Obama Victory Sparks Global Cheers

APRelatives carrying Obama's half brother Malik as they celebrate Obama's election Wednesday in Kogelo, Kenya.
TOKYO -- In city squares and living rooms, ballrooms and villages, the citizens of the world cheered the election of Barack Obama as U.S. president, ratcheting up hopes that America's first black commander in chief would herald a more balanced, less confrontational America.

People crowded before TVs or listened to blaring radios for the latest updates. In Sydney, Australians filled a hotel ballroom. In Rio, Brazilians partied on the beach. In the town of Obama, Japan, dancers cheered in delight when their namesake's victory was declared.

People the world over -- many of them in countries where the idea of a minority being elected leader is unthinkable -- expressed amazement and satisfaction that the United States could overcome centuries of racial strife and elect a black man -- and one with Hussein as a middle name as president.

Where Obama Stands on the Issues


Favors abortion rights.


Would add about 7,000 troops to the U.S. force of 32,000, bringing the reinforcements from Iraq. Has threatened unilateral attack on high-value terrorist targets in Pakistan as they become exposed "if Pakistan cannot or will not act" against them.


Sees opportunities and challenges in China's emergence. Has said he would not demonize China but would press Beijing to live up to international human rights standards and stop supporting repressive governments in Iran, Myanmar, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Has promised to press China on trade.


Would ease restrictions on family-related travel and on money Cuban-Americans want to send to their families in Cuba. Open to meeting new Cuban leader Raul Castro without preconditions. Favors easing the U.S. trade embargo if Havana "begins opening Cuba to meaningful democratic change."

Death Penalty

Supports death penalty for crimes for which the "community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage." As Illinois lawmaker, wrote bill mandating videotaping of interrogations and confessions in capital cases and sought other changes in a system that had produced wrongful convictions.

Energy-Global Warming

Supports 10-year, $150 billion fund for biofuels, wind, solar, plug-in hybrids, clean-coal technology and other "climate-friendly" measures. Mandatory reductions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, using a market-based, cap-and-trade system that would increase energy costs. Would consider limited expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling. $7,000 tax credit for the purchase of advance-technology vehicles; put 1 million plug-in hybrid cars on the road by 2015.

Financial Crisis

Two-year plan offering $3,000 tax credit to businesses for each new job created and enabling people to withdraw up to 15 percent of their retirement money, to a maximum of $10,000, without penalty, except for the usual taxes. Would temporarily extend an expiring tax break that lets small businesses immediately write off investments of up to $250,000 and sweeten small-business loans at a cost of about $5 billion. Estimated cost of proposals: $60 billion. Now favors a mandatory 90-day freeze on some foreclosures. Lobbied fellow lawmakers to support the $700 billion rescue plan. Extend unemployment benefits, offer tax credit covering 10 percent of annual mortgage-interest payments for "struggling homeowners."

Gay Marriage

Opposes constitutional amendment to ban it. Supports civil unions, says states should decide about marriage.

Guantanamo Bay Prison

Says Guantanamo should be closed and detainees allowed to challenge their detention. Criticized administration of George W. Bush for neglecting to develop a military justice system to ensure that those held were suspected terrorists instead of people "accidentally accused."

Health Care

Mandatory coverage for children, no mandate for adults. Aim for universal coverage by requiring larger employers to share costs of insuring workers and by offering coverage similar to that in plan for federal employees. Proposes spending $50 billion on information technology over five years to reduce health care costs over time. Tax Policy Center estimates overall plan's cost at $1.6 trillion over 10 years.


Voted for 2006 bill offering legal status to illegal immigrants subject to conditions, including English proficiency and payment of back taxes and fines. Voted for border fence.


Initially said he would meet President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions, now says he's not sure "Ahmadinejad is the right person to meet with right now." But says direct diplomacy with Iranian leaders would give the United States more credibility to press for tougher international sanctions. Says he would intensify diplomatic pressure on Tehran before Israel feels the need to take unilateral military action against Iranian nuclear facilities.


Spoke against war at start, opposed troop increase. Voted against one major military spending bill in May 2007; otherwise voted in favor of money to support the war. Says his plan would complete withdrawal of U.S. combat troops in 16 months. Initially said a timetable for completing withdrawal would be irresponsible without knowing what facts he would face in office.

