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VIEW FROM ABROAD

SOMETHING NEW. Let me introduce this unique feature on Politics1. In early 2008, I received an email from a school teacher in the Ukraine. In an attempt to have her students better follow and understand our Presidential race, she asked me for information on how the leading Presidential candidates viewed Ukraine. Unfortunately, I had to tell her that sadly no candidates ever mentioned the Ukraine. Frankly, the only foreign issues discussed here are the "war on terrorism" and so-called "Axis of Evil" nations (Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea), trade (Canada, Mexico and China), immigration (mainly Mexico), Israel, and -- fleetingly -- genocide (Darfur). During the months I spent in France over the past year, I saw Europeans closely following our White House race, even though they have no vote in it. Why? Because the US President plays such an influential role -- for good or bad -- in policies impacting every corner of the globe. That inspired me to find a way to place these non-US perspectives on our elections before our American readers. I plan to simply ask two questions -- the same two questions -- to as many political leaders and elected officials around the globe as possible. Some will be established leaders or rising stars. Others featured here may offend you by who they are or what they say. But, hopefully, this feature will help broaden our international perspective as informed US voters.

THE INTERVIEWS:

5.17.08 - Hon. SIMON HAMILTON, MLA, Northern Ireland Assembly
4.19.08 - Hon. HANS-CHRISTIAN STRÖBELE, MdB - Parliamentary Vice Chair of the Green Party (Germany)
4.11.08 - Hon. GREGOR GYSI, MdB - Parliamentary Leader of Die Linke (Germany)
4.05.08 - Hon. WAVEL RAMKALAWAN, MNA - Leader of the Seychelles National Party
4.01.08 - Hon. JACK LAYTON, MP - Leader of the New Democratic Party (Canada)
3.25.08 - Hon. NIRJ DEVA, MEP, Conservative Party (United Kingdom)
3.19.08 - Hon. NICK CLEGG, MP - Leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (United Kingdom)


VIEW FROM ABROAD: SIMON HAMILTON, MLA, NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY.

NORTHERN IRELAND (UK): SIMON HAMILTON, MLA, member of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Simon, a regular Politics1 reader for 5+ years, generously volunteered to participate in our ongoing international feature. Born in 1977 into a Protestant family in North Ireland, he earned degrees in history/politics and law from the Queen's University Belfast. After first working as an auditor in an accounting firm for two years, Simon went to work in 2003 as the the DUP’s Press Officer. In 2005, Simon was elected Councillor on the Ards Borough Council. In March 2007, Simon was elected to represent the Strangford constituency in the Northern Ireland Assembly -- and also retains his position on the Ards Borough Council.

The DUP -- for those of you unfamiliar with the decades of Northern Ireland's political turmoil -- is the staunchly unionist, Protestant, conservative party founded and led by evangelical clergyman Dr. Ian Paisley. For many decades, Paisley was the most vocal Protestant opponent of the IRA/Sinn Fein and Northern Ireland's Catholic community. The DUP is today the largest political party in Northern Ireland, the fourth largest party in the United Kingdom, and the self-proclaimed "undisputed voice of unionism." The DUP's top priority is to "secure, uphold and maintain Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom."

Q. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL RACE TO DATE?

ANSWER: The campaign to date has been absolutely fascinating and bodes well for a thrilling general election too. It is extraordinary to think that our preconceived notions that we held about a year ago have been turned on their head. Hillary Clinton has not taken the Democratic nomination at a canter, and the Republicans haven't torn themselves apart. I have been struck by how, on one hand, Senator Obama has overcome his comparative inexperience to establish a political movement the likes of which my generation hasn't seen before and, on the other, Senator McCain has belied his critics.

Q. WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR THE NEXT U.S. PRESIDENT?

ANSWER: I hope that the next President ensures that the US continues to take the fight to the terrorists who would destroy our way of life and also puts America at the forefront of tackling other threats to our civilisation like climate change and the security of our energy supply. From a Northern Ireland standpoint, as we seek to establish a long-term peace in our part of the world, we would like to see the sort of positive engagement carried out by the Bush Administration in Northern Ireland continue -- especially in respect towards assisting us in transforming our economy. Whichever of Senators Clinton, McCain and Obama is ultimately elected President, they will join 23 predecessor Presidents with Irish ancestry and I’m sure they will continue to take an active interest in Ulster.

Do you have a connection to a foreign political leader, elected official or prominent candidate you'd like to have answer these two questions? Please email Ron if you know someone you'd like featured here. Click here to view our other international profiles.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 05.17.08 | Permalink |


VIEW FROM ABROAD: DR. HANS-CHRISTIAN STRÖBELE, MdB, PARLIAMENTARY VICE CHAIR OF THE GREEN PARTY (GERMANY).

