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What the World Thinks About the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

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The world has been watching the U.S. presidential election with a mix of fascination and horror. Many appear to believe a Hillary Clinton presidency would provide the stability needed in an increasingly volatile world, but some foreign players are rooting for a Donald Trump victory. Here, TIME’s staff in bureaus around the world round up what foreign politicians, experts and citizens are saying about the U.S. election:


Clinton would win by a landslide if Europeans had a vote, Tara John writes, helped in part by the popularity of U.S. President Barack Obama and the socially democratic continent’s history of favoring Democrats. Trump’s transition from reality show star to political candidate could not be further from Europe’s technocratic approach to governance. His foreign policy, which includes the renegotiation of NATO’s budget and a hint that he would not defend NATO allies under attack, has raised hackles. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called Trump a preacher of hate in August, an October poll by Infratest Dimap found that only 4% of Germans would vote for him compared to Clinton (86%) while the Hamburger Morgenpost implored on its Nov. 8 cover, “Please, not the Horror Clown!”

Despite the populist parallels between Trump’s rise and the U.K. vote to leave the E.U., more than half a million Brits signed a petition calling for Trump to be banned from entering the U.K. and Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said she “fervently hoped” that Clinton would defeat the Republican candidate. Trump has found some allies among Europe’s nationalist parties, however — their uptick in popularity has mirrored his, with similar messages about immigration eroding jobs and national identity. France’s far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen told Valeurs Actuelles that she would vote for Trump. “What appeals to Americans is that he is a man free from Wall Street, from markets and from financial lobbies and even from his own party,” she said. Nigel Farage, the interim leader of the U.K. Independence Party, and anti-Islam, far-right politician from the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, have each supported Trump on his U.S. campaign.


Trump’s more conciliatory tone to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his isolationist foreign policy has driven claims that he is a favorite of the Kremlin, writes Berlin correspondent Simon Shuster. But Moscow actually seems to be approaching the election with caution:

To many Russian observers, Trump’s overtures stand out from those of previous U.S. presidents, especially his remarks on the obsolescence of NATO. If that were to become official U.S. policy, the main threat to Russia’s security – as outlined in its official military doctrine – would start to evaporate. NATO would cease to expand. Its presence in Eastern Europe could even be rolled back. And without U.S. funding, plans for a missile shield over Europe would likely go unfulfilled, removing the key barriers to trust between the U.S. and Russia. So for those willing to take Trump at his word, the prospect of his presidency does seem like the dawn of a promising era.

“For the first time, a figure has emerged in the epoch of American imperialism who is calling for it to end, to be dismantled. We did not see such a figure throughout the entire 20th century,” says Alexander Dugin, a nationalist author and ideologue with close ties to Russia’s military brass. “This turn away from the American hegemony in order to focus on internal problems, that is what we didn’t even dare to hope from the Americans,” he told me. “In that event, America would cease to be an adversary. It would become a friend.”

But Dugin’s optimism is not widely shared in Russia’s foreign policy establishment. After the disappointments of Bush and Obama, the consensus in Moscow is that the U.S. will remain an adversary no matter who occupies the Oval Office. Putin seems to share this view.

“Overall, it doesn’t really matter to us who wins,” the President told an annual gathering of Russia experts known as the Valdai Club on Oct. 27. “We do not know what Mr. Trump would do if he wins, and we do not know what Ms. Clinton would do, what would go ahead or not go ahead.”

A week later, Prime Minister Medvedev put it somewhat more plainly: “The next president will proceed from US national interests,” he said in an interview with an Israeli TV channel. “These interests do not always coincide with our interests. They have their interests, and we have ours. This is what the next president will do, and it does not matter whether it is Clinton or Trump.”


Trump will further destabilise the Arab world, writes TIME’s Middle East Bureau Chief Jared Malsin:

Most people in the Middle East have a dim view of the U.S. government, but they seem to have an even lower opinion of Trump. Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and his past calls for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. have aliened the vast majority of the public across the Arab world. In one poll of more than 3,000 people across the Middle East and North Africa, 47 percent said they would simply refuse to vote in the U.S. presidential election if they were given the chance. The survey, conducted by YouGov and the Saudi newspaper Arab News found that, among those who would vote, 44 percent would choose Hillary Clinton, over Trump’s 9 percent. Fully 78 percent said Clinton would be better for the region if elected.

A separate survey released in October by the Arab Center in Washington posed similar questions about the election to 3,600 people in nine Arab countries. Fifty six percent of those surveyed had positive views of Clinton. Sixty percent had negative views of Trump.

In Israel, opinion is more divided. A recent poll conducted by Shiluv Millward Brown found the majority of Jewish Israelis (41%) favored Clinton as president over her Republican rival (31%). Israelis, however, thought Trump would “benefit” the Jewish state more. Clinton’s pro-Israeli and hawkish rhetoric during her tenureship as Secretary of State has leant her some authority on Israel. But Trump’s attempts to drum up support in Israel— by endorsing settlement expansion in the West Bank and promising to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem— has worked. He gained a slight edge (49%) over Clinton (44%) among dual Israeli-American citizens who cast their absentee ballots from Israel, according to a Nov. 3 exit survey .


TIME’s East Asia Bureau Chief Hannah Beech says Trump has a considerable fanbase among China’s educated, pro-Western elites, even if this demographic would more naturally favor Clinton in other countries:

There are a few reasons, I think, why Trump is popular among this cohort. First, he’s considered the personification of the American dream, an entrepreneur who turned his name into a brand. Second, he’s seen as a decisive executive, and China is a country conditioned to respect strongmen like Chairman Mao… Third, Trump’s nationalist and racist rhetoric plays well in a country with a strong sense of Han chauvinism and little patience for ethnic minorities. (China’s predominant ethnic group is the Han, which makes up roughly 90% of the population.) Besides, when Trump talks about limiting immigration, he appears to be focused on Mexicans or Muslims, not Chinese. Rich Chinese who are thinking about sending their kids to the States for education or emigrating themselves don’t imagine Trump’s keep-immigrants-out message applies to them.


