What Obama's win means to the rest of the world

Sarah Obama, step-grandmother to USA's President elect, Barak Obama, reacts with members of her family on November 7, 2012 in the hamlet of Kogelo in western Kenya during a press conference that followed media-anouncements of Obama's apparent victory.</p>

Sarah Obama, step-grandmother to USA's President elect, Barak Obama, reacts with members of her family on November 7, 2012 in the hamlet of Kogelo in western Kenya during a press conference that followed media-anouncements of Obama's apparent victory.

BOSTON, Mass. — It wasn't only Americans who were glued to their TV sets, watching election returns trickle in on Tuesday night. The world was watching too.

And while in most places people were glad that President Barack Obama won, they weren't really partying like it was 2008. From Israel to Venezuela and Hong Kong to Canada, GlobalPost found very mixed feelings.

One only has to look at Twitter to see how closely the world is following US politics. Some in fact wish they had their own say in the decisions made by the United States, which they feel has an enormous impact on their daily lives.

As part of GlobalPost's in-depth series, US Election: If the world could vote, our broad network of correspondents spoke to ordinary citizens everywhere.

Here's what they found.

 

HONG KONG

The emotions in China weren’t all that different from the crowds cheering in downtown Chicago.

When news of President Barack Obama’s re-election hit mainland China, thousands of Chinese netizens celebrated and offered their congratulations.

“My warmest congratulations to Obama for being re-elected. How great is the democracy of the United States, foe of tyrants, the land of liberty. May its universal values enlighten the world,” wrote one user in Anhui province.

By the middle of the afternoon, Obama’s victory was the most discussed item on Sina Weibo, racking up nearly 25 million posts.

After a campaign that featured unprecedented use of China as a rhetorical punching bag, many Chinese were simply relieved. Indeed, analysts expect few major shifts in US-China relations during Obama’s second term.

“US policy towards China will not change significantly,” writes Shen Dingli, a professor of international relations at Fudan University in Shanghai.

In official media, the American election was downplayed as something of a sideshow to China’s main political event: the once-a-decade transition of power that begins this Thursday in Beijing.

Still, the election allowed Chinese citizens to draw a comparison between the two country's systems. While America’s election featured vigorous, open, often messy debates, China's 18th Party Congress has been surrounded with secrecy. Beijing has been put on lockdown, with taxis required to lock their windows to prevent the distribution of political materials, and the internet has slowed to a crawl.

Benjamin Carlson (follow @bfcarlson)

 

ISRAEL

JERUSALEM — Israel responded on America’s election night as if it were the 51st state: with obsessive and possessive attention all night long, analyses of the electoral college, and even some rumpled musing about misleading pundits. 

The fact that Israelis don't vote in the US election seemed entirely immaterial.

More from GlobalPost: Obama wins, Netanyahu loses

Summing up the results, Razi Barkai, one of a dozen Israeli news anchors who were sent to cover the election, said he has heard from "people close to Obama" that the president believes it was an error not to visit Jerusalem when he embarked on his much-discussed speech in Cairo four years ago.

That ghost visit, and the lack of overt attention paid to Israel in the past four years, is a matter of some prickly feelings in Israel, where Obama supporters often feel their backs are to the wall. At a party hosted by US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro, Uri Zaki, the director of the American branch of the Israeli human rights organization Betselem, and a man sporting a Hebrew language Obama button, said, "Israel is a purple state."

In an interview with Israel Army Radio, former American ambassador to Israel Martin Indyck said, "It was a great night for the president, obviously, and for all of us."

Noga Tarnopolsky (follow @NTarnopolsk)

 

EGYPT

CAIRO — Many Egyptians expressed support for and satisfaction with Obama’s victory at the polls.

On Twitter and in the streets, they congratulated Americans on the results, and some hailed Obama’s “Muslim heritage.”

“Romney's biggest flaw is his disregard for minorities, especially Muslims,” read a tweet from Egyptian Twitter user, Fatima Mohamed, which was posted in Arabic.

But some Cairo residents simply shrugged at the news, and went about their day.  

