A Race the Whole World Is Watching
Today, the United States, the strongest country in the world, will hold its presidential election. After more than a year of internal electoral processes, nation-wide campaigning, three presidential debates and one vice-presidential one, polling in the last few weeks shows a variance of 47 to 45 percent with undecided voters at 8 to 10 percent.
It is, of course, completely up to the American people as to whether Democratic candidates, President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden, will see four more years, or the Republican ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will try its hand in the White House. But the country’s size and particularly its global influence have always made the US presidential elections an attractive event for many around the world to follow.
Most of the issues raised during the debates and the campaign have centered around domestic concerns: tax cuts, health care, education, unemployment, the budget deficit, an immigration policy focusing on the revival of American industry and the economy at large with the ambition to get it back its once-mighty status.
Although foreign policy has rarely dominated American presidential elections since the Cold War, it is critical that the candidates do not take their eyes of what is happening in the rest of the world.
The Middle East is in turmoil, Europe faces a bleak economic winter, while Asia is rising anew. How these developments unfold will have a major impact on America and its domestic economy.
It is quite clear that Romney is not very familiar with America’s stake in the Asia-Pacific region. While Obama has pivoted toward the Pacific region given its rising economic strength and geostrategic importance, Romney seems fixated on reining in China.
Obama did mention during the debate that while his administration will pressure China to toe the line and obey international trade protocols, he also sees China as a potential partner to the United States. On the other hand, Romney declared that on the first day of his presidency, if elected, he would declare China as a currency manipulator. This may be just be political rhetoric, but it does not bode well for future relations with China, a strong and critical player in the Asia-Pacific region.
How will the US presidential elections impact Indonesia? History has shown that change in the US leadership has never adversely affected relations with Indonesia.
Relations have had their ups and downs during both Democratic and Republican presidencies, but there has not been a strategic shift.
So whoever wins the presidential elections, there will be no major change in relations between the two democratic nations.
At the same time, it is fair to say that during the Obama administration, particularly after the Comprehensive Partnership was signed, Indonesia has enjoyed a friendly, fruitful and cooperative relationship with the United States, mainly in the fields of economy, trade, education, democracy and institutional capacity building.
This positive and mutually beneficial relationship is not just because Obama spent four years living in Jakarta during his childhood, but it does help. That is why many Indonesians, including Barry’s family and friends, are following the elections so closely.
Theo L. Sambuaga is the president director of BeritaSatu Media Holdings, which publishes the Jakarta Globe.