GERMANY: DR. HANS-CHRISTIAN STRÖBELE, MdB, Parliamentary Vice Chair of the BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN (Green Party). Born in 1939, Ströbele became active in the leftist German student movement of the 1960s. He began practicing law in 1969, after studying at Heidelberg and Freie Universität Berlin. A member of the Socialist Lawyers' Collective, Ströbele was an aggressive defender of those facing politically-related crimes. His past clients included notorious members of the Baader-Meinhof Group and the Red Army Faction. Originally active in the mainstream SPD -- the ruling Socialists in West German -- Ströbele co-founded the "Alternative List for Democracy and Environmental Protection." The ALDEP later became the Berlin chapter of the Greens. Ströbele was elected to the Bundestag (West German Parliament) in a 1985 by-election, and served until 1987. In 2002, Ströbele was returned to the Bundestag from Berlin's Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district. He was reelected in 2005. Ströbele currently serves as a Vice Chair of the Green caucus in the Bundestag and is among the most prominent politicians belonging to the "Fundi" wing of the party.

Q. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL RACE TO DATE?

ANSWER: From across the Atlantic, the US Presidential race looks very democratic. Voter participation in the primaries so far has been very high. My great hopes are with the Democratic candidates, Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton, each for different reasons. Hopefully McCain will not be the beneficiary of their fight.

Q. WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR THE NEXT U.S. PRESIDENT?

ANSWER: I hope that the next U.S. President will be more peaceful than Mr. Bush and end the war in Iraq immediately, along with the other armed U.S. military operations. The Iraq War not only increases the suffering of the population of that country, but is increasing the threat to Europe and the United States. The war has become a recruiting machine for international terrorism.

Ströbele used some really cool, artistic posters in his last two campaigns (click to enlarge):

2002 Campaign Poster

2005 Campaign Poster

Do you have a connection to a foreign political leader, elected official or prominent candidate you'd like to have answer these two questions? Please email Ron if you know someone you'd like featured here.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 04.19.08 | Permalink |


VIEW FROM ABROAD: DR. GREGOR GYSI, MdB, PARLIAMENTARY CHAIR OF DIE LINKE (GERMANY).

GERMANY: DR. GREGOR GYSI, MdB, Parliamentary Leader of the DIE LINKE (The Left). Born in 1948, Dr. Gysi played a significant role in ending the hardline communist rule in East Germant. A prominent civil rights lawyer -- and member of the Socialist Unity Party (SED), the DDR's ruling communist party -- Dr. Gysi represented several leading dissidents in the 1970s and 1980s. By the late 1980s, Dr. Gysi emerged as the leading proponent of Gorbachev-style reforms of the Marxist-Leninst system. By 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, Dr. Gysi was working within the SED to organize liberaliztion demonstrations and demand free elections. When all of the Leninist hardliners were forced from the SED by early 1990, Dr. Gysi became the last Chairman of the SED -- renamed the Partei des Demokratischen Sozialismus (Party of Democratic Socialism - PDS) -- and was elected to the DDR's Volkskammer legislature before German reunification. In the first German elections immediately following the October 1990 reunification, Dr. Gysi was elected to the Bundestag. He was subsequently re-elected and served in the Bundestag until 2000. Dr. Gysi also served as PDS Chair until 1993, and as Parliamentary Chair of the PDS until 2000. In 2000, he quit after an internal party dispute against the more leftist PDS faction, which was upset that Dr. Gysi moved the PDS into a democratic left entity that rejected traditional Marxist-Leninist ideology. Turning to local politics in Berlin, Dr. Gysi was elected to municipal office in 2002 on a coalition PDS-SDP slate with the socialists. In 2005, he returned to the PDS leadership and formed a coalition with Die Linkspartei (The Left Party). In the 2005 federal elections, Dr. Gysi was co-leader of the unified Die Linkspartei/PDS and was returned to the Bundestag. The Linkspartier/PDS also became the fourth largest party, winning 54 seats in the Bundestag. In 2007, the two parties formally merged to become Die Linke). Dr. Gysi's longtime protégé, Lothar Bisky, currently serves as the federal party leader. Die Linke portrays itself to the left of all other leading German parties and is a member of largely-communist coalition that forms the Party of the European Left (the largest party in the European Parliament).

Q. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL RACE TO DATE?

