Friday, October 24, 2008

World awaits US presidential poll

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Obama's campaign has attracted a great deal of global support [GALLO/GETTY]

As the US presidential campaign enters its final days, many people are already wondering how the new administration - regardless of who wins - will tackle the various diplomatic crises across the world.

Mark Seddon, Al Jazeera's diplomatic correspondent, examines how the US election will affect the world, what both candidates say they can offer, and who may be better at taking on the new challenges.

While I heard Republican strategists say that Barak Obama's campaign could be de-railed if he took time off to fly to Hawaii to visit his sick grandmother, I felt the visit to be something of a political masterstroke for him, even if he would clearly prefer his grandmother not to be ill.
Seddon's Diplomatic diary

Obama is putting family above politics and, what is more, he knows that the images that are already being played of him with his grandmother can only play in his favour.

The Democratic party has not yet encircled Washington DC, but they are getting close.
Obama and his Democratic Party look, and feel, like winners.

But their supporters will hope that they do not become triumphalist or complacent in the coming week.

Global impact?

Global markets will be watching the US election closely [AFP]

Liberal America is anticipating an Obama win, the more realistic among them believing that there could be a high state count for Obama, but that the overall vote could be a lot closer.

Don't forget - many voters tell pollsters what they think is the right thing to say, which is not necessarily a guide to what they will do in the ballot boxes.

So, what could this mean for the rest of us?

The US elections have consumed more media air time than any other because the US, for all its current economic woes, is still the only global superpower.

So how would an Obama victory play on the international markets, beginning in Wall Street?
What would it mean for Iraq, Iran, Israel and Palestine, or Afghanistan, or US' relations with Europe?
Conversely, what would a McCain win mean to the rest of the world?

If global opinion is anything to go by, an Obama win would be largely welcomed by much of the rest of the world that has become nervous of American unilateralism and which watched the chaos of Iraq unfolding.

Obama has already made clear that he favours a reduction in US troops in Iraq, but to all intents and purposes that is already happening.

The difference between the candidates may be that Obama will not be persuaded by the need to maintain costly military bases after any withdrawal.

On Iran and Afghanistan, Obama, as a reflective individual, may be personally drawn to more considered policy prescriptions, but much depends on the time realistically available for him to do it.

The urge to prove tougher than the Republicans may become overwhelming and especially in Afghanistan, where even Kabul is coming under attack from the Taliban.

McCain would favour an Iraq-style "surge", and Obama speaks from the same page.

Confidence question

Neither candidate offers much newon the Middle East conflict [GALLO/GETTY]

On the Middle East conflict, Obama very quickly fell into line with US establishment thinking, which is itself disproportionately influenced, some would argue, by the pro-Israeli lobby group, Aipac.

Obama's comments on Jerusalem, and his lack of firm commitment over the Palestinians, suggest that there would be little difference initially between an Obama administration or one led by McCain.

Obama's nervousness over the Middle East has been heavily influenced, no doubt, by the anti-Muslim rhetoric used by some of his more extreme political enemies who, although they cannot parade racism as easily as they once did, can make plenty of play with his middle name - Osama - with Middle America.

Should Obama win, we may have to wait a little while to witness any genuine foreign policy shifts aways for the established norms.

Much will depend on events, as ever, and Obama's confidence.

But there are differences and it would be a mistake to pretend otherwise.
McCain calls for a new "League of Democracies", a super G8 if you like, that could intervene where the UN Security Council cannot, an organisation that would be seen as confrontational by Russia and China.

So, in many respects, McCain would begin where George Bush, the current US president, left off.
So, for those who expect quantum leaps, prepare to be disappointed.

But change is in the air, whoever wins in a few day's time, of that we can be certain.

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