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Cablegate: Singapore Media Reaction to U.S. Presidential

P 071004Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5981
INFO ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SINGAPORE 001190


FOR R - U/S GLASSMAN, EAP/PD - RFERGUSON-AUGUSTUS, PA/FPC -
SMACTAGGART, EAP AND EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO SCUL SN
SUBJECT: SINGAPORE MEDIA REACTION TO U.S. PRESIDENTIAL
ELECTION

1. (U) Summary: In cooperation with the American Association
of Singapore and the American Chamber of Commerce, the
Embassy held an Election Day brunch event at the American
Club on November 5. Over 250 Americans and Singaporeans
gathered to watch the results come in. This event capped a
popular series of Embassy-organized talks and events centered
on the U.S. Presidential Election. The election attracted
major attention in Singapore and the results received
unprecedented coverage in the local media. End Summary.

2. (U) The Election Day event received heavy turnout and
many people had to be turned away at the door. In addition
to projection screens showing election results, this event
featured conference calls with political commentators back in
the United States including Steven Akey, Mike McCurry, Bruce
Mehlman and former Ambassador to Singapore Frank Lavin. The
Embassy guests included several ambassadors, contacts from
various sections at the Embassy and a few high school
students and teachers from one of Post's American Connections
partners. The event received print, radio and television
coverage with 10 journalists in attendance.

3. (U) In the lead up to the election, Ambassador Herbold
and DCM Shields made presentations to Singaporean students,
civic groups, journalists and American Connections partners
about the U.S. electoral process and what made this election
unique. These talks received rave reviews with more than one
audience member saying that they felt they understood the
Electoral College system for the first time.

4. (U) The Embassy organized a debate between two Democrats
and two Republicans at the Jurong Regional Library, one of
Post's American Connections partners, on November 3. The
debaters - two professors, a former state lawmaker, and a
businessman - were well-prepared and passionate advocates for
their parties and candidates. Members of the audience jumped
into the fray during the question and answer portion of the
event. The event received television coverage from Channel
NewsAsia.

5. (U) The Singapore press gave the U.S. election heavy
coverage both during the campaign and after the results came
out. The Straits Times, Singapore's leading newspaper, ran
an unprecedented nine pages of coverage of the results,
including analysis and commentary. This exceeds the coverage
normally given to Singapore's own election results. The
Straits Times said, "If there is anyone out there who still
doubts that the US is really and truly multi-ethnic; who
still wonders if the dream of its founders can be exceeded;
who still questions the power of its polka-dot democracy,
tonight is your answer."

6. (U) Senator Obama's victory has generated debate as to
whether a non-Chinese could be elected Prime Minister in
Singapore, where 76 percent of the population is ethnically
Chinese. The New Paper tabloid said, "Overnight, American
voters put us to shame. They voted in a black president,
while Singaporeans will still baulk at accepting a
non-Chinese prime minister, say some political top guns and
many observers. In the evolution of democratic politics,
Americans just took a giant step forward. Meanwhile,
Singaporeans are still lumbering along like Third World
tribes, dragging our baggage of racial hang-ups." An opinion
piece in the Malay-language Berita Harian asked, "Can we
imagine what if an Obama emerged and won here? Could this be
accepted as a victory for all of the people in this country,
not just something one particular race or group could be
proud of?"

7. (U) The U.S. elections have also sparked some mild
discussion of Singapore's political system. Sue-Ann Chia,
one of 6 journalists the Embassy sent to the United States on
various programs this election season, wrote an article on
November 7 describing local elections in the United States.
She said, "In the US, grassroots democracy is an integral
part of its political system, one which treasures the value
of choice and contest at all levels." She proposed that
Singapore adopt a system of local elections to promote active
citizenry. One of Singapore's more prominent bloggers, "Mr.
Brown," who sometimes pushes Singapore's boundaries in
criticizing the government, wrote on November 6 that he would
hang on to an Obama bumper sticker to remind himself that
"change can happen." The comments to that post expressed
envy for the U.S. electoral system and were generally
pessimistic as to whether political change would soon come to
Singapore.

Visit Embassy Singapore's Classified website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/singapore/ind ex.cfm

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