President Barack Obama was re-elected Tuesday, November 6, 2012, over Republican candidate Mitt Romney, winning the Electoral votes 332-206. With over 50% of the popular vote, President Obama was able to maintain, and in some cases better, his percentage of minority voters to not only gain a decisive victory over his opponent, but also demonstrated the impact of changing voter demographics in the United States. A critical component to President Obama’s victory was the growth of Asian-American voters, of whom more than 70% chose the incumbent over Mr. Romney.
Leading up to the election, many voters believed that President Obama’s handling of foreign policy over the last four years was a clear advantage to gain re-election. Under the Obama administration, diplomatic and military relations with Asia have received more attention, with administration officials seeking to create stronger ties with the region.
Leaders from around Asia offered congratulations to President Obama on his victory, with calls to promote and strengthen future relations. President Noynoy Aquino of the Philippines stated on his Twitter page, “The Philippines looks forward to deepening the cooperation between the Philippines and the United States in Mr. Obama’s second term.”
China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said, “[China will] look to the future and make continuous efforts for fresh and greater progress in the building of the China-US cooperative partnership.”
Leaders from Central Asia and the Caucasus’s reacted similarly, congratulating President Obama wholeheartedly, while stressing that he should maintain strong relations going into his second term. Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian responded by sending “warmest congratulations and best wishes” to the President, adding that “our multifaceted cooperation will yield new impressive results for the mutual benefit of our peoples.”
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev sent Mr. Obama a telegram stating, “I am confident that in such a difficult period, under your leadership, the United States will become a powerful force for stability and prosperity in the world. I wish you and your family health and happiness, and success in your work, as well as the prosperity to the American people.”
The reaction from countries in the Middle East was a bit more mixed. Tensions within the region have grown over the last four years with the increases in drone strikes and rapid changes in leadership with the Arab Spring. The United States’ continued presence in the region will also come under scrutiny as the military begins its 2014 drawdown in Afghanistan. Despite these concerns, many leaders offered their hopeful support to Mr. Obama upon his reelection.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose controversial statements during the election became the center of many debates between Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney, stated that “I will continue to work with President Obama to preserve the strategic interests of Israel’s citizens.”
A representative for Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai remarked, “The president hopes that with President Obama’s re-election, relations between Afghanistan and the United States, based on bilateral interests, are further expanded.”
Pakistan and Turkey perhaps had the most enthusiastic reactions. A representative of the Pakistani government spoke on behalf of the President, noting that he “… Expressed the hope that the relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. would continue to prosper during President Obama’s new term in office.” While Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul stated, “I am delighted to confirm that we share the same vision as you in especially strengthening the economic and trade dimensions of our relations in the next term.”
Not all leaders had positive reactions to Mr. Obama’s re-election. Many stressed the need for different positions from the administration in the next four years. The Hamas Government expressed harsh sentiments: “We listened to the moderate speech by Obama in the wake of his first presidential victory, but his policy did not fit into this discourse and in front of him now is an opportunity to apply what he had promised of the region away from the pressures of the Israeli lobby.”
Mohammad Shtayyeh, aid to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, added, “President Obama has spent four years in the office; unfortunately he hasn’t done much for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
Given the current climate in the region and recent events in Gaza, the administration is likely to remain preoccupied with the Middle East for some time. Harsh criticism regarding President Obama’s handling of the Israeli-Palestine conflict and escalating tensions between Israel and Iran will pose challenges in the next four years. With the anticipated resignation of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, President Obama will have to make critical decisions about who will best be able to handle these situations going forward and adjust policies to address the new challenges and realities on the ground.
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