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Europe

Experts: Obama Presidency Likely To Disappoint Foreign Fans

As the US presidential election enters its final week, the vast majority of the world is rooting for Barack Obama. But analysts say that high global expectations of the Democrat will lead to disappointment, if he wins.

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., arrives at a rally

This could be Obama's autumn, but will he live up to high hopes?

On Monday, Barack Obama picked up another big endorsement, this time from the daily Financial Times in London -- a conservative-leaning newspaper usually sceptical of Democrats.

The FT's support is a measure of how much Europeans would prefer Obama over his Republican rival John McCain in the White House. Yet the wording of the paper's endorsement also hints that, whatever the election outcome, everything will not be hunky-dory.

"Rest assured that, should he win, Mr Obama is bound to disappoint," wrote the FT. "He is expected to heal the country's racial divisions, reverse the trend of rising inequality, improve middle-class living standards, cut almost everybody's taxes, transform the image of the United States abroad, end the losses in Iraq, deal with the mess in Afghanistan and much more besides."

Pools show anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of Continental Europeans support Obama's bid for the Oval Office -- compared to single-digit figures for McCain. In many parts of the media, Obama has acquired a quasi-messianic aura.

But experts say European would inevitably be let down by aspects of an Obama presidency.

Change in style only?

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Obama style is different; his policies aren't necessarily

Disappointments would likely result, in part, from political constraints. James Goldgeier of the Council of the Council on Foreign Relations uses the example of Russia to illustrate.

"No president of the United States can tell the Russians: Yes, you can just do whatever you want in Georgia," Goldgeier told the AFP.

And political expediency isn't the only potential source of disappointment.

Europeans tend to see Obama as the candidate of peace, the leader most likely to end the Iraq War. But they often overlook hints from the Democrat that he wants to bring military pressure to bear on Afghanistan and Pakistan -- a shift with major implications for Europe.

Pakistan's tribesmen look at belongings in the house that they said was hit by suspected U.S. missile strikes

Europeans could be asked to do more, militarily, on the Afghan-Pakastani border

"Barack Obama and Joe Biden will expect allies to commit more resources to this common mission and to remove some of the limits on what their troops in country can do," Obama's compaign has stated on the candidate's website.

But experts agree that despite potential conflicts of interest, Obama would bring a change in diplomatic style and an improvement in US foreign relations.

"If he were to win, we would see a huge change in just the whole tone of American foreign policy," said Goldgeier, a former diplomat.

Justin Vaisse, a European expert at the Brookings Institute, concurs.

"There is a risk of unmet expectations but goodwill should generate more positive responses," Vaisse told AFP.

Hope for European minorities

German Obama fans with an Obama for Kanzler sign

The hype was huge when Obama visited Europe this summer

An Obama presidency would represent a landmark change in race relations in the US -- a fact not lost of Europeans from minority ethnic backgrounds.

Christiana Taubira, a French member of parliament from French Guyana who ran for her counrtry's presidency in 2002, hopes what an Obama win could inspire a similar sea change in Europe.

"I think very sincerely, given my own experience in 2002, that French society is ready to enjoy the beautiful adventure that Obama has offered Americans," Taubira told AFP.

But others say the far more institutionalized role of European political parties, in which potential candidates have to work their way up the pecking order, would restrict the chances of a relative outsider like Obama.

Hundreds of illegal immigrants show banners for a global regulation for immigration as they demonstrate in the streets of Paris, France

But it could be a long time before countries like France elect a leader from an immigrant background

"The French themselves are ready, but our political system would stop an Obama appearing," French human rights minister Rama Yade told the French news magazine Le Figaro.

"Not because he's black, but because he comes from a background of recent immigration," Yade added. "Here, integration is much more difficult."

Europeans will be watching Americans go to the polls on Nov. 4 with an especially keen, pro-Obama eye, even though there are no guarantees that he will do what they want or that they would elect a similar candidates to lead their own societies.

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