Asia Welcomes US Election Results



People across Asia gathered to see the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.  At election-watch events in dozens of cities, people cheered as Democrat Barack Obama won a historical victory.  VOA's Kate Pound Dawson in Bangkok brings us the reaction in Asia to the race. 

Hundreds of Thais and Americans cheer as it becomes clear that Senator Barack Obama has won the election.

This election has drawn heavy interest around the world.  Thai businessman Apinan Tungsianugul says that is partly because of Mr. Obama, the first African-American to be elected president.

"This election is a new thing.  [It] could change the [politics] in the world.  Just like Obama. Obama is not a white people," he said.

In Asia, polls have shown Mr. Obama is a clear favorite.  For some people, it is because, as a Democrat, he represents a change from the policies of President Bush, a Republican, who has not been popular in Asia.  Others were attracted by Mr. Obama's positions on the economy and the Iraq War.

And, for some, it was his association with Asia.  Mr. Obama's step-father was from Indonesia and he spent several years in Jakarta as a child.  At the Indonesian school he attended, his campaign has been closely watched.

Children cheer at Menteng One school, which Mr. Obama attended as a child.

Eddy Gucando, is a teacher at the school.

"I'm very happy because today I think, today is the day that can change the world if Barak Obama be [is] president," he said. "Because I think now in America there is a new president and that can change the world."

Many people expressed hope that Mr. Obama would maintain strong relationships with their countries.  Wang Dian is a student at China Communications University in Beijing.

She says she hopes Mr. Obama's policy will be friendly to China.  She says she thinks he knows the importance of friendly relations and trade with China.

Some in Asia hope that Mr. Obama's victory will help other countries learn more about ethnic diversity and become more tolerant.  Choi Su-kyung is a professor at Chongnam National University in South Korea.

"This will help Koreans to understand the reality of the American politics, because Koreans are still prejudiced against the minorities," Choi said.  "They are actually more prejudiced against minorities than Americans are, toward different racial groups.  Americans are much more tolerant of diversity."

Most countries in Asia are closely tied to the United States.  Several are military allies, such as South Korea, Japan and Australia.  And, almost all Asian nations have close economic links with the United States.  With the global economy weakening and with the war in Iraq dragging on, people all over the region say they just hope for change in American politics.

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