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World watches, assesses results

Some say win by Obama marks turning point

Supporters of Barack Obama watched election coverage at the Foreign Correspondent Club of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. Supporters of Barack Obama watched election coverage at the Foreign Correspondent Club of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. (TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/Getty Images)
By Matt Moore
Associated Press / November 5, 2008
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BERLIN - Throngs packed plazas and pubs around the world to await US elections results last night and today, many inspired by Barack Obama's promise of change amid a sense of relief that the White House is changing hands.

As millions of American voters decided for Obama over John McCain, the world was abuzz, ready to bear witness to a moment of history that would reverberate beyond American borders.

"America is electing a new president, but for the Germans, for Europeans, it is electing the next world leader," said Alexander Rahr, director of the German Council on Foreign Relations.

Many around the world grabbed the news of Obama's win as a sign that the United States was on the verge of a historic turning point, politically and socially.

"My image of America used to be a country run by the white people, but now it's changing," said 65-year-old taxidriver Kenji Doi, an Obama supporter, as he listened to a radio broadcast on the vote early today in Tokyo.

In Kenya, Obama's ancestral homeland, the atmosphere was electric with pride and excitement as people flocked to all-night parties to watch election results roll in.

"I'm not tired even though I have been watching the results through the night," Josiah Otupa, 30, said early today in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

The Irish village of Moneygall was also trying to claim Obama as a favorite son - based on research that concluded the candidate's great-great-great grandfather, Joseph Kearney, lived there before immigrating to the United States.

At Moneygall's Hayes Bar, an American flag fluttered and local band Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys played their rousing folk song "There's No One as Irish as Barack Obama."

"We're not going to go mad with the drink," said Ollie Hayes, who runs the pub. "We just want to show Barack that we appreciate he's from here."

Longtime McCain supporter Kay Angelis described it as "a bit lonely and a bit odd" being a Republican in France. But being in the clear minority at an election night party in Paris swarming with Obama supporters didn't dent her enthusiasm.

"I appreciate experience . . . And I think American voters do, too," the 85-year-old said. She lamented Obama's "whirlwindy" campaign and lack of foreign policy heft and warned that whoever wins will "inherit many global conflicts - and enemies."

French-born US citizen Marielle Davis, however, said an Obama win might prompt her to move back to America. She left Boston in 2003 after two decades for Paris because of tension around the Iraq war.

"People were pointing at me, saying 'She's French,' even my good friends," she said, recalling criticism heaped on France over its opposition to the war.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy congratulated the American voters. "With the world in turmoil and doubt, the American people, faithful to the values that have always defined America's identity, have expressed with force their faith in progress and the future."

In Germany, where more than 200,000 people flocked to see Obama this summer as he burnished his foreign policy credentials during a trip to the Middle East and Europe, the election dominated television ticker crawls, newspaper headlines, and websites.

Obama-mania was evident not only across Europe but also in much of the Islamic world, where Muslims expressed hope that the Democrat would seek compromise rather than confrontation. The Bush administration alienated Muslims by mistreating prisoners at its detention center for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

Nizar al-Kortas, a columnist for Kuwait's Al-Anbaa newspaper, saw an Obama victory as "a historic step to change the image of the arrogant American administration."

"I applaud the American people for their great decision," said Hamid Karzai, Afghan president, "and I hope that this new administration in the United States of America, and the fact of the massive show of concern for human beings and lack of interest in race and color while electing the president, will go a long way in bringing the same values to the rest of world sooner or later."

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