67% expect US-international relations to improve under Obama

In a poll of 17,000 people in 17 countries for the BBC, 67% said that they expected US relations with the rest of the world to improve under President Obama (even higher than the 47% polled before Nov 4th who expected an improvement if he was elected).

Watch & discuss inauguration live with Avaaz

Our friends at Avaaz, the global online movement for social change, have arranged for a live stream of the inauguration tomorrow, with the opportunity to discuss the event, the issues as Barack Obama becomes the 44th US president.

Event coverage starts at 11am (local time), Tuesday January 20th live from Washington DC - local times include: Rio (2pm), London (4pm), Geneva (5pm), Hong Kong (midnight).

(the map shows the distribution of Avaaz members worldwide)

Meanwhile, Malcolm is back in the US for the third time in six months to blog the inauguration. The BBC has photos of people in Brazil, Kenya, Ireland and Sudan preparing for inauguration celebrations.

The World Wants... Lincoln

Delving back into history a little, Barack Obama will not be the first President from Illinois to receive international moral support. In 1862 textile workers from Manchester, England, who were suffering economic hardship as a result of the Union blockade on Confederacy ports (from where they sourced cotton), wrote to Abraham Lincoln to nevertheless express their support for him because "the vast progress which you have made in the short space of twenty months fills us with hope that every stain on your freedom will shortly be removed, and that the erasure of that foul blot on civilisation and Christianity - chattel slavery - during your presidency, will cause the name of Abraham Lincoln to be honoured and revered by posterity. We are certain that such a glorious consummation will cement Great Britain and the United States in close and enduring regards." Lincoln wrote back saying that their self-sacrificial support was: "an energetic and re-inspiring assurance of... the ultimate and universal triumph of justice, humanity and freedom."

Obamania in the "arc of instability"

Refering to the "arc of instability from the Mediterranean to Islamabad", veteran British columnist Simon Jenkins, on a visit to Lebanon, writes: "At last this exhausted region is energised - by its old foe. From the Mediterranean to Islamabad, people battered for a decade by dreadful US policies are in the grip of Obamania." He observes: "Any traveller to these parts at present is overwhelmed by Obamania. From the dinner tables of Lahore to the lecture halls of Beirut's American University, the president-elect carries an astonishing burden of expectation. To a people for whom George W Bush became synonymous with mindless anti-Americanism, Obama's race, name, moderation and lack of bombast have risen like a messiah from another land." Jenkins thinks that their "hopes are unreal", including expectations that "Obama will back the Saudi plan for the Middle East and push Israel to the negotiating table. He will end the occupation of Iraq. He will calm relations with Iran and recognise that US aggression has aided only extremism. He will unleash his general, David Petraeus, to negotiate with the Taliban. He will stop bombing Pakistan villages and recruiting thousands to al-Qaida. Obama will aid Pakistan's secular schools, not its army." Jenkins is doubtful that these expectations will be met but nonetheless "Obama's store of goodwill must be unprecedented for a US leader in modern times. Were he to visit Cairo or Beirut or even Tehran, he would be greeted as a custodian of promise. An area battered by dreadful US policies for a decade wants only a smile, a nudge and a promise to do better from a country that has done it such harm. It is not the plausibility of these expectations that is significant but the fervour with which they are held."

Obama's victory dramatically boosts views of America in the UK

Building on all the anecdotal evidence of improving views of America around the world since the election, here is some hard opinion data. It comes from a daily poll by PoliticsHome of a politically balanced panel of 5,000 voters across the UK who are asked to say every day whether they have a positive or a negative impression of a selection of countries. You can see the dramatic change after the election, with the USA surging past Japan, France and Germany in the net approval ratings.

Postcards to the president

Reuters has filmed a series of video messages from people in a dozen countries congratulating Barack Obama on his election victory and offering suggestions, requests and advice. You can submit your own video message on YouTube, tagging it postcardstopresident. This builds on Reuters excellent Voices without Votes project. Here are some views from Iraq (mainly in Arabic, except for the first one, translations in the reuters article).

Meanwhile, the Guardian newspaper has set up a Flick group to upload images as a message to President-elect Obama.

Change.gov

Check out the President-elect's new website, the appropriately named www.change.gov. It has pages outlining Obama's plans on foreign policy, Iraq and the environment. You can share your visions and there is even a section to apply for jobs in the new administration, and it appears from the application for that non-American may be considered for some positions (I submitted an expression of interest, semi-seriously, as my American wife is now open to ending her self-imposed exile abroad)... Only 73 days to go before his inauguration.

What was your election night story?

I take it many of you were up all night on the 4th? Please write up your experiences in a comment or on our facebook page.

I was watching the results come in with Iraqi & Lebanese friends in Beirut, and Obama's stirring acceptance speech came in at 7am local time, just before I had to catch a flight back to London. I had spent the previous few days in Syria and Lebanon wearing one of the excellent Obama t-shirts designed by our friends at Agent Actif in France with the slogan "Na'am Nustutiyya" (Arabic for "Yes We Can") and received so many enthusiastic comments from taxi-drivers, shopkeepers and staff at the United Nations office where I was squatting for a few days to work. (To be fair, there was also some cynicism - after 8 years of the Bush Adminstration, and many decades of US interference in the region under both parties - many people are waiting to see how Obama acts in office before they give him their approval).

A new America

At Newseum you can browse the front pages for 5th and 6th November of over 300 newspapers around the world (thanks to Ben at Avaaz for a pointer to this). Here are a few of our favourites:


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