The World Reacts to Obama's Reelection

For he’s a jolly good fellow: Kogelo, Kenya. Ben Curtis / AP

A day after the Russian Central Election Commission warned darkly that the U.S. presidential elections would be neither free nor fair, that the vote would fall woefully short of “international election principles,” and that Barack Obama would wrest a win by recourse to violations of democratic norms, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev appeared to welcome Obama’s reelection in a post on his Facebook page. In language that was not entirely gushing, but which, in the current context of U.S.-Russian relations, should qualify as entirely cordial, Medvedev wrote that “Barack Obama is an understandable and predictable partner for us.” Continuing his inelegant compliment, one that was both strained and repetitive, the Russian prime minister explained that “predictability is the most important quality for politics. In this respect, Barack Obama is a predictable enough partner for Russia, and I hope Russia is going to have normal relationship with him—that is important for the overall situation in the world.” Medvedev had a message, also, for Mitt Romney, the man who’d earned Moscow’s opprobrium in the course of his campaign with some famously unfriendly references to Russia. “I am glad,” Medvedev stressed, with more than a hint of relish, “that the president of a very big and influential state—U.S.A.—is not going to be the man who considers Russia the enemy No. 1.” Medvedev’s boss, ­Vladimir Putin, also took note of the election. The Kremlin reported that he had congratulated Obama—­anachronistically, in this column’s view—by “telegram.”

A more unstinting ­message than Medvedev’s came Obama’s way from David
Cameron. “Warm congratulations to my friend @BarackObama,” tweeted an elated British prime minister. “Look forward to continuing to work together.” There was, notably, no sense of loss or dismay among Conservatives in Britain’s House of Commons. When Obama’s victory was announced, members of Cameron’s party cheered and waved their order papers with impressive vim and enthusiasm. Romney is not liked in Britain since he disparaged London’s preparations for the Olympic Games, and Cameron had made little secret in private briefings of his hopes for an Obama win. In fact, as a report in London’s Spectator indicates, Cameron and his inner circle are “mighty relieved” that Obama was voted back into office. The two men—the youngest leaders of any major country in the world—have shown an unlikely affinity, and Cameron indicated within hours of Obama’s victory that he was eager to sit down with the American president to address the civil war in Syria. “One of the first things I want to talk to Barack about is how we must do more to try to solve this crisis.”

None of the celebrations in the House of Commons quite matched the ululations in Kogelo, Obama’s ancestral hamlet in Kenya, where ­villagers—fueled no doubt by generous access to the local Tusker lager—responded to the election results with ­unalloyed euphoria. (The district witch doctor had, of course, predicted the result.) Reuters reports that residents of the dusty little place, which has received numerous face-lifts in the years since its high-flying “son” became the most powerful man in the world, erupted into chants of “Obama! Obama! Obama!” as “Obama!” was declared victor. Throngs gathered outside the home of his grandmother, Sarah, who said, with a sweetly matriarchal sobriety, “I would just like to tell him to give his best to the people who have shown their faith in him by electing him.” Obama also received advice from his half-brother Mustafa: “If I had a chance to talk to him, which hopefully I will get after he is inaugurated again, my message would be to focus on Africa.” Kenya’s president, Mwai Kibaki, was somewhat more muted than the village of Kogelo. In 2008, after Obama’s first election victory, he had declared a national holiday. This time, in the absence of electrifying novelty, he did no more than send Obama a message of congratulations.

world-obama-iran Obama: The Iranian vote Atta Kenare / AFP-Getty Images

Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, whose love for Obama is, as yet, unproven, ordered members of his garrulous coalition to stay utterly mum after a few of them mouthed off undiplomatically when news of the Democrat’s victory reached them. Danny Danon, a member of the Knesset from the prime minister’s Likud Party, had said, “The state of Israel will not surrender to Obama. We have no one to rely on but ourselves.” Another Likud lawmaker stated, just as bluntly, that “Obama is not good for Israel,” while Eli Yishai, who heads the Orthodox Shas party and serves as interior minister in Bibi’s cabinet, declared at a conference in Eilat—apropos of Obama’s victory—that it was “not a very good morning for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.” The Israeli media report that these statements so alarmed Netanyahu that he rushed out a fiat that no legislator in his coalition was permitted to comment publicly on Obama’s reelection without getting clearance from the prime minister’s office. Others in Israel were in a jauntier mood. Tzipi Livni, a leader of the opposition, expressed joy on her Facebook page, and Yossi Verter, the political analyst at the newspaper Haaretz, dwelt gleefully on the irony of Sheldon Adelson—the Jewish American casino tycoon who lavished money on the
Romney campaign—betting on the wrong man. “You’d expect a guy who made his fortune in gambling to handle himself a little more wisely.”

The Iranians, for their part, played true to truculent form. Commenting on Obama’s reelection, Sadeq Larijani, the formidable head of Iran’s judiciary, made clear that the results made little difference to his country. “Four years ago, Obama announced that he would extend the hand of cooperation to Iran. But he pursued a different path and imposed sanctions, and it is natural that the Iranian people will never forget such crimes.” The official news agency Fars did, however, live-blog the election, suggesting that interest in the elections in Enemy Country runs deep among Iran’s beleaguered people. And in its report on the result, Fars went for a decidedly lively headline, one that Iran watchers suggest reveals that Tehran—for all its official bluster about Obama and Romney being indistinguishably awful—has a subtle preference for the man who was just returned to the White House: “Republican’s elephant crushed by Democrat’s donkey.”

With Luke Darby and Jane Teeling