainly because any one of the candidates will be better than G. Bush.

The Public

As seen in recent rallies, Obama is more liked with a huge level of enthusiasm!! First, the general French opinion disliked G. Bush for his alleged “francophobia” and the war in Iraq (to which most French people were fiercely opposed). Second, Obama is perceived as more open to the rest of the world than McCain, hence more able to solve some of the major potential issues ahead of us, especially the crisis in the Middle East. Lastly, for many people in France, the idea of a President of African origin is a great symbol, not only because a significant proportion of the French population stems from immigration but also because this would be considered as a great sign of hope for a more harmonious society going forward.

Paradoxically, on the latter point, a lot of newspapers evoke how difficult it would be for a candidate like Obama to be elected in France and question whether the traditional French model of integration is still able to “produce” success stories like this, and how inspirational it should be for France if Obama were to win.

Austria

Max Schnoedel (ND), Contributing Writer

The Government & Public

In Austria, parliamentary elections had just resulted in major losses for the grand coalition of Social Democrats and the People’s Party. The death of longtime opposition leader Joerg Haider has further caused political leaders to focus on quickly forming a new government. As in other European countries, a majority seems to favor Barack Obama in the U.S. presidential elections. I would argue that this tendency mainly stems from the belief that a solid social security system is key to the well-functioning of a nation.

Turkey

Alper Gokgoz (ND), Contributing Writer

The Government

Even though no official announcement has been made, Turkish government seems disturbed by Obama’s pledge to label World War I-era killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide if elected president. Moreover Obama’s choice of Biden who is known as “distant” to Turkey has made McCain more preferable from the point of view of the government.

The Public

Surveys show that significant portion of Turkish people do not favor either candidate or favor both equally. However, it could be said that similar to other parts of Europe, Obama is more popular among young Turkish people mostly due to his opposition to the invasion of Iraq.

Kenya

Mumo Muthengi (OF), Contributing Writer

Barack Obama is an inspirational figure around the world, but perhaps nowhere more so than Kenya where this inspiration cuts across tribal, socio-economic and generational boundaries. The old adage goes a rising tide raises all ships; as Obama rises to the pinnacles of power, the audacious hope is that he will inspire a new generation of leaders to courageously confront the problems that have beset the nation and raise it to new heights.

The Public

It’s quite clear that the Kenyan peopleÿhave adopted Barack Obama as their ‘Prodigal Son’, and feel heavily invested in his candidacy. He is often featured on the front page of the Kenyan national newspaper, ‘The Daily Nation’, and some Kenyans are more informed about the US presidential race than most in the US! There is a sense of pride amongst the Kenyan people to see someone with roots in Kenya succeed in the greatest platform, the US political scene. Barack’s candidacy has been embraced across tribal lines, which has helped bring the country together after the recent political unrest seen after the Kenyan presidential elections in December.

A few in Kenya, however, have overestimated the impact of a Barack win on their lives, and believe that he will have a direct impact in the local economy. They do not realize that he will be preoccupied with one of the worst economic meltdowns in US history. However, Barack has also inspired many young people across Kenya, and other African countries to believe that if someone with Kenyan roots can run for the most powerful office in the world, then nothing is impossible.

The Government

The Kenyan government is also very much in support of Barack Obama. This can be best illustrated by a recent episode where Jerome R. Corsi, the conservative author of “The Obama Nation,” was detained by immigration officers, and later deported from Kenya when he tried to hold a press conference.

Korea

Won Hong (NA), Contributing Writer

The Public

There are two main issues on the minds of Korean people in evaluating the candidates: the economy and North Korea.

On the economic front, Senator John McCain seems to be preferred by the Korean people. Whereas Senator Barack Obama staunchly criticized the recently-signed Korea-U.S. FTA and sometimes blamed the American woes to the free trade in general, Senator John McCain expressed strong and unrelenting support for free trade and globalization. For the people of a country that relies heavily on international trade, Korean people are worried over the possibility of protectionism that may arise and may affect their economy.

On the North Korean front, Senator Barack Obama seems to put a lot of emphasis on using diplomatic tools to solve the North Korean impasse. Senator John McCain, however, gives the impression that he thinks talk has its limits. Being in the position to face unimaginable tragedy should military conflicts arise on the Korean peninsula, Korean people tend to lean toward Mr. Obama’s preference of diplomacy. It seems to be pretty clear to Korean people which president would be the more confrontational or prickly toward North Korea.

In light of things, therefore, Korean people seem to be evenly divided in their preference over the next President of the U.S.

Japan

Jun Takai (NG) and Rie Yano (ND), Contributing Writer

The Government

Historically, Japanese government has favored the Bush administration (the Republicans) due to strong ties that enhanced the US-Japan Relationship. There is a question on how much a Democratic leader would pay attention to US-Japan relationships, and for the Japanese government, it is always favorable to side with a leader who is willing to strengthen such ties. As mentioned below, however, the recent changes in the stance of both US and Japanese leaders has weakened such strong favoritism for a Republican leader.

In addition, the diplomatic circles are wary about North Korea. Historically, Bush’s early disapproval and relatively strong opinion toward the country was in line with theÿJapanese government. They have a strong position towardÿNorth Korea in order to solve the abduction problem.

However, as the latest Bush government efforts were much softer toward North Korea, the Japanese government tends to think that there will be no major difference between the two candidates anymore.

The Public

According to the recent Gallup poll, 66% of Japanese people are for Obama. This is due to the unpopularity of the Iraq war and Bush government (Iraq war is highly disapproved in the country) and the high interest of the Japanese in the Kyoto protocol and environment policy (Japanese people tend to be highly disappointed at the Bush administration’s decision to quit the protocol). In addition, there is a strong positive attitude towards change in Japan. Two Japanese prime ministers have left the government in one year and Japanese people want to have a leader who can change the country. For this reason, young and powerful Obama seems a good candidate that Japanese people would have wished to have in Japan too.

October 27, 2008
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