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South Africans Follow U.S. Presidential Campaign With Enormous Interest


There is enormous interest around the world in this year's U.S. presidential campaign, particularly the just concluded Democratic Party convention and now the Republican Party convention which gets underway today in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Shieila Meintjes is professor of political science at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. She told most South Africans know the differences between the two major U.S. political parties and their policies when it comes to Africa.

"There's a great deal of interest in South Africa in what's happening in the United States. It's been front-page news for the last few weeks. The Obama-Clinton power struggle was front-page news here for months and months. So in South Africa there has been enormous interest in what is happening, and I think great excitement that Barack Obama has come out as the accepted Democratic candidate," she said.

Meintjes said most South Africans know the differences between the two major U.S. political parties and their policies.

"There's a very, very clear recognition that the Republican Party is the party that is leading the United States at the moment and that the incumbent president who is not very popular at the moment I might add might as well be followed by an equally conservative and rather elderly statesman in McCain who once a soldier," Meintjes said.

In reference to Senator John McCain's role as a former soldier, Meintjes said although South Africans revere their soldiers, there is a much stronger social-democratic leadership in South Africa than it is in the United States.

"Although soldiers are venerated in our country, our country was liberated by a civil war in which we had military leaders on both sides, there is a much stronger social-democratic leadership in South Africa than it is in the United States, and they recognize that the Democratic Party is quite different and more enlightened than the Republican Party," she said.

Meintjes said even though most South Africans are still digesting the announcement of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as Senator John McCain's vice presidential running mate, she sees it as an attempt by Senator McCain to win over Hilary Clinton supporters.

But Meintjes said she doesn't believe Hilary Clinton supporters would flock to the McCain-Palin ticket because, according to her, there is a world of policy differences between the Democratic and Republican Parties.

"The fact that a woman is going to be his running mate is one issue, but she seems to be relatively conservative, she's pro-gun, she's anti-abortion. And as we understand it here, most of Hilary Clinton supporters are in favor of gun control and pro-choice. Those are very different ways of understanding the world. So it seems to me that the fact she is a woman is going to be trumped by the kinds of policies that Obama and the Democratic Party follow. I'm not so sure that there is a simple equation between support for women by women, and indeed in most countries in the world, women don't just vote for women. They also vote for men, and they do so on the basis of ideology," Meintjes said.


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