Nikhil Kumar, TIME’s South Asian bureau chief, says India knows and feels comfortable with the Clinton camp:

For Indian officials, who have been careful not to betray any preferences, the priority is keeping ties on track, regardless of who wins. That will be easier with Clinton, who, with her extensive foreign policy experience, is well known in New Delhi. “The key is thing is the familiarity in India with her and all the people around her,” says Dhruva Jaishankar, a specialist in India-U.S. ties at the Brookings Institution’s India center.

A Trump Presidency, on the other hand, is likely to trigger uncertainty about the trajectory of bilateral ties and America’s attitude toward the emerging South Asian power. “India is less exposed to some of the potential downsides of a Trump presidency than a neighbor like Mexico, say, or countries like Japan or even China, which has been a target in his speeches. India is not a Nato ally, and is less dependent on the U.S. alliance structure, which Trump has roundly criticized,” says Jaishankar. “The problem with Trump is that there is no sense of who the people around him are—who might staff his White House National Security Council, his Cabinet—and that uncertainty is definitely unsettling [for Delhi].”


Feliz Solomon, a TIME writer covering the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), says the region would be more at ease with a Clinton presidency:

Clinton was very attentive to Southeast Asia during her tenure as Secretary of State, and the populations there — especially the younger generations — are likely to find her preferable to Trump. This diverse grouping of multi-ethnic nations has a complex and fraught history with the U.S., but it is one that the Obama administration has confronted head-on and attempted to address through diplomacy, development assistance and increased trade. This type of engagement has been by-and-large a welcome move in Southeast Asia, as the region is eager to see development and reconciliation after the devastation wrought by half a century of proxy wars carried out on its lawn. Clinton would be expected to maintain Obama’s brand of reconciliatory diplomacy, as she herself had a hand in crafting it.

Trump is viewed as a wild card. He is also viewed as more aligned with China’s policies, which would complicate his relations in ASEAN. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is notorious for foul-mouthed remarks about world leaders and for launching a war on drugs that has killed thousands of people, has often been likened to Trump. However, on a recent trip Duterte vowed increased cooperation with China while seeking to undo cooperation with the U.S., which spanned nearly a century and survived many administrations on either side of the aisle. It is anybody’s guess what would happen if these two men were in a room together, though Duterte has reportedly challenged Trump to a fistfight.


Unsurprisingly, Trump, for all his proclamations about loving ‘Hispanics’, is not popular across Latin America, Kate Samuelson writes. The Republican candidate has been described by Mexico’s major national newspaper, Milenio, as “the man who managed to make us miss the Bush clan,” as well as the “undisputed record-holder for fake tanning”. Last Easter, celebrants burned effigies of Trump instead of Judas and, in a speech in March, President Enrique Peña Nieto compared his leadership race to the way the fascist dictators Mussolini and Hitler came to power. According to a poll published in Mexico in late September, Mexicans favor Clinton in the race by 10 to 1.

Trump vowing to stand with ‘oppressed’ Cubans and Venezuelans has not helped his popularity in those regions either, neither with the people nor politicians (Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro called Trump “mentally ill” last year). However, the Democratic National Committee also came under fire in Venezuela last month for posting a video that compared Trump to the late President Hugo Chavez. “The election campaign in the U.S. reflects the profound ethical, moral and political crisis of a degraded system that turns its back on the people,” Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez wrote on Twitter. “Comparing candidate Trump with Commander Chavez is an expression of the racist arrogance and irrationality of a party that does not serve its constituents.”

In the presidential debate on Oct. 19, Trump spoke about visiting “Little Haiti in Florida”. “I want to tell you, they hate the Clintons, because what’s happened in Haiti with the Clinton Foundation is a disgrace. And you know it, and they know it, and everybody knows it,” he said. Indeed, many people identify the Clintons with failures of humanitarianism and development in Haiti following the devastating earthquake in 2010; in 2015, Haitian activists protested outside the Clinton Foundation in New York, claiming the Clintons mismanaged hundreds of millions in taxpayer money through the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, the Washington Post reports. But, despite fair criticism of the Clintons’ handling of the crisis, Trump’s interest in using Haiti to bash Clinton rather than anything else is transparent. Research conducted by the Miami New Times in the area concluded that Little Haiti residents were unwaveringly in favor of Clinton – despite what Trump said.


Sub-Saharan Africa has barely merited a mention by either contender during their campaign, Tara John writes, except for when Clinton compared Trump’s economic policies to that of Zimbabwe in the 1990s. A criticism picked up on by Zimbabwe’s dictator, President Robert Mugabe, who now appears to endorse the Republican. According to U.S. lawmaker Chris Coons, the despot told him: “Once [Trump] is your president, you’ll wish you’d been friendlier to me.” In Uganda, two men holding placards, reading “A vote for Trump is a vote against African dictatorship,” campaigned for Trump outside the country’s U.S. Embassy. Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has won him no favors from others across the continent, however. Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka says he will tear up his green card if that happens, while local news agency the Daily Post claims that the Nigerian community residing in the U.S. “will vote en masse for” Clinton. In South Africa, newspaper City Press declared early this year, “God help us all if Trump wins.” The aversion is linked to Trump’s anti-immigrant as well as his isolationist stance, which some fear could lead to the slashing funding programs like the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), started by Obama to support young African entrepreneurs and activists or PEPFAR— an initiative to prevent HIV and AIDS.

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