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Cablegate: Special Media Reaction: Election of Barack Obama

VZCZCXRO8232
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHRB #1161/01 3520928
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 170928Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9446
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 3181
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 RABAT 001161

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/PPD, NEA/MAG, AND NEA/PI
LONDON, PARIS, DUBAI FOR MEDIA HUBS

E.0.12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM KDEM KPAO EAID KMPI MO
SUBJECT: Special Media Reaction: Election of Barack Obama

1. Summary: Reflecting broad Moroccan interest in the U.S.
presidential elections, the Moroccan press has been filled with
reporting and commentary on the election of Barack Obama as
America's 44th president. Commentators variously aver that Obama's
leadership will be to Morocco's benefit, detriment, or that
relatively little will change. The majority have expressed
excitement over the prospects of an Obama presidency, exemplified by
the weekly newspaper "La Verite," which wrote on 11/6: "For the
United States, as for the world, the opening of a new door was
necessary for this ravaged area [i.e. the Arab world]. ...This
election [lifts] our spirits and creates a favorable starting
point." A handful suggested that this excitement may be misplaced,
since Obama will serve American interests foremost. Four
overarching themes have emerged: 1) Obama's election will improve
the U.S. image abroad (and indeed this was one reason Americans
voted for him); 2) the upcoming Democratic administration may be
less sympathetic to the Moroccan position on Western Sahara than the
current administration; 3) the first election of an African-American
President will positively impact the aspirations of minorities
throughout the world; and 4) the lack of Moroccan participation in
politics is not a reflection of disillusion with politics in
general, but rather of Moroccan politics in particular. End
summary.

-----------------------------
Obama Will Restore U.S. Image
-----------------------------

2. The first theme - that Americans elected Barack Obama to improve
the United States' image abroad - surfaced in the numerous
celebratory and complimentary pieces portraying Obama's election as
positive for America and the world. Commentators reflected on the
President-elect's foreign policy promises to replace the Bush
administration's "unilateralism" and "imperialism" with a more
internationalist approach. Many hoped and predicted that America's
restored international standing would improve U.S. relations with
Arab countries specifically.

---------------------------------------
Change for the Worse on Western Sahara?
---------------------------------------

3. At the same time, the Moroccan press evinced concern that the
incoming Democratic administration would reevaluate the U.S. stance
on Western Sahara and take a position less favorable to Morocco's.
Some journalists wrote that Moroccan citizens were generally excited
about the incoming Obama administration, while the Moroccan
Government was wary. This stems from a general Moroccan impression,
reflected in the press coverage, that Republican administrations are
more "pro-Moroccan."

---------------------------
Implications for Minorities
---------------------------

4. The election of the first African-American president was
overwhelmingly touted as a major achievement and inspiration to
minorities world-wide. Moroccan press coverage contrasted this
result and the prominent role minorities play in American politics
with the general lack of minority representation in European
(especially French) elected politics. Some commentary observed that
Obama visited churches and synagogues but not mosques during his
campaign, taking this as evidence that Muslim religious minorities
could not expect to garner comparable respect.

--------------------------
Interest in Politics . . .
Just not Moroccan Politics
--------------------------

5. Some commentators explored the phenomenon that Moroccans
appeared far more interested in the U.S. elections than their own.
Their conclusion was that Moroccans were not apolitical or
apathetic; they followed the American elections closely because they
felt that the results would have a direct impact on their lives.
Moroccans' own votes, on the other hand, were perceived as having
little pragmatic value or potential to affect political change
because real power resided with non-elected figures, and because
political parties were perceived to be corrupt and unresponsive to
their constituencies.

---------------------
Selected Block Quotes
---------------------

6. "The Second American Revolution," editorial in pro-palace
French-language daily "Le Matin," 12/3:


RABAT 00001161 002 OF 002


"Wherever outgoing President Bush failed and lacked acumen, Barack
intends to make out of it a challenge to take up, even a question of
credibility. The composition of the new team provides both the tone
and the measure of the new stakes: restore the image of America,
undermined by apocalyptic management for eight years now. Curious
coincidence, it seems, that at the moment when the President-elect
was nominating his government, George W. Bush believed it necessary
to make his pathetic 'mea culpa' [on the faulty American
intelligence about WMD in Iraq]... Without a doubt, the arrival of
Barack Obama's team will soothe an America that has been constantly
depressed under a cataclysmic presidency, and will reconcile the
American people with their political leaders and the rest of
humanity. In other words, we will witness a second revolution of
the U.S., after the election of a man of mixed race to the White
House."

7. "Americans have chosen Obama to mend fences with the world," in
independent Arabic-language daily "Al Ahdath Al Maghrebiya," 11/24:

"The world has received with great joy the news of the victory of
Democratic candidate Barack Obama in the U.S. Presidential
elections. By voting for the black candidate, Americans wanted the
U.S. to mend fences with other peoples and get rid of George Bush's
legacy...What interests Americans today is not to have a white or a
black President, a Native American, or an Asian, but rather a new,
appropriate president to pursue a new policy more beneficial to
America, so that America can be strong in today's world with good
relations with the different peoples of the world."

8. "With morning coffee," daily commentary in independent
Arabic-language daily Al Massae, 11/17:

"Moroccans followed the latest American elections more than their
own legislative and communal elections... Why? First, they know that
elections in America and the nature of the candidate who wins will
have an impact on many issues [that they care about], such as the
war in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and
also the nature of the position the new U.S. Administration takes
regarding Arab regimes, democratic issues, human rights and the
assistance that will be offered to these countries. Second,
Moroccans followed with great interest the arrival of Barack Obama
to the White House because he is close 'psychologically' to their
feelings, due to his African origins, the fact that his father was a
Muslim, and that he, himself, had studied in a Quranic school in
Indonesia. But also Moroccans' hate of Bush, as is the case in many
other countries, have caused them to look forward to a change in the
world's most powerful country... Third, Moroccans have been
interested in U.S. elections because they lack democratic,
competitive and genuine elections in their country."

9. "The American lesson," in independent French-language daily "Le
Soir," 11/17:

"Who said that Moroccans were apolitical? Certainly they did
massively boycott the ballot boxes on September 7 [i.e. the last
Moroccan elections], and if nothing is done, the same scenario risks
being reproduced in 2009 or 2012. But they are still the same people
that were impassioned by the American presidential elections, and
they are still the same, each in his own way, who supported Barack
Obama. Even if there is no need to compare the incomparable, let's
dare offer some hypotheses. First of all, Moroccans clearly
understood the stakes of the elections: to [elect] one man to head
the first superpower of the world. Not all them understood the
(complicated) system of American voting, but the ends were obvious
to everybody. In our country, we never know (with exactitude) what
an election will bring us. Is the party that comes in first sure to
govern? Nothing is less certain. And even if this happens, everybody
or almost everyone is convinced that the power, the true one, is in
the hands of the King. Many prefer to [abstain] as long as their
vote has practically no political value. ... There is finally the
capacity of the candidate to fulfill his electoral promises. Obama
promised a clean break, McCain a soft transition. In patiently
[waiting] for more than five hours in front of the voting bureaus,
each American knew that the new host of the White House would,
constitutionally at least, have the possibility to implement his
program."

Riley

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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