From the cafes of Beirut to the villages of Kenya, much of the world viewed Barack Obama's electoral triumph as a transformative event that could repair the battered reputation of the U.S., lift the aspirations of minorities everywhere and renew the chances for diplomacy rather than war.
Huge numbers of foreigners and U.S. citizens abroad jammed venues for live broadcasts of vote counting. In Rio de Janeiro, Ryan Steers, a 23-year-old Brazilian documentary filmmaker, said that Obama could improve the United States' image abroad.
“Obama is someone the world can trust,” Steers said. “That is the most important thing for America right now: regaining its trust in the world community.”
Many could barely believe the news. In London's Trafalgar Square, a reporter told Hannah Capella, a 20-year-old student, of the election result. “That's amazing,” said Capella, an Englishwoman. “I really didn't think it could happen. … I always thought he was too good to be true,” she said of Obama. “We'll see.”
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In every corner of the globe, foreign citizens are expecting a more cooperative approach to the world's problems under an Obama administration than they experienced from President Bush, McClatchy Newspapers correspondents reported.
In the Middle East, many Israelis remained wary of Obama, but many Arabs viewed his victory as pointing the way out of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. In Latin America, many took heart in the meteoric rise of an African American politician.
Pakistanis worried that Obama's ascent will lead to more U.S. bombings of Pakistan territory, and other Asians wondered how Obama could calm the global financial turmoil. Almost everywhere, however, people welcomed the fresh face of U.S. leadership.
In Kenya, the birthplace of Obama's late father, President Mwai Kibaki declared today a national holiday.
With U.S.-led wars still under way in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a financial meltdown shaking the pillars of the world economy, many foreigners associated the Bush presidency with global uncertainty linked to a never-ending war on terrorism, and they're happy to see it draw to a close.
“I'm just really, really happy,” said Shane Inwood, an English teacher who was watching U.S. election returns in an Irish pub in Osaka, Japan. “It is more to do with ‘Goodbye, Bush' than ‘Hello, Obama.'”
Some said Obama's victory was a call to re-examine racial issues in their own countries.
“The Maoris and the Pacific Islanders are going to take inspiration from him,” said Calum McKenzie, 34, speaking from the Mustang Saloon & Grill in Auckland, New Zealand.
The campaign drew intense interest in the Middle East, where residents gathered before dawn in cafes, bars and shops to watch the historic election unfold.
Even if they disagreed with his politics, Israelis and Palestinians, Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Arabs and Jews all saw Obama's victory as a transforming event for the United States and the world. There was broad belief that Americans were embracing a new strategy for the region, one that relies on diplomacy. Many saw that as a change for the better.
In a Beirut restaurant, Miriam, a 28-year-old from southern Lebanon, said that her two brothers, both members of the militant Islamic group Hezbollah, saw Obama as an American leader who was willing to take diplomatic risks to avoid military confrontations.
“They think Obama will not damage the Middle East the way Bush did, and they were afraid if McCain made it, the whole region would be in danger,” she said.
Perhaps the most serious reservations about Obama in the region are in Israel, where some worry that his pledge to engage America's adversaries is naive.
Those concerns were reflected in a poll in Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that found that Israelis favored McCain over Obama, 46 percent to 34 percent.