Middle East Peace Process

Has promised a vigorous effort at Middle East peacemaking and staunch support for Israel. There has been little sign of progress in talks between the Israelis and Palestinians launched by Bush in Annapolis, Maryland, a year ago.

Missile Defense

Has expressed skepticism about the amount of money the United States is spending on missile defense. Supports deploying the European missile-defense system but only after it has been tested properly to prove its effectiveness, which could delay it for years.

North Korea

Distances himself from the hard-line policies that Bush adopted in his first term by playing up his willingness to continue direct talks with North Korea, which Bush only recently embraced. Favors a strong international coalition to eliminate North Korea's nuclear weapons program.


Has condemned Russia's August invasion of Georgia and favors allowing Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO. But has opposed calls by his Republican rival John McCain to expel Russia from the Group of Eight.

Stem Cell Research

Supports relaxing federal restrictions on financing of embryonic stem cell research.


Wants a no-fly zone to contain Sudanese government-sponsored violence in Darfur, ideally under the United Nations flag.


Raise income taxes on families making over $250,000 and individuals making over $200,000. Raise corporate taxes.


Seek to reopen North American Free Trade Agreement to strengthen enforcement of labor and environmental standards. In 2004 Senate campaign, called for "enforcing existing trade agreements," not amending them.

Sources: AP, Reuters

"What an inspiration. He is the first truly global U.S. president the world has ever had," said Pracha Kanjananont, a 29-year-old Thai sitting at a Starbuck's in Bangkok. "He had an Asian childhood, African parentage and has a Middle Eastern name. He is a truly global president."

In an interconnected world where people in its farthest reaches could monitor the presidential race blow by blow, many observers echoed Obama's own campaign mantra as they struggled to put into words their sense that his election marked an important turning point.

"I really think this is going to change the world," gushed Akihiko Mukohama, 34, the lead singer of a band that traveled to Obama, Japan, to perform -- wearing an "I Love Obama" T-shirt -- at a promotional event for the president-elect.

The magnitude and emotion of the world reaction illustrated the international character of the U.S. presidency. Many look to Washington as the place where the global issues of war and peace, prosperity or crisis, are decided.

"This is an enormous outcome for all of us," said John Wood, the former New Zealand ambassador to the United States. "We have to hope and pray that President Obama can move forward in ways which are constructive and beneficial to all of us."

Hopes were also high among those critical of President George W. Bush's policies that an Obama victory would herald a more inclusive, internationally cooperative U.S. approach. Many cited the Iraq war as the type of blunder Obama was unlikely to repeat.

At a party in Rio de Janeiro where Brazilians and Americans watched results come in, 33-year-old music producer Zanna said an Obama win would show that "Americans have learned something from the bad experiences of the Bush administration and that they choose well -- that they choose Obama."

Indeed, even as they raised expectations, many U.S.-watchers were quick to point out that Obama would have to confront enormous problems once in office: wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tenacious difficulties in the Middle East and North Korea, a world economy in turmoil.

Europe, where Obama is overwhelmingly popular, is one region that looked eagerly to an Obama administration for a revival in warm relations after the Bush government's chilly rift with the continent over the Iraq war.

"At a time when we have to confront immense challenges together, your election raises great hopes in France, in Europe and in the rest of the world," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a congratulatory letter to Obama.

Skepticism, however, was high in the Muslim world. The Bush administration alienated those in the Middle East by mistreating prisoners at its detention center for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison -- human rights violations also condemned worldwide.

Some Iraqis, who have suffered through five years of a war ignited by the United States and its allies, said they would believe positive change when they saw it. "Obama's victory will do nothing for the Iraqi issue nor for the Palestinian issue," said Muneer Jamal, a Baghdad resident. "I think all the promises Obama made during the campaign will remain mere promises."

Still, many around the world found Obama's international roots -- his father was Kenyan, and he lived four years in Indonesia as a child -- compelling and attractive.

Kenya's president, Mwai Kibaki, declared a public holiday on Thursday in honor of Obama's election victory.

Scenes of jubilation broke out in the western village of Kogelo, where Obama's late father was born. A group of exuberant residents picked up the president-elect's half brother Malik and carried him through the village.

"Unbelievable!" Malik shouted, leading the family in chanting, "Obama's coming, make way!"