Monday, October 18, 2004

Asians want George W. Bush voted out of office Most

Asians want George W. Bush voted out of office in next
month’s US presidential election, even though many are
unaware who his challenger is. But many of the region’s
business leaders would prefer it if John Kerry were kept
out of the White House and are particularly put off by
the Democrat’s more protectionist trade stance. “Bush
and who? John who?� asked Desy Darman, a civil servant
in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

“(Bush) is maybe too arrogant toward the less developed
countries. It’s probably better to replace him,� Darman
said, reflecting strong anti-Bush sentiment among Asian
people which, more than Kerry’s policies, colours views
of the US election in this vast region. Nearly everyone
has an opinion, mostly negative, of Bush’s US-led war on
Iraq and not just in Muslim-dominated Indonesia,
Malaysia and Pakistan. Surveys in Japan, which has sent
troops to the war-torn country, show almost 80 percent
of people oppose the war and a recent online poll there
showed 56 percent of 1,730 responses favoured Kerry
against 21.5 percent for Bush.

“Many of the correspondents disapprove of Bush in
connection with the war in Iraq,� said the site’s
operator, Yoshiaki Hirai. Australians also backed Kerry
despite giving prime minister John Howard, Bush’s friend
and ally in Iraq, a fourth term in the country’s
elections last week. A recent poll conducted as part of
a global exercise involving 10 newspapers around the
world saw 54 percent of respondents in Australia
supporting Kerry while only 28 percent backed Bush. Some
Asians particularly in India, Thailand and China are
apathetic about the US poll, but others have strong
views crystal lised by US foreign policy issues that
affect them at home: the war on terror; economic
policies on protectionism and outsourcing; and potential
regional flashpoints such as North Korea and Taiwan.

The Republican incumbent is viewed by the region’s
conservative business leaders as strong on the economy,
while Kerry scores more highly with the public, media
and intelligentsia on international issues. In Pakistan,
a key ally on the frontline of the war on terror, mostly
Muslim citizens widely oppose US-led military action in
Afghanistan and Iraq, but are not totally anti-Bush. “It
is an assumption, that may not be fully true, that
Republicans are pro-Pakistan,� political analyst Hasan
Askari Rizvi told AFP, adding “there is a general
feeling that if Kerry wins he will pursue nuclear
non-proliferation and democracy issues more strongly
than Bush.�

In Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Islamic
community and the scene of three major bombings bla-med
on an Al-Qaeda-linked group, there is widespread
interest in the poll, according to political analyst
Sudjati Djiwandono. “I think in terms of popularity many
support John Kerry because the name of Bush is closely
connected to with the attack on Iraq,� Sudjati said.
Surveys in the Philippines, a former US colony, show it
is one of the few countries where the local populace
supports Bush. “If Filipinos were voting for the
American president, George W. Bush would have this
election in the bag,� wrote political scientist Alex
Magno, an adviser to President Gloria Arroyo, in a
newspaper column.

“Filipinos... have a frontline appreciation of the
threat posed by international terrorism,� Magno said,
citing attacks by Al-Qaeda-linked militants on
Philippines soil. South Koreans, concerned chiefly with
US policy towards North Korea, are split over Bush’s
perceived hawkish stance. “Conserva-tives definitely
want Bush to be reelected, while liberals who support
peaceful engagement with North Korea oppose him and
think inter-Korean relations will be better if Kerry
wins,� said Lee Nae-Young, political science professor
at Korea University.

Along with business leaders in Japan, Korean executives
fear a Kerry win will spark trans-Pacific trade
friction, while India’s booming information technology
sector is wary of Kerry’s promise to fight outsourcing
of American jobs. Indians generally are uninspired by
Bush or Kerry, unable to decide who they dislike least,
says S. Sudeshana, professor of political science at
Delhi University. “It is Hobson’s choice. One feels
sorry for the United States... and the rest of the
world.� Many ordinary Chinese display a similar apathy.
“We common people don’t pay too much attention,� said Li
Wenxia, a Beijing woman. “That’s something we leave for
the leadership.�

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