Presidential elections in the US, which kept in pressure not only America, but also the rest of the world, ended, as was expected, with the victory of the current head of the White House Democrat Barack Obama. He gained the support of 303 electoral votes, while his opponent, former governor of Massachusetts Republican Mitt Romney got respectively 206 votes. Obama won in the crucial state Ohio and also in New Hampshire, Michigan, New Mexico, Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Oregon, Virginia, Nevada, and Colorado. Even the native state of Mitt Romney – Massachusetts gave the victory to Obama. At the time of publication of this article it is still unknown who will receive the 29 electoral votes from the state of Florida. However, this won’t have any considerable effect, according to the US Constitution a person needs to receive at least 270 electoral votes to win elections. Meanwhile, the balance of power in the legislature has not changed. Democratic Party retains the majority in the Senate, while the House of Representatives remains under control of Republicans.
When Obama found out about his victory he wrote on Twitter: “Four more years. This was possible thanks to you. Thank you.” Meanwhile, Mitt Romney admitted his defeat and congratulated the winner by phone. Later in his speech to supporters in Chicago, Obama promised to discuss with Romney what they can do together to give America a new push.
It is significant that the results of the elections, or to be more precise, determination of the winner became known 15 minutes after the voting was finished in the US, when according to CNN surveys Obama received 274 electoral votes and Romney only 201.
The author was able to see this personally at the US Embassy, which invited Ukrainian politicians, diplomats, NGO representatives, and journalists to such breakfast where we all could watch the process of summing up the results of voting. Two halls were prepared for guests at the American Embassy. One of them imitated Democrat headquarters in Chicago. Large cardboard figure of Obama stood near a large monitor next to the podium. And in the other hall, which imitated the Republican headquarters in Boston, cardboard figure of Romney stood next to a monitor.
However, this election showed that money is not everything and voters should really like a candidate. Obama’s team stroke the right chord with that. They, according to experts, have chosen the strategy of “destructing opponent’s image.” This strategy worked well and the victory in the first television debate did not help Romney.
Another feature of American elections is that they become more like a beauty contest. What could be another explanation for the fact that such factor as likability was nearly decisive in these elections. Many people voted for Obama because they considered him to be one of them, a buddy to drink beer with. The head of the White House used this to his benefit and even shared a recipe for beer during his campaign.
On the other hand, Romney lost because he failed to explain in detail his economic program and why he pays taxes at a low rate, while most of the Americans, with whom the author of this article had a chance to talk, believed that Obama needed more time to take the country’s economy out of a turmoil, which he inherited from the Bush administration.
Yet, one can not but notice that as a result of such a tough campaign America became divided. John Tefft, US Ambassador to Ukraine admitted this after the announcement of Obama’s victory. He also noted that despite great differences in America citizens can make their choice and today their choice is Barack Obama. Ambassador explains such division in the following way: “We are very competitive. That’s what politics is all about. It’s about competing within the rules of the game. And I think today we’ve had a very competitive election. We’ll now see that our new president, the Senate, the House of Representatives will try to pull together and try to address the problems that affect our country and the problems that affect the world.”
It would also be nice if Ukrainian politicians would treat their duties in the same way.
The ambassador assured that the United States will not change its policy towards Ukraine. The Day’s experts made the same predictions. Mr. Tefft also noted: “The United States has continued and will continue to support Ukraine in its democratic development. Secretary Clinton always says that the road to democracy is a long one, it’s not an easy one. The United States has been doing this now for 236 years, Ukraine has been working at it for 21 years. And it’s a task that is imminently worthwhile, it’s the one that I am convinced the people want and I’m convinced that Ukraine will fully achieve that goal. We are closely following the elections in Ukraine and we have shared our observations with the government of Ukraine. We want these elections to reflect the will of Ukrainian people not only according to party lists, but single-seat districts as well.”
Neither Europe, nor America can leave Ukraine out of their relationships
Bohdan FUTEY, Ph.D. in Law, professor, statesman, public figure:
“Until recently no one knew who would be the next resident of the White House. Obama was in the lead, but Romney caught up with him after the first debate. I flew to Ukraine to monitor the parliamentary elections, but I kept watching what was happening in the States. There the presidential campaign was following its normal democratic course. People cast their ballots. They had known Obama for the past four years, so now he is in the lead. We wish him success, although the domestic situation is anything but simple, with Senate and White House being controlled by Democrats and the House of Representatives by Republicans. I hope they will come to terms and work together for the good of the nation. The main thing is for America and Ukraine to maintain friendly and progressing relations, for Ukraine to prosper and remain America and the European Union’s good partner.”
What do you think can improve the relations between Washington and Kyiv?
“There is the well-known Senate resolution concerning Ukraine. This document reflects the senators’ attitude to Ukraine’s recent politics rather than the Ukrainian people. I think every effort should be made to alter the situation with selective justice in this country.”
What should America and the West do to get Ukraine closer to the EU and democracy?
“Ukraine must be a member of the European Union. This membership will serve the good of the Ukrainian people. In my opinion, neither Europe, nor America can leave Ukraine outside their relations and contacts. This wouldn’t serve their interest. It is necessary to come to terms to improve the situation after the [parliamentary] elections in Ukraine, considering that this election campaign was a step back – I mean the counting of votes at the majoritarian electoral districts. The important thing is to understand that democracy cannot exist on paper, that it has to be practiced. In this sense, Ukraine showed a strong popular will which must be respected. A common language must be found with America and the European Union.”
