World reacts to Obama presidency

International media coverage of the election last week of Barack Obama has continued non-stop. A survey follows.

Africa

Barack Obama’s Kenyan relatives and Africans in general sang and danced in the streets following Barack Obama’s election win. Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki declared a national holiday. Associated Press writer Tom Maliti reported on a fortified U.S. reputation “as a land of staggering opportunity.”

Ghanaian Kofi Annan, former UN secretary-general, had never expected this “historic event” during his lifetime. Nelson Mandela, emblematic figure in the anti-racism struggle, wrote to Barack Obama, “Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world.” Mandela encouraged Obama to fight poverty and disease and make the United States a “full partner in a community of nations.”

The Times of India quoted anti-apartheid veteran Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “It is almost as when Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa.”

Latin America

Bolivian President Evo Morales was amazed: “In Bolivia, an Indian president; in the U.S. a Black president. I don’t know what’s happening.” Morales, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and President Lula da Silva of Brazil added pleas to their congratulations that Obama end the U.S. blockade against Cuba. Amnesty International concurred, calling upon Obama also to close the Guantanamo prison, according to Reuters. President Chavez told the president-elect that “the time has come to establish new relations between our two countries and in our region.”

A community organizer in the Brazilian city Salvador told Al Jazeera that “all our local Black candidates in the elections always lose,” even though its population is 80 percent Black. Obama’s victory showed him “that yes we can also govern anywhere in the world” — perhaps even in Brazil.

Europe

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev congratulated Barack Obama and called for “constructive dialogue.” The day after the U.S. elections, his government announced plans to establish a missile base near the Polish border in reaction to U.S. moves to set up missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland. In a telephone conversation Nov. 8, Medvedev and Obama discussed an “early bilateral meeting.”

Reflecting pervasive anti-Iraq war sentiment in Great Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown referred to “values that I share with Sen. Obama and the policies we hold in common.” He sought collaboration “to bring the world together.” Paris lawyer Ahmed Kelifi told National Public Radio, “I love America today. I’ve seen the first Black president in America. I’m sure the world is going to change.” President Nicolas Sarkozy told Obama, “Your election has raised enormous hope in France, in Europe and beyond.”

Asia

The Chinese government lauded Obama’s youth and presumed energy as useful in dealing with the global financial crisis. The official China Daily news service noted that “a strong U.S. economy is in the interest of China and all other countries.” Obama’s plans to tax high earners were seen as good for the “appallingly spiraling [U.S.] budget deficit.”

Official India articulated a watch-and-wait approach toward Obama, especially in regard to his economic program. The Indo Asian News Service quoted C.K. Chandrappan, a leader of the Communist Party of India, who observed “change in the mindset of people in a white-dominated country … Indians should learn lessons from the greatness of Americans.” Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) advised caution: “Obama has not revealed his mind fully on the Iraq war [nor on] his policies towards third world countries.”

Middle East

In an overture unprecedented since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad congratulated Barack Obama. In a letter, he expressed hope that Obama would “use the opportunity to serve the [American] people,” also his confidence that “fundamental and clear changes” are on the way.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari congratulated Obama, indicating his government expects no “immediate change in the U.S. policy toward Iraq.” UK Independent correspondent Patrick Cockburn believes Iraqi leaders view Obama as potentially more flexible than his predecessor in modifying the stalled Status of Forces Agreement to allow for parliamentary approval.

In Israel, the Haaretz newspaper praised the U.S. election as an “example of democracy at its best.” It paid tribute to Obama as a unifier and predicted Obama would “rehabilitate the status of a superpower.”

Obama is an issue in the upcoming Israeli elections. Kadima party candidate Tzipi Livni has emphasized affinity with Obama on the peace process. Likud Party rival Benjamin Netanyahu cites meetings with Obama that created “personal chemistry.”