After what wound up being a relatively early-call for the major networks and a landslide electoral victory, Senator Barack Obama is set to become the 44th President of the United States. But as much of America celebrates and the new President-elect eyes his new role as Commander-in-Chief with a view toward a more expansive US role in Afghanistan, the rest of the world has been watching, and reacting:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who repeatedly referred to President-elect Obama simply as “the black man” in his comments, offered to hold talks and say he hopes “we can enter a new stage.” he also urged Obama to end the Cuban embargo, withdraw troops from Iraq, and stop US threats against Venezuela and Iran.
Cuban President Fidel Castro also had comments on the new President-elect by way of the state-run media of the island nation. In it he condemned the United States as a “parastical and rapacious empire” and slammed Obama for not spending enough time on “the world’s most pressing problems.” He did however concede that he believes Obama is “more intelligent, educated, and level-headed than his Republican rival” was.
Across Africa, the election of a man with strong ties to the continent has been met with unrestrained jubilation. Former South African President said the election was a symbol of hope, while Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga declared a public holiday for Thursday to celebrate the results.
The victory is an especially big deal in Kenya as Obama has several relatives, including a grandmother and half-brother, who live there. President Mwai Kibaki says “the victory of Senator Obama is our own victory because of his roots here.” Cameroonians, obsessed with his campaign for a long time, reportedly see the election of the son of an African student to the most powerful office on earth as a very encouraging sign.
Much of Western Europe of course has been hopeful for an Obama victory all along, believing he would usher in a less arrogant and unilateral position for America on the world’s stage. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown praised the new President-elect as a “true friend” of Britain. Opposition leader David Cameron also congratulated Obama, and took a shot at the Prime Minister at the same time, saying “on the day the American people voted for change, aren’t people in this country entitled to ask: how much longer have we got to put up with more of the same from a government that has failed?”
Obama has reportedly also received statements of praise and congratulations from French President Sarkozy and German Chancellor Merkel. The official response in Italy was considerably less welcoming, with a top Senator in the ruling party declaring that “with Obama in the White House, perhaps al-Qaeda is happier.”
In a move one Russian expert characterized as “a bright, clear warning” to Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has announced his nation will deploy new missile in Europe to “neutralize” the planned US missile defense system “if necessary.”
Georgians seemed to largely prefer the more bellicose Sen. McCain ahead of the election, though President Mikheil Saakashvili praised Obama and his running mate, Vice President-elect Joe Biden, for “concrete plans about strengthening Georgia.”
The Middle East
While absentee voters in Israel overwhelmingly appeared to back Sen. McCain, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni praised Obama for his “commitment to the peace and security of Israel.” Several other Israeli officials, including opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, also congratulated Obama on his victory.
Iraq seems considerably more mixed, with cabinet chief Nusseir al-Aani saying he believes Obama’s policy will largely be the same as President Bush’s has been, and Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi congratulating Obama and hoping that the “promise of change” will not be limited to the United States.
Hezbollah does not see America’s stance on Israel changing with the election, though Syria, still reeling from a US attack just nine days before the election, seemed hopeful that an Obama presidency will reduce tensions.
Iran’s response was much more practical and much less conciliatory, with the Iranian army warning just after the election that it will respond to any US violation of Iranian airspace. Foreign Minister Manochehr Mottaki however expressed hope that Obama would distance himself from the policies of the current administration.
Arab League chief Amr Mussa also hoped that Obama would signal an American policy based on “honest brokership” in the Middle East. while Hamas advised him to learn from the mistakes of the Bush administration.
The immediate advice from Afghan President Hamid Karzai was simple: stop the killing of Afghan civilians in air strikes. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani congratulated Obama, hoping he would promote “peace and stability” in the region.
Indian Prime Minister Manmoham Singh hailed Obama’s victory as “inspirational,” but didn’t mention Obama’s comments immediately before the election, calling for the US to get involved in resolving the situation in Indian Kashmir.
The Far East
Stocks in Asia rallied on the result, but Chinese President Hu Jintao remained cautious on the election. Analysts did not see either Obama or his opponent Sen. McCain as radically changing the Bush Administration’s positions with respect to China or Taiwan.