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Africa and US Congressional Elections

Americans go to the polls tomorrow (Tuesday) to elect members of the House of Representatives and Senate. Currently, the Republican Party of President George Bush holds the majority in both houses. But pre-election polls are pointing to indications the Democratic Party may win enough seats to take control of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. So what would the outcome of the U.S. congressional election mean for Africa? VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty put that question to Ron Walters, professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland near Washington, D.C.

“I think that there is a possibility that the Congress of the United States or the Senate will change parties from the control now that is in the hands of the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, and I think that the legislative proposals that they develop might find their way into law. One of the most important issues having to do with the war in Iraq which will have an impact not only on the domestic situation in the United States but on the broad range of American foreign relations as well,” Walters said.

Walters credits President Bush for the president’s HIV /AIDS and Millennium Challenge Account polices as they relate to Africa. But he says these policies were under funded.

“I give President Bush credit for actually leading in establishing the Millennium Challenge Account and in making HIV/AIDS a priority for this administration except for the fact that these initiatives were not fully funded. As a matter of fact the funding has failed primarily because so much of the economic resources of the United States have been plowed into war. So I think that if a new administration were to take over it would begin to reign in our commitment to war, make more financial resources available for priorities like the Millennium Challenge Account like AGOA, the trade agreement between the United States and Africa, which again has had some difficult times because the economic financing was not there.”

Walters believes the U.S. AIDS policy and Millennium Challenge Account would do well under a Democratic Congress. He also says the immigrant community is angry with the Republican Party.

“One of the areas of course the Republicans are in difficulty has to do with immigration, and right now what you find from one end of the country to the other is that the immigrant community is mobilizing to vote against the Republican Party because of the perception that they have an anti-immigrant attitudes. Ethiopian cap drivers are mobilizing to take people to the polls,” Walters said.

A number of international election observers, including from Egypt, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe are in the United States to observer Tuesday’s Congressional elections. Walters says the international observers will be looking for whether the elections are free and fair or not.

“They will be looking for incidences where it looks as though there may be some trouble with the American electoral process where citizens have complained they’ve been disenfranchised. For example, if you look at the database established by People for the American Way you will find that in the 2004 elections there were 60 thousand complaints, and they ran all the way from the fact that the electronic machines did not work properly to acts of intimidation at the polls,” Walters said.

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