interviewBy Kimeng Hilton Ndukong
Prof. Jean Emmanuel Pondi, International Relations expert and author of the book, "Barack Obama: From Questions To Admiration," explains reasons behind President's second term win.
Americans on Tuesday November 6, 2012 re-elected President Barack Obama. What, according to you, explains the wide margin of victory contrary to opinion polls?
First of all, it is not really a surprise that Barack Obama has been re-elected because he conforms to what majority of Americans want to see in their representative at the White House. The image of America around the world has improved immensely since he took over power four years ago. Prior to that, being an American in most parts of the world was more of a danger - physically speaking, for the individual.
Today, that has changed and I think that it is thanks to his policies, his extended hand of friendship, and the fact that Barack Obama is truly a world president. He represents the diversity of humanity in himself and his family affiliations. So, I think that what he represents for the world and America is positive, overall. Maybe that is why it was better for him to continue for a second term.
The second reason is that in times of crisis, it is better to have a sure hand; someone who can weather the storm more confidently than a person who starts to learn the principles of government in the middle of a very agitated sea. Perhaps, American voters understood that it was not the time to hand over power to someone who would start learning leadership in the middle of a storm. The third reason is that Barack Obama had a well-designed and organised campaign strategy that was well oiled four years ago and perfected its organisation during this election.
You talked of America being in the middle of crisis. Which crisis are you referring to?
America is experiencing economic crisis - with more than seven per cent unemployment, an economic growth rate that is very poor, high level of debt... All these make for a rather gloomy outlook. But I think it is all the more remarkable that despite this situation, Obama was still given a second chance. It means that there is something in him, his charismatic personality. After all, he was able to pull out a few things such as the killing of Osama bin Laden that also played a major role in uplifting his image in terms of security for Americans.
The situation in the Middle East is so tense with the war in Syria and the war of words between Israel and Iran. With the election of Obama, what do you think the future holds for this region?
The truth is that this region has always been agitated, has always known trouble. Now, it is a matter of lessening the level of tension either in Palestine, Syria or between Israel and Iran. It would be too optimistic to think that someone can solve the problem now. The region is always a dangerous spot for American foreign policy. I think Obama was too absorbed in working for his re-election. Now, he will have a better time frame to deal with these issues as the election is over.
Some people are of the opinion that Obama didn't do much for Africa in his first term. What do you think?
I reject this way of thinking by most Africans. Mr. Obama is an American President. What did Africa do for his election in 2008 and re-election on November 6, 2012? The two are not connected. He is the President of the United States of America and his platform concerns the lives of American citizens to whom he is today linked historically. It is true his father is Kenyan, but Obama is an American citizen.
It is time for Africans to stop thinking that somebody owes them something. The question is what Africans have done to merit any kind of gratitude from Barack Obama. I think Africans should work out a strategic partnership, present to America and negotiate with their President. But have they done that?
How do you see the future of the world in the next four years with America under Barack Obama's leadership? Will the world be a more secure place, given the potentially explosive situation in the Middle East?
It is a very difficult question to answer. The greatest challenge for America today is China, not the Middle East, Africa or Europe. The next world power from a commercial, economic and technological standpoint is clearly China. I think the Chinese are also determined in the next 25 years to become the world's first economic power because they are not yet a military super power.
I think President Obama will rather insist on cooperation with all countries and cultures. I don't think he will be like a Republican president, a war monger who prefers the military solution in first place. I think he will be more willing to negotiate and put economic and technological cooperation first, before resorting to war.