World tunes in to see Obama win

November 5, 2008
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, SYDNEY, November 5 – From the bars of London to the small Japanese town of Obama, it seemed like the whole world tuned in Wednesday to see Barack Obama win one of the most anticipated US presidential races for decades.

Parties spilled onto the streets, share traders were glued to their screens and expat Americans joined election-day rallies in cities around the globe as Obama beat the Republican John McCain to the White House.

For the tens of millions more without a direct share in the vote, it was a chance also to see Obama make history as the first black US leader.

In Obama, an ancient fishing town on the Sea of Japan, residents dressed in Hawaiian skirts and did a hula dance in celebration, embracing Hawaiian-born Obama as one of their own.

"I\’m so excited because Obama shares our town\’s name. But even if the town was called McCain I would still support Barack Obama," said 44-year-old dancer Masayo Ishibashi.

In London, Americans clutching hot dogs and swigging bottled beer crowded the Democrat-dominated Yates bar in the nightclub quarter, the second largest party in town after a bash at the US embassy.

"It would be nice to have a president who is celebrated when he goes abroad and his effigy is not burned," said David Grey, who runs a male salon.

There were similar scenes across western Europe. In Berlin, CNN and German media giant Bertelsmann threw a party with mini hamburgers and chicken nuggets on the Unter den Linden boulevard — just down the road from where Obama drew 200,000 people to hear him speak in July.

Catherena Oostveen, a German-Russian actress who trained in Los Angeles and New York, showed up in a red-white-and-blue t-shirt and a cowboy hat.

"Obama is so intelligent and inspiring that I hope he can change the things that the rest of the world is so angry about right now," she said.

In Paris, American expats gathered at one of Ernest Hemingway\’s favourite watering holes as well as other bars.

Across town, proudly wearing an Obama pin, Herve Moussakanda loaded up his plate with cheese before sidling up to a big screen in a Paris club.

"I just couldn\’t miss this. This is historic. A dream come true," he said, one of hundreds of French blacks here cheering the first African-American to win the White House.

In an upmarket suburb of the Indonesian capital Jakarta, where Obama spent part of his schooldays, ex-classmate Dewi Asmara Oetojo recalled an easy-going little boy who said he wanted to be president.

"It\’s just amazing, I mean we\’re so proud of him," said Oetejo, a lawmaker in Indonesia\’s parliament.

"At that time we were so small we never thought he had the qualities of a leader. He said \’I want to be president\’ and we all thought it was so funny."

In Afghanistan, where tens of thousands of US soldiers are still fighting Al-Qaeda remnants and the Taliban, about 150 Americans, Afghans and US embassy staff watched the results come in at the upmarket Serena hotel — targeted by bombers in January.

Rafaat, an Afghan who runs a finance company and spends much of his time in the United States, said Obama would be a welcome change from President George W. Bush.

"This is a good news for America and for Afghanistan," he said.

"We are fed up with Bush and his policies. My wife voted for Bush in 2000 and we regretted it for seven years."

Celebrations began early in Sydney, with hundreds of people packed into an event organised by expat Democrats and spilling onto the street.

"The drinks are flowing and everybody is already pretty into the party and it\’s hard to believe, when you step outside, it\’s still the middle of the day on a work day," said Lyndsi Crowder, a volunteer.

Cubans spent the hours glued to their TV sets, some capturing US channels illegally with a satellite receiver.

"It\’s not that I\’m a fan of politics," said Elisa, a 36-year-old Old Havana resident who did not want to give her last name, "but these elections are very important.

"If Obama finally wins, many things could start to change between Cuba and the United States."

Many of Beijing\’s expat bars were also full to the brim. Some introduced a special breakfast with red and blue cocktails representing the candidates.

At the swanky Marriott Renaissance hotel, 600 Chinese students, academics and government officials were hosted by US embassy officials, who gave them a taste with a voting booth complete with ballot box and real ballot.

Joyce Tu, a pro-Obama Chinese businesswoman, lamented the lack of elections in China.

"China will never have a minority president," she told AFP, "and will never have a non-Communist party president as long as we never have elections."

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