Cablegate: Us Election Results Overshadow New Zealand

DE RUEHWL #0376/01 3110224
O 060224Z NOV 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary. The election of Barack Obama was greeted
enthusiastically in New Zealad with extensive press coverage
and media commentary. The Embassy-sponsored election viewing
events on November 5 in Auckland and Wellington had large
crowds who watched the election returns and speeches by John
McCain and President-elect Obama. Both speeches were
well-received and some GNZ officials lamented that their own
political contest lacked the electricity and historic nature
of the US election. Both Prime Minister Clark and opposition
leader John Key drew encouragement from the U.S. election
results; Clark noting that the Democratic Party victory was
evidence of a swing to the left in the U.S. and Key comparing
Obama's win to the New Zealand public's desire for change.
End Summary.

Kiwis Celebrate Obama Victory

2. (U) At a U.S. Embassy-hosted event at Wellington's civic
center, over three hundred invited guests joined with the
Ambassador and other mission staff to watch the election
returns on CNN and Fox Network. The turnout was exceptional,
and New Zealand television, radio, and print media
participated, interviewing Embassy officials as well as
guests for their reactions throughout the evening. The
Ambassador characterized the election as a great example of
democracy, along with the recent election in Canada and
upcoming polls in New Zealand. New Zealand politicians and
government officials from a variety of ministries were
present, as were embassy officials from other diplomatic
missions in New Zealand, students from Victoria University
and leading New Zealand opinionmakers.

3. (U) ConGen Auckland also hosted a capacity crowd event,
which included close to ninety members of Auckland's
American, academic, business, consular, and media communities
in the Consulate offices. Two Members of Parliament
(Labour's Judith Tizard and National's Tim Groser) took time
from busy campaign schedules to watch the election results
and stayed most of the evening.

4. (SBU) John McCain's concession speech was uniformly
applauded by audiences at both events, with guests praising
the gracious content, particularly the sympathy the
Republican candidate extended to Obama over the recent death
of his grandmother. Obama's speech got rave reviews from
audience members, many of whom commented on how excited they
were to be watching an event of historic significance. A
number of guests teared up during Obama's speech. One NGO
leader was elated, saying that Obama's victory represented a
turning point for the United States. Labour and National
party participants were happy although one senior Labour
staff member privately worried that the U.S. move for change
might be replicated in the coming weekend elections in New
Zealand. A former National speaker of Parliament greeted
Obama's election enthusiastically; a few people were McCain
supporters and admitted some disappointment, but nevertheless
thought Obama's election would be positive for the U.S. image
worldwide. An MFAT official told of an election-watching
party within one of the ministry's divisions and another
contact said her sister, who is a senior MFAT official, left
work early to go home and watch the U.S. election returns.

U.S. Results Dominate News

5. (U) Media reporting of the U.S. election results on
November 6 dominated all outlets, overshadowing other major
stories -- even New Zealand's elections in two days. The news
media gave the U.S. election far greater coverage than the
Howard/Rudd contest in Australia. There has been a steady
diet of media reporting and newspaper articles on the U.S.
election since before the primaries, with coverage
intensifying in the last month. Both major newspapers on
November 6 devoted their editorial columns to the U.S.
election; the New Zealand Herald's world section was expanded
on November 6 and almost exclusively devoted to the U.S.
election. One news station gave five hours of coverage to
the election. No detail was too insignificant and there was
great interest in the U.S. electoral college. The Consul
General in Auckland was on television on November 5
explaining the electoral college system, and many New
Zealanders understand the U.S. system better than most

6. (SBU) Press reaction has been highly positive,
characterizing the historic nature of the election win of
Obama and 2009 as a turning point for U.S. relations with the
world. Many of the New Zealanders at the mission-sponsored

WELLINGTON 00000376 002 OF 002

events viewed the President-elect as a
post-ideological/political figure and inspirational beyond
U.S. borders. Obama's acceptance speech was quoted at length
by all media outlets and given prominence by most
commentators. On the implications of Obama's election on
US-New Zealand relations, some journalists have focused on
trade as an area where a Democratic Administration in
Washington may not be as amenable to a trade agreement
between the two countries.

Helen and John Who?

7. (SBU) Overlapping with televised coverage of the U.S.
election returns on the evening of November 5 was the third
and final leaders debate between Helen Clark and John Key.
The final debate between the two leaders was more restrained
and polite than the other two, with both politicians seeking
to wrap up their respective campaigns on a high note. Media
pundits roundly gave the debate to Clark, although the
public's attention has largely been diverted to the U.S.
election. The debate came on while the U.S. Embassy party
was still going on in Wellington, and we switched on one
television to the debate for the remaining guests. No one
bothered to watch, preferring to continue discussions about
the U.S. election. Privately, several guests lamented that
the New Zealand contest has lacked the spark and historic
significance of the U.S. election.

8. (SBU) One recent poll shows voters preferring a
National-led government with nearly 50 percent of the vote
and a Labour-led govenment at 40.7 percent. If these results
mirror Saturday's vote totals, National could form a
government easily in the post-election period with the
support of the two minor parties (Act and United Future) who
have already indicated a willingness to join in a
National-led government. Both Clark and Key drew
encouragement from the U.S. election results. Helen Clark
said the Democratic victory signalled a move to the left in
the United States, while John Key compared the mood for
change in the U.S. to that in New Zealand.


9. (SBU) New Zealanders have warmly welcomed Barack Obama's
election and the Embassy and ConGen Auckland have received
overwhelmingly positive feedback for hosting events on the
U.S. election night. The crowds at both sites were strongly
pro-Obama, and there was a sense of delight and amazement at
how America could reinvent itself with a President from
less-than-optimal circumstances. The most repeated sentiment
was "this could only happen in America."

© Scoop Media

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