Many Indonesians are closely watching this year's US presidential election -- both in Indonesia and in the United States. As a child, the Democrat party's candidate, Barack Obama, lived in Indonesia for several years after his mother married an Indonesian. Some Indonesians think that means he understands them and the world better.
Barack Obama as a child in Indonesia with his family
Indonesians in the United States feel a close bond with Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama and are watching the election campaign very closely.
Abdul Nuradnan, an Indonesian citizen, says he often discusses the elections with relatives and friends back home: “They usually ask whether there will be better relations with Indonesia, if Barack Obama becomes president.”
“Of course,” he says, chuckling, “I told them that might be so. Because Barack Obama lived for some time in Indonesia, he has a better understanding.”
Most Indonesians favour Obama
But not everybody in Indonesia seems as interested in the US elections as Abdul Nuradnan’s relatives.
A US-based Pew Research Center poll earlier this year indicated that just 15 percent of the Indonesian population was following the US elections -- those who were interested mostly favoured Obama.
There is a widespread hope that an Obama win would change the way much of the world perceives the US. The Pew poll also found that fewer than 40 percent of Indonesians have a positive view of the US -- a 10 percentage point rise over the previous year.
Richard Wyke of the Pew Global Attitudes Project said this reflects worldwide opinion: “There’s a lot of opposition, a lot of negative feelings about key aspects of American foreign policy in much of the world -- Indonesia included. Things like the war in Iraq, the war on terror, a general perception of US unilateralism.”
More sensitive to international community
Obama’s advisors have said the Democrat candidate would be much more sensitive to the needs of the international community if he became president than his Republican rival John McCain.
Obama himself has said that the time he spent in Indonesia has given him a better perspective of how other countries perceive US decisions -- he said it was the strongest experience he had had in foreign relations.
However, not all observers believe that things would change considerably under an Obama presidency. Faisal Mangoenkosono, an assistant to the Indonesian ambassador in Washington last week cautioned his compatriots against raising their hopes too high.
“They should always remember,” he said, “as Indonesians, that he is through and through American. And he would follow the interests of what is important for America so one should not be disappointed if he, at one time, were to rule against our interests.”
But first he would have to be elected. With one month to go before US citizens go to the polls, Indonesians worldwide will continue to speculate about the good and bad sides of a possible Obama presidency.