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Southeast Asia: Views on U.S. elections and politics

U.S. elections matter to many people in Southeast Asia. Both U.S. presidential candidates – John McCain and Barack Obama – are popular in the region. McCain was a former Navy pilot during the Vietnam War; he spent five years in a Hanoi prison. A very young Obama lived in Jakarta for five years. He studied in two Indonesian schools.

Jennie S. Bev is proud of Obama. She lived in the same district where Obama stayed in Jakarta:

“Both Barack Obama and I once lived and grew up in the Menteng district of Central Jakarta. He went to SD Negeri 1 Menteng, while I went to Saint Theresia. Both schools were within a few minutes drive from each other, but of course unless time was a Mobius strip, we would not have met each other.

“I am proud of him, not just because we shared some commonalities in our upbringing, but because we believe in the promise of the future and that together we have the capacity and the courage to make meaningful changes.”

Asri Wijayanti from Indonesia is now in the U.S., and is wondering why there are few election posters in the streets:

“I was thinking, that the Americans were so fascinated, as much as I was, about this election. I imagined the stacks of posters and banners all the way, as crowded as it is in Indonesia at the campaign phase, but I was wrong.

“It was pretty surprising for me to see NOTHING related to the national election on the way. No photos of the candidates, no posters, no banners, nothing. I walked through the bus stops, campus corridors, downtown area, wondering. Why? Is it because everybody knows Obama and McCain so well? But are the people sure that they are going to vote?”

Then she notes the lack of voters’ education in media:

“I then learned that voter education is something rare in national media. I watched news channels, and I hardly see neutral electoral ads, or the ads that merely encourage people to register and cast their vote. Instead, compared to the dynamics in Indonesian election, the voter education activities in United States, in my eyes looks like underground phenomenon, the off-mainstream media programs, as the channels are more interested in the political waves itself then the encouragement to the people to be aware of their political rights.”

Patricio Mangubat from the Philippines is curious about Obama's anti-terror platform in the Asia-Pacific region:

“Obama has yet to address the increasing problems of terrorism in the Asia-Pacific region. We presume that Obama will continue the existing US policy against terror in the region, yet, up to what extent? Yes, anti-terror campaigns will definitely continue under either an Obama or a McCain presidency, but who'll be more vigilant and more vigorous in chasing after these Islamic terrorists? Given the record of Obama, will he be implementing a “softer” approach to this global menace?”

Khoo Kay Peng from Malaysia recognizes the need for politicians to show decisive leadership in times of crisis:

“US and Malaysia are facing the serious problem – but of different magnitude – with their domestic economy. It is probably much worse in the US than here. But there is a stark difference in the way politicians from both sides responded to the problem…We need politicians to show leadership during difficult times. Here in Malaysia, politicians busy jostling for positions.”

Asian Americans comprise a significant number in the United States. Who will win the Asian American vote? Jay encourages Cambodian Americans to actively participate in the election process. Brain Bang advises the Democrats on how to win the Filipino-American vote. Lao Voices highlights the poor economic situation of Lao Americans to argue against another Republican presidency:

“The situation for Lao Americans is far worse. According to the 2000 census, Lao Americans obtained a per capita (per person 25+) income of less than $12,000! Ironically, this is almost one tenth of the threshold where they benefit more from Republicans. Most will never make the Rep honey pot in their lifetime. More than one third of the Lao Americans even live below the poverty line. An estimated 98.5% of all Lao Americans will pay more taxes under McCain than under Obama. Go figure.”

Ridz.sg from Singapore is obviously not a fan of Vice President candidate Sarah Palin:

“Watching Sarah Palin is worrying though because the more I listen to what she has to say, the more of a joke she becomes to me. She evades every damn question. Wrong. She doesn’t even evade. She just talks about some other point and completely ignores the original question.”

On the other hand, CK's Musings is supporting Palin:

“Palin has struggled all her life, so I'm sure she'll understand the struggles the common people are going through when she is in the White House. She also speaks better and I don't feel like she's talking down to me. Biden and Obama are just too elitist, they make me feel like I'm a peon and that they hold all the answers.”

Hanqing values the experience advantage of McCain over Obama:

“Bottom line, the US (and the world) is going through a pretty trying period right now. I don’t think people really need to hear words of empowerment or inspirational sound bites that make them feel warm and fuzzy. They need to be reassured that they have a leader who has enough experience and mental toughness to help a country weather a crisis. And though John McCain may not be nearly as polished as Barack Obama is, his experience seems to make up for it.”

Akomismo from the Philippines compares McCain and Obama:

“Obama and McCain are yin and yang. Of all their contrasts, the assessment I agree with most is that they represent an America at the crossroads of two generations. One is from the America that has always been there: strong, triumphant, and takes pride in longevity and experience. The other is from an America that is just being born: cosmopolitan, global, and takes pride in diversity and change. What makes this election so close is that these two paradigms present equally valid ways of dealing with the present economic crisis, the lingering wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, and the standing of America at home and abroad. Thus, this isn’t about partisanship anymore, it’s about leadership. Who has what it takes to live out the vision of America they present?”

If informal surveys are to be believed, it seems Obama is more popular in the region. An Obama victory will be welcomed in Indonesia. Mum's the Word (or Pa) from Singapore believes it is impossible for McCain to win in the elections. Beyond SG discusses the role of social networking sites in today’s politics. A Vietnam non-profit group borrows the soundbytes of US candidates to promote their newsletter.

8 comments

  • Thanks for citing yours truly. This article was first published by The Jakarta Post. For archive of my articles: http://jenniesbev.typepad.com/blog/articles.html

  • CK

    I guess my attempt at sacarsm failed big time!

    Let me go on the record to say that I’m a proud Obama supporter.

    Cheers!

  • Great post… I grew up in Jakarta Indonesia as well so was curious to see if anyone had brought up this point as the debates are going on…

  • Thanks for the reference :) Yes, the US elections do matter a lot in this part of the world. The world is watching closely, especially since the US is going through a pretty rough patch.

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