Clear mandate

Obamas victory has evoked a sigh of relief globally.

Americans have voted to give Barack Obama a second term as President of the United States. Poll surveys had indicated a close finish but the final results saw Obama pull ahead of his Republican rival Mitt Romney in both the electoral college and the popular vote. During the campaign Obama had to fight off fierce criticism of his failures during his first term. Many among his core supporters, including African-Americans, the working class and women, were disappointed with his performance. The result shows that their disappointment notwithstanding, these sections voted to give him another chance. Obama was able to convince them to stick by him. Two risks Obama took paid off. One was his decision to bailout auto majors, which helped him win in key Midwestern states. The other, to eliminate Osama bin Laden, deprived Republicans of a stick to beat Democrats with the issue of national security. This is a time for introspection for Republicans. The Christian right will blame the defeat on Romney, arguing that his Mormon faith made him a less suitable presidential candidate. However, it is the Republican Party’s excessive tilt to the right under pressure from the Tea Party that weakened their chances in the race to the White House.

Obama has won a big victory; bigger challenges await. America is deeply polarised politically and he will have to work hard to build bridges with the Republicans. An immediate task is tackling the fiscal deficit, which will require the crafting of a bipartisan deal.

Obama’s victory has evoked a sigh of relief globally. He is unlikely to push for regime change and invasion as a first option. A US attack on Iran is less likely under Obama.  With regard to Afghanistan, the US withdrawal will be speeded up. American commanders have been pushing for a slower pullout. The renewed mandate will enable Obama to accelerate this process. During his first term, Obama made just one trip to Africa. Whether he will continue to ignore it in his second term will be keenly watched. His tough handling of Pakistan during his first term was appreciated in Delhi. That toughness can be expected to continue in the second term. Indian business, especially the IT sector is apprehensive over Obama’s return given his hostility to outsourcing of jobs to India. There are differences too on the visa issue. Indian corporates will be hoping that with a gruelling election campaign done, the White House will take a more reasonable approach to doing business with India.

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