Does America realize the specificities of the situation in Ukraine, with its Holodomor and other totalitarian heritage, that the Ukrainian nation-state is actually being built, struggling to create democratic institutions?
“Much depends on Ukraine to this end. Let’s put it this way: No one will help Ukraine unless it really tries to help itself. Here much depends on the younger generation. Young Ukrainians are getting increasingly organized, they are increasingly active during the election campaigns. I am a lecturer with the Kyiv Mohyla Academy and I can see this progress. Once we believed that it would take a single generation to build a democratic Ukraine. Now it looks as though the process will take longer.”
John TEFFT: “The government knows what our position is. We’re waiting to see how the final pieces of this election get sorted out”
Mr. Ambassador, some members of European Parliament say that relations between Ukraine and EU can be started from a new sheet if Tymoshenko and Lutsenko are released. On Washington’s side, what needs to be done in order to make the relations between Ukraine and the US more active?
“Our position has been the same. We want to see Ms. Tymoshenko released. We’ve said that over and over again and our view is that getting rid of this selective prosecution is an important part of making sure the rule of law applies in this country. We’ve also been very supportive of having free and fair elections and have made our views on that known to the government at various stages. And you know what Washington said and what Secretary Clinton said. That’s our policy. The government knows what our position is. We made it very clear and we’re waiting to see how the final pieces of this election get sorted out.”
In an interview to Time magazine Vice-Premier Borys Kolesnikov drew parallels between Ukrainian and American oligarchs, i.e., the Party of Regions and “Grand Old Party.” Could you please comment on that?
“I’d like to read his remarks and see, but it’s a very dangerous thing to compare different people in different countries at different periods of time.”
But the fact that such parallels are drawn between the American oligarchs, what does this mean to you?
“A lot of people have been doing this for a long time. It’s just if you study the period of 1890s and 1900s you’ll see that there are differences between, if you will, oligarchs or businessmen in those periods, so maybe it’s helpful for some people to make those comparisons but there are also differences.”
You communicate much with Ukrainian oligarchs. Can you see their eagerness to advance the country to the EU?
“I think what most of them have told me is that’s what they favor. They favor Ukraine in a strong Europe. That’s our policy too. That’s what we support.”
“HOPEFULLY, OBAMA WILL BECOME THE PRESIDENT OF ALL AMERICANS”
Yurii SHCHERBAK, ex-ambassador of Ukraine to the US:
“This is a well-expected result. I supported Romney because it seemed to me he would be a much better choice for the US and Ukraine. But of course the people expressed their will and we will have to accept this fact. Of course, Ukrainian government will have to cooperate with the elected president. There are no questions about that. But there are questions concerning other things. Unfortunately, these elections and this year’s election campaign in the United States indicate that the American society is widely split. And for some reason this reminds me of the situation in Ukraine.”
“A part of US population, I cannot tell the precise number, is living on the social assistance. Only people who have been and worked there can say that socialism has been built there, but our people do not understand this. There socialism has been built for a part of the populace. So, they do nothing, they don’t work, they get quite high allowance from the state, food coupons, and they will always vote for those who promise more and takes something from the rich. As for the rich, we are speaking here not about multibillionaires, rather about the middle class who has always been the foothold of the USA. Those are small firms and private institutions. Their owners have to pay democratic high taxes, and the central government of the Democrats is always large and very strong. On the other hand, they are practically feeding America. And this is a huge problem for the already huge public debt of the state. Unfortunately, in the course of the campaign one could see who and by what means was supporting Obama and his rhetoric. But frankly speaking I liked very much when Romney asked the Americans whether their life had improved in the past four years. Everyone replied, no.”
Still, they voted for Obama.
“Yes. This is the result we have.”
In your opinion, what should be expected from Obama in his second term?
“In my opinion, Obama will change and become more rigid. He understands that he has four years left and he may either enter history with some glory or finish his presidency ingloriously. And he does care what image he will leave in history. Every president elected for the second term thinks about himself.
“As for the foreign policy, the confrontation between Iran and the US has aggravated. One cannot manage with only peacekeeping phrases, like Obama used to do. The situation in Russia is getting worse. Democracy is suffering a harsh blow and repressions have started, although they have not reached large scale yet. Therefore the newly elected president is facing huge challenges. Since he does not depend on the next elections and voters anymore, he may take up a more resolute stand and resolve some questions even in a more dramatic way.
“Hopefully, Obama will become the president of all Americans, not only national minorities and those who live on welfare.”
What do you think about Obama’s proposal to create a department responsible for business? The Republicans have already ridiculed it, emphasizing that it does not prove Obama’s competence in business.
“It is a tradition for Democrats to ever enlarge the government and bring more red tape to some of its functions. Therefore it is absolutely clear, that this is another bureaucratization. Knowing America, where everyone hates Washington bureaucrats, I doubt it would be a serious initiative to be supported both by Republicans, and part of the people.”
Mr. Tefft has said today that US policy concerning Ukraine will remain unchanged. What is your opinion in this concern?
“This policy is practically invisible, so it is no surprise that it will remain stable. I hoped it would become much more active in case of Romney’s victory. But it will remain the same.”
Interviews prepared by Mykola SIRUK, The Day