The World Welcomes Obama's Victory

Two front pages from Britain's national press covering Barack Obama's victory in the U.S. Presidential election, Nov. 5, 2008. CBS

CBSNews.com is compiling a constantly-updated log of reaction from leaders and citizens of countries around the world, where American Election 2008 has captured the eyes, ears and imaginations of millions.

FRANCE:

The French have made no secret of the fact that they wanted to see real change in the White House. Now, most believe transatlantic relations will improve, reports CBS News' Elaine Cobbe. "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," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a congratulatory letter to Obama. "At a time when we must face huge challenges together, your election has raised enormous hope in France, in Europe and beyond."

France's black junior minister for human rights Rama Yade, who is black, said, "This is the fall of the Berlin Wall times ten. America is re-becoming a New World. … On this morning, we all want to be American so we can take a bite of this dream unfolding before our eyes."

Expats in Paris thronged American bars from early Tuesday evening. Most went straight from work, keen to get a good seat and prepared for a long night. Irish bars unfurled the giant screens usually reserved for sporting events and became election HQs, and cell phones buzzed all night as the election pub crawl continued. In all the throngs, it was hard to find a Republican voice. Obama was the face on T-shirts everywhere.

Many of the young expats, in particular, say they're tired of apologizing for their nationality. Now, they say, they can hold their heads with pride and say "I'm American".

UNITED KINGDOM:

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was looking forward to working with the new U.S. President. "This is a moment that will live in history, as long as history books are written," he said. "I've talked to Senator Obama on many occasions and I know that he is a true friend of Britain, and I know that the values we share in common and the policies on which we can work together will enable us as two countries to come through these difficult economic times and build a safer and more secure society for the future."

The new editions of the papers are on the streets, and CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar says they are embracing the idea of historic change. The Independent: Dignified, full page color photo of a smiling Obama. Headline: "Mr. President."

SPAIN:

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said, "President Obama will have in Spain and its government a friend and a loyal ally. I want us to work together in such issues where the Spanish experience is wider and where the shared interests will make us closer."

GERMANY:

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

In Berlin, where Obama "soared like a rock star" in front of hundreds of thousands of people this summer, poll after poll showed that if they had a vote, Germans would have overwhelmingly chosen him. "Finally, a victory over racism in the whole world. I hope it's going to be the end of racism," said one man. And over and over again, people spoke of hope. "I hope that all the dreams the people have now are coming true. So let's keep fingers crossed that he will be able to fulfill what America, but also the whole world, is expecting from him."

POLAND:

Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski spoke of "a new America with a new credit of trust in the world."

RUSSIA:

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev issued a congratulatory telegram, reports CBS News Moscow bureau chief Svetlana Berdnikova. "I expect to develop a constructive dialogue with you on the basis of confidence and respect for each other's interests," he said.

He said Russia is not inherently anti-American but suggested it is up to the United States to take the initiative in improving ties. Medvedev said Russia hopes that Obama's administration will "make a choice in favor of full-fledged relations with Russia."

At the same time, however, Medvedev promised to place missiles on his European borders if U.S. plans for an anti-missile system go ahead, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips.

Berdnikova reports Russia's other political entities were more generous. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov welcomed Obama's win. "His election is a choice in favor of a younger and more modern America, which is now completely disappointed in George W. Bush's policy … The Americans also cannot forgive the Republicans two lengthy wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Denis Bilunov, executive director of the United Civil Front, told Russia's Interfax news agency that Obama's election will result in considerable changes in the attitude to the U.S. among third world countries. "A black president is a new unusual tendency. All old propaganda clichés about America are now history." If the new U.S. administration criticizes Russia on democracy and human rights issues, "it won't be based on the same ideology as it would if McCain had won," he said.

AFGHANISTAN:

On Wednesday came news from the southern province of Kandahar that U.S. warplanes bombed a wedding party on Monday afternoon, killing 37 people (including 23 children and 10 women).

CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar reports Afghan President Hamid Karzai has demanded that President-elect Obama act immediately to prevent civilian casualties.

"My first demand from the newly-elected President of America when he takes office is to end the civilian casualities in Afghanistan and take the war to the safe havens and training comps of terrorism," Karzai said.

That's a change from the warm welcome offered by Karzai just hours ago:
"The American people have taken themselves, and the rest of the world into a new era, the era where race, color and ethnicity will also disappear as a factor in politics in the rest of the world."
Obama has not been so polite about Karzai. During the campaign he criticized the Afghan leader's failure to tackle corruption, the growing trade in illegal opium, and the ineffectiveness of his government.


President Obama will also have to make some decisions about the U.S. troop posture in Afghanistan. Gen. David Petraeus, chief of U.S. Central Command, is arguing for an Iraqi-like surge to combat increasingly effective Taliban fighters.

CUBA:

There's still no official reaction in Cuba to last night's election of Barack Obama, writes CBS's Portia Siegelbaum in Havana. But ordinary Cubans are asking: Will the new President lift the U.S. economic and trade embargo on the island? (He can't, it's up to Congress to do that.) Will he loosen the restrictions on travel to and from the U.S. so that they can see relatives who have immigrated? And will he lift the ceiling imposed in 2004 on how much money family members living in South Florida or elsewhere in the United States can send home? They are hopeful that he will do all these things and more.

Expectations have been running high ever since Obama became the Democratic Party candidate. The Cuban population, predominately young, Black or mixed race (like Obama), identify with him. People would have liked to watch the round-the-clock coverage available in many countries around the world. But except for hotel workers with access to CNN in Spanish and English or those with illegal satellite dishes, Cubans had to wait for the State-run media to announce Obama's victory, with little of the excitement heard elsewhere. Even this morning the Cuban Communist Party daily Granma ran only an analysis of the campaign written before the polls closed by Ramon Sanchez Parodi, a former head of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, Cuba's lone diplomatic outpost in the United States.

In a blog published yesterday former Cuban President Fidel Castro stopped short of endorsing Obama but did praise him as being "surely more clever, better educated and calm than his Republican adversary … He has well articulated ideas" and his election would reduce the danger of war and "increase the peoples' opportunities to progress" that a McCain victory would hamper.

In hushed voices those watching with us at CBS News' Havana office asked the really big question: "Is there really a chance he might meet with Raul [Castro]?"

During the campaign Obama expressed a willingness to sit down with the U.S.'s enemies, including the heads of Iran and Cuba, with whom Washington broke relations nearly fifty years ago. In several speeches over the past two years the Cuban President has held out an olive branch, saying Havana was willing to sit down with the new U.S. Administration on basis of equality and mutual respect.
  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.

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