The world watches — and wor­ries — as U.S. pre­pares to vote

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY NIKOLIA APOSTOLOU

LESBOS, GREECE | The same chasm that has di­vided Amer­i­can vot­ers in this pres­i­den­tial elec­tion has opened up abroad too. And while dif­fer­ent coun­tries fa­vor dif­fer­ent can­di­dates, there’s a wide­spread dis­be­lief that the con­test to run the world’s reign­ing su­per­power has come down to the two can­di­dates left in the race.

Many for­eign­ers are crit­i­cal of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s record but still sup­port the Demo­cratic candidate as the bet­ter — and safer — choice, while oth­ers ac­knowl­edge Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump’s short­com­ings but find ways to root for the real es­tate ty­coon.

Mrs. Clin­ton, a former first lady and much-trav­eled sec­re­tary of state, is a known com­mod­ity — for good or ill — for in­ter­na­tional ob­servers try­ing to gauge the im­pact of Nov. 8’s vote. It is the un­ex­pected suc­cess of Mr. Trump and his mes­sage that is the wild card for many around the world. For many tra­di­tional U.S. al­lies, the GOP nom­i­nee’s po­si­tions on im­mi­gra­tion, trade and for­eign pol­icy put him beyond the pale, while, for many tra­di­tional ri­vals, no­tably Rus­sia and China, Mr. Trump’s will­ing­ness to ques­tion main­stream U.S. for­eign pol­icy think­ing is what makes him in­trigu­ing.

In Ger­many, many ex­pressed be­wil­der­ment that Amer­i­cans were even con­sid­er­ing vot­ing for Mr. Trump, whom they re­gard as a buf­foon. “Is Trump a Sex Mon­ster?” asked a head­line last week in the coun­try’s big­gest tabloid, Bild.

“I found it funny that Trump was run­ning in the be­gin­ning, but now it’s a bit sad,” said Chris­tian Esker, 24, a grad­u­ate stu­dent at the Her­tie School of Govern­ment in Ber­lin. “It’s his style of pol­i­tics — ly­ing and us­ing flashy facts. For Ger­man pol­i­tics, he is too much of a show­man.”

Mr. Esker’s views echoed the find­ings of an opin­ion sur­vey con­ducted in 25 coun­tries in June by French polling firm IPSOS. Only Rus­sian and Chi­nese cit­i­zens would elect Mr. Trump were they given a vote, the poll found. Mrs. Clin­ton swept the other coun­tries, gar­ner­ing par­tic­u­larly heavy ma­jori­ties in France and Ger­many.

Half­way around the globe, fewer than a third of In­di­ans sup­ported Mr. Trump, ac­cord­ing to the IPSOS poll, but the feel­ings there on Mrs. Clin­ton were also mixed. The ap­prox­i­mately 20 In­di­ans who at­tended a proTrump rally in cen­tral Delhi’s Jan­tar Man­tar Square Wed­nes­day burned an ef­figy of the former first lady be­cause they felt she was not suf­fi­ciently tough on Pak­istan or Is­lamic ter­ror­ism while serv­ing as sec­re­tary of state dur­ing Pres­i­dent Obama’s first term in of­fice.

The demon­stra­tors lauded Mr. Trump for his com­pli­men­tary re­marks in New Jer­sey about In­dia’s pro-busi­ness Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, who has been crit­i­cized for pro­mot­ing Hin­duism at home and abroad in tech­ni­cally sec­u­lar In­dia.

Mr. Trump “would be the bet­ter U.S. pres­i­dent be­cause Hil­lary Clin­ton was the one who had ini­ti­ated the Is­lamic State,” said Rashmi Gupta, who is a mem­ber of Jindu Sena, an ac­tivist group that pro­motes Hin­duism in In­dian so­ci­ety. “Obama has been in power for eight years, but what have the Democrats done? There is no pres­sure on Pak­istan. If Hil­lary Clin­ton comes back to power, it will be the same thing. If Trump gets in power in the U.S., In­dia will get an ex­tra boost.”

Like many around the world, In­di­ans are fol­low­ing the ins and outs of the rau­cous Amer­i­can cam­paign sur­pris­ingly closely.

Ms. Gupta waved off the re­cent string of sex­ual ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions that have been lev­eled against Mr. Trump. “These peo­ple are com­ing up, and they are sab­o­tag­ing the Trump cam­paign af­ter 17 or 20 years,” she said. “There is no le­gal ac­tion; there is no po­lice com­plaint.”

Ms. Gupta and her friends say they sup­port an “In­dia First” pol­icy, and see no prob­lem with Mr. Trump push­ing his own “Amer­ica First” stance to­ward the rest of the world, they said. For and against the sta­tus quo Her view il­lus­trates how for­eign­ers’ feel­ings about the Amer­i­can pres­i­den­tial elec­tions re­flect their opin­ions on the cur­rent state of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions. Like Amer­i­can vot­ers who say they want to change the ways of Wash­ing­ton, those un­happy with the in­ter­na­tional sta­tus quo are far more will­ing to give the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee a hear­ing.

Many in In­dia and coun­tries out­side the or­bit of Amer­i­can al­liances feel like their coun­try is strug­gling against the odds to grow and de­velop. They want an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent who is go­ing to shake up world pol­i­tics, not keep things as they are, said Spy­ros So­fos, pro­fes­sor at the Cen­ter for Mid­dle Eastern Stud­ies at Lund Univer­sity in Swe­den.

Hil­lary Clin­ton “en­vis­ages con­ti­nu­ity with a tra­di­tion that sees the U.S. ac­tive in the world, more com­mit­ment to mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism, but also treats Rus­sian as­pi­ra­tions — as well as Chi­nese as­sertive­ness — as a po­ten­tial threat,” said Mr. So­fos. “Trump would pur­sue a more iso­la­tion­ist course with more uni­lat­er­al­ism where en­gage­ment would be deemed nec­es­sary.”

But it’s not al­ways ide­ol­ogy or self­in­ter­est that drives for­eign sen­ti­ment about the U.S. vote.

An­gela Wa­ters in Ber­lin, Ja­cob Wirtschafter in Cairo, Pe­tra Sorge in New Delhi, Ben­jamin Plack­ett in Lon­don and Tonny Onyulo in Nairobi con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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