There remains a deeply-ingrained skepticism toward US policy in the Middle East, which Egyptians say overemphasizes Israeli security and withholds support for democratic forces.

Many here, as elsewhere, are disappointed with Obama’s failure to pressure Israel to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians — and for expanding the use of drones to fight America’s enemies abroad.

“It’s irrelevant. [US] foreign policy towards the Middle East has never changed,” said Hisham Kassem, an independent publisher here.

Egypt’s traditionally stable relationship with the United States has transformed since a popular uprising toppled former Egyptian president and US ally, Hosni Mubarak, in 2011.

Republican challenger Mitt Romney did garner some support among those Egyptians who want to see the United States take a tougher stance against the ruling Muslim Brotherhood.

But large swathes of the Egyptian population are still soured by the military bravado of the Republican Party under former US President George W. Bush.  

“Republicans tend to be more nosey than Democrats, so it’s likely they would meddle a lot more,” said 26-year-old Egyptian activist, Wael Eskander. “Romney would be scary because of his hostility towards Islamists.”

Erin Cunningham (follow @erinmcunningham)

 

KENYA

KOGELO — The crowd gathered here erupted in celebration — arms in the air, grinning, hugging and dancing — when CNN called the election for Barack Obama.

Kogelo is home to the Kenyan branch of Obama’s far-flung family, a small village that has gotten a lot of attention thanks to its famous son. Obama is popular across Kenya, but nowhere more than in Kogelo, a place that has only recently been connected with electricity and a paved road.

As Americans cast their votes on Tuesday, people here braved the rain and power cuts to hope for and eventually celebrate an Obama victory.

Speaking an hour after her step-grandson was elected to a second term, Sarah Onyango Obama, wearing a voluminous, brightly colored outfit and surrounded by family, friends and neighbors, congratulated the man who calls her “granny.”

“It is by the grace of God that Barack has made it and become the president of the United States for the second term,” she said, with one of her sons, Sayid, by her side.

Africans have criticized Obama for not paying more attention to the continent, in which his father was born, during his first term. Against expectations, Africa never featured prominently on his foreign policy agenda. He made just one fleeting visit to Ghana early in his presidency.

But Mama Sarah said all that was fine.

“We cannot be bitter. He was doing his job in the place where he is supposed to be working, he was delivering where he was supposed to be delivering and therefore could not be malingering everywhere,” she said to laughs from the crowd gathered at her family home on the outskirts of the village.

Tristan McConnell (follow @t_mcconnell)

 

MEXICO

GUADALAJARA, Mexico — Many here breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday night as the result of the US presidential election was broadcast across the country.

“There is some hope for North Americans and the rest of the world,” Mexico City-based journalist Adriana Ferreira told GlobalPost after President Barack Obama was declared the winner.

Raul Correa, a Spanish language teacher in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city, relished the moment. “I’m happy. Thank God,” Correa said in a text message to GlobalPost.

His comments were echoed by Manfred Meiners, a photographer in Guadalajara. “It’s a relief to know that Obama won!” Meiners told GlobalPost via Facebook.

Mexican President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto also sent his congratulations to Obama.

“Congratulations President Barack Obama for your re-election,” Pena Nieto tweeted. “The citizens have shown renewed confidence in you.”

At least two voter surveys in recent weeks showed about 60 percent of Mexicans would have supported Obama if they had been allowed to vote.

That is not to say Mexicans think he has been an outstanding president. Quite the opposite.

A BGC-Excelsior poll this week found that a majority of those questioned thought Obama had done little or nothing to improve the situation of undocumented Mexican immigrants in the United States, combat drug cartels and improve trade relations with Mexico.

Still, Obama is widely viewed as a much better option than his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Ferreira summed up the feeling among many Mexicans.

“Obama is OK, but he is not the best. But Romney is the worst,” she said.

Despite his family’s Mexican origins, Romney is deeply unpopular here, in part because he has distanced himself from his ancestral connections to the country — a disconnect that’s viewed suspiciously by the Mexican media and public.

The election result dominated local news websites.