ANSWER: In the United States, the election of either Democratic candidate would result in one of the major political events of the century. The next President of the United States could be either a woman or person of color. Even a few years ago, either possibility was unthinkable. This shows how political changes is driven by cultural changes. Regardless of whoever the Democrats nominate for President, I hope he or she will be elected -- and not the candidate of the Republicans. .

Q. WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR THE NEXT U.S. PRESIDENT?

ANSWER: My hopes in terms of the next President of the United States is that U.S. foreign policy will no longer operate in the place of domestic politics. The war against Iraq must come to a quick end. Also, the war in Afghanistan must end. The U.S. needs more insight to better address terrorism. That means understanding that a "War on Terrorism" should not be fought, as it will only produce new terrorism. Instead, we need a more equitable world economic order, and an open dialog between different cultures and religions. Ultimately, I hope that the situation within the United States of America becomes more socially just and democratic.

Do you have a connection to a foreign political leader, elected official or prominent candidate you'd like to have answer these two questions? Please email Ron if you know someone you'd like featured here.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 04.11.08 | Permalink |


VIEW FROM ABROAD: WAVEL RAMKALAWAN, LEADER OF THE SEYCHELLES NATIONAL PARTY.

SEYCHELLES: WAVEL RAMKALAWAN, MNA, Leader of the Seychelles National Party. Born in 1961, Wavel was ordained as a priest in 1985. Wavel's work as a priest -- encountering those who were harrassed, imprisoned and victimized for their opposition to one-party rule in Seychelles -- drew him into politics. Wavel gained wide attention for his courageous 1990 national radio address in which he questioned one-party rule and demanded protection of human rights and political freedoms. That forceful speech led to the creation of an underground movement in 1991, which later evolved into the Seychelles National Party. The clandestine and illegal movement published a newsletter which was surreptitiously circulated and avidly read by the population. It called for an end to the abuses of President Albert Rene's one-party era. When Rene was pressured to proclaim the legal return to multi-party politics in 1991, Wavel became official Leader of Parti Seselwa (as it was then named) -- the first new party to register under the new legislation. A coalition of Parti Seselwa and other new parties contested subsequent 1993 elections against Rene under the banner "United Opposition" and, despite government intimidation, won 9% of the vote. This resulted in Wavel becoming the first and only opposition member of the National Assembly. In 1998, the United Opposition captured 26% and won additional Assembly seats. When direct Presidential elections were finally held for the first time in 2001, Wavel captured 45% versus 54% for the 26-year-incumbent. By this time, the SNP emerged as the main opposition party in the Seychelles to the ruling SPPF. In 2005, Wavel formally took a sabbatical from the priesthood to focus full-time on his political career. In the 2006 Presidential election, Wavel won 46%. The SNP also won 44% of the popular vote in 2006 National Assembly races, capturing 11 out of the 34 seats (election laws still favor the ruling party). The SNP is regarded as a left-of-centre, liberal party and belongs to the Liberal International. Wavel is expected to again lead the SNP in the next Presidential elections.

Q. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL RACE TO DATE?

ANSWER: I have been keenly interested in the Democratic race so far, as its going to represent a first either way -- a black man or a woman -- and I think that can only be positive for American democracy. Personally I feel that as Hillary Rodham Clinton was a powerful and hugely active First Lady for eight years, she already had an opportunity to shape her country's future from the White House. Barack Obama however is not only young, intelligent and black, he also represents a movement for change that has the potential to resonate around the world. As Seychelles is part of Africa, I cannot help but wish to see an element of African heritage and understanding at the highest level of world leadership.

Q. WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR THE NEXT U.S. PRESIDENT?

ANSWER: Whoever wins, I sincerely hope that the next President will strive to unite the world. I hope that unlike the, at times, arrogant nature of the current administration, he or she will demonstrate a depth of compassion and a sense of understanding of the needs of those beyond American borders. I wish to see a President who will reignite the "American Dream" where people from all nations are once again welcomed to America as a land of opportunity, and where previous disputes with smaller developing countries such as Cuba and others around the world are resolved in the spirit of cooperation and mutual understanding. In short, I hope that the next US President will embrace the challenge of building an international community around the central pillars of peace and solidarity.

Do you have a connection to a foreign political leader, elected official or prominent candidate you'd like to have answer these two questions? Please email Ron if you know someone you'd like featured here.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 04.05.08 | Permalink |


VIEW FROM ABROAD: JACK LAYTON, LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF CANADA.

CANADA: JACK LAYTON, MP, Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada. Born in 1950 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Jack's father was a Progressive Conservative federal cabinet minister in 1980