Mexican newspaper El Universal carried the simple headline “Obama won,” while Milenio’s front page said, “Obama achieves historic re-election.”

About the loser, Milenio tweeted: “Mitt Romney a successful career culminated in a painful defeat.”

Other results Tuesday likely to draw strong support from many Mexicans — except the drug cartels — are groundbreaking moves in Colorado and Washington, where voters passed referendums legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

Supporters of the amendments here argue the changes could put a dent in the profits of drug cartels, which have been responsible for the escalation in mass-murders, kidnappings and extortions across the country.

Allison Jackson (follow @allison_mexico)

EUROPE 

LONDON — Four years ago, Europeans greeted Barack Obama's election with jubilation. This time it was relief at the prospect of a more stable world.

French President Francois Hollande hailed Obama's victory as a "clear choice for an open, united America that is totally engaged on the international scene.”

France's left-leaning Liberation daily declared its pleasure by clearing its front page for a photograph of a cheerful Obama and a one-word headline in English: "Yes!"

No longer seeing him as shining beacon of hope, Europeans now see Obama simply as a president who wouldn’t create too many foreign-policy headaches, would work well with Europe's liberal leaders and may offer better prospects for the environment.

"He's a steady hand on the helm," said Keith Ellis, 66, a retired pub landlord from London. "He's pretty well respected around the world and is seen as someone who isn't going to upset the boat. A different president might have been a bit more trigger-happy."

Mark Tiernan, an elementary school teacher from London, took a broader view, cautiously hailing the result as a victory for a planet wary of the hawkish policies many would have expected from Romney.

“The world is a slightly safer place this morning,” he said.

Barry Neild (follow @barry_neild)

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

BANGKOK, Thailand — You wouldn’t know it from this race’s campaign rhetoric, but there are Asian countries south of China.

Southeast Asia was largely invisible during this contest despite America’s various and complex entanglements in the region. Even the Obama administration’s biggest development here — cracking the shell of Myanmar’s ruling inner circle and ending a long spell of sanctions — elicited scant attention on the campaign trail.

The region didn’t offer any compelling issues on par with Chinese competition or would-be Iranian nukes.

But for Southeast Asians, Obama’s re-election at least offers a sense of continuity. Poor villagers in the region can cite Obama’s name while even college grads may be stumped if asked to name his Republican rival.

That continuity counts among big wigs as well.

Even before his re-election, Obama had promised to attend a major political pow wow, the East Asia Summit, held in late November in Cambodia. According to Bangkok-based political analyst Kavi Chongkittavorn, that trip may see a momentous Obama stopover in Myanmar, formerly titled Burma, a nation classified as an “outpost of tyranny” by the State Department in the recent past.

In an November op-ed, Kavi writes that, for the most part, “Obama has developed a close rapport” with Southeast Asian leaders. That trip is now secured and Obama is free to fly here and further rack up credibility points with Southeast Asian leaders.

But, so far, Southeast Asian heads of state have diplomatically strayed from taking sides.

Most are offering pat statements insisting they are “ready to work closely with whoever is the choice of the American people,” as the Philippine president’s office put it. A senior Philippine senator, Ralph Recto, added via the Philippine Inquirer that America, in its next term, will continue to “push for their interests and not our interests.”

Indonesia’s Jakarta Post, in the hours after Obama’s win, also sounded a similar note in an op-ed:

“Relations have had their ups and downs during both Democratic and Republican presidencies but there has not been a strategic shift ... there will be no major change in relations between the two democratic nations.” 

Patrick Winn (follow @bkkapologist)

 

INDIA

NEW DELHI — India's popular reaction to Obama's re-election ranged from jubilation to disbelief.

“The general perception of him is favorable,” said Ayush Prasad, a 24-year-old student. “Many of us aspire to have leaders like Obama in India, because he's a person who thinks, and is introspective. He's a person who does what he thinks is right.”

India's major television networks were outsourced for election day, with NDTV turning its feed over to ABC, Times Now channeling CBS, and Headlines Today showing Al Jazeera.

Unlike Wall Street, traders on India's Dalal Street were happy with the Obama victory, as they expected Romney's budget cuts to precipitate a liquidity crunch that would have starved Indian markets of inflows from US institutional investors, according to the Times of India.

The benchmark Sensex received a welcome boost from the poll results.

Meanwhile, India's foreign policy establishment was pulling for Obama, due to uncertainty about Romney's stance on Iran and China.

“While Romney may also have been all right for us,” said former Indian foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, “there would have been perhaps some concerns ... that a Romney administration could have precipitated some military action against Iran, might have been too receptive to Israel's concerns and policies, and his tougher postures toward China might have confronted us with more difficult choices.”

On the other hand, though Obama's early moves as president worried New Delhi, he has modulated his stance on Kashmir, and drifted away from Pakistan. 

Jason Overdorf (follow @joverdorf)

 

 

VENEZUELA

CARACAS — President Hugo Chavez has done much to court his counterpart in the US, Barack Obama, since the just re-elected president first came to power four years ago.

Chavez hailed him as a "good guy," just a few weeks ago, adding that his vote would go to Obama if that were possible. It was a far cry from Chavez's relationship with Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, whom the Venezuelan strongman famously described as "the devil" at the United Nations in 2006.

Still, even the ideologue that is Chavez on the eve of Tuesday's election saw some pragmatism, as he spoke on state television.

"From our point of view, we don't have much hope that either [Romney or Obama] will make important changes in relation to the US' worldview, with Latin America or with Venezuela. This is thanks to the backwardness of the extreme right in the US," Chavez said.

Venezuelans broadly back Obama. "Much better that Obama won than the other guy," says Gloria Torres in her Caracas slum. "At least Obama will respect Venezuelan sovereignty."

"Obama is working for the people just like Chavez," a supporter of the Venezuelan president told GlobalPost in a barrio surrounded by murals of leftist leaders such as Che Guevara.

However, on the extreme right, there are those in Venezuela, the wealthy who are known to call Chavez a "monkey" and spend their weekends shopping in Miami. They have such hatred for their president that their enemy's enemy becomes their friend. And so Mitt Romney does not lack support among them.

"Romney named Chavez in his manifesto; Obama didn't," another Venezuelan said while having breakfast in a posh hotel. "Obama has closed his eyes to the problem."

Girish Gupta (follow @jammastergirish)

 

CANADA

KELOWNA, British Columbia — Daniel Roukema, a 41-year-old public relations professional in Toronto, was connecting with friends around the world all night through Facebook, hanging off updates until the networks finally called the election for Barack Obama.

“It was a great night, an exciting and somewhat nail-biting experience,” he told GlobalPost in an interview.

“Four years ago, Canada stopped to watch Obama, the Democrats and the US make history. Tonight, Canada held its breath, not for history, but simply because we felt the stakes were very high," he said late Tuesday night. "An Obama administration would stay the course while a President Romney could jeopardize the very fragile economic recovery Canada is experiencing.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, touring India on a trade mission, offered his congratulations shortly after Mitt Romney’s concession speech, which came in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

“I look forward to working with the Obama administration over the next four years to continue finding ways to increase trade and investment flows between our countries,” he said, highlighting his desire to see “transportation and security infrastructure necessary to take bilateral commercial relations to new heights.”

Then there is the Sun News Network — or "Fox News North" to its critics.

A network staunchly conservative and no stranger to controversy, broadcaster Brian Lilley’s editorial “Welcome to Obamageddon” paints the Democratic victory as "nothing short of disaster" for Canada’s economy.

“I shudder to think what this president, one promised to fundamentally transform America, will do in a second term knowing that he never needs to face voters again,” Lilley wrote.

The average Canadian, though, was very pleased with the result.

They were happy to follow along on Twitter with the CBC — Canada’s national broadcaster — and its #USvoteCBC hashtag.

The majority of tweets gushed about Obama’s charm.

Stefania Alessandra, from Guelph, Ontario, wrote:

And, as you’d expect from a nation famous for its manners, there was sympathy for Romney. Marc Perrot of Paradise, Newfoundland, said:

David Trifunov (follow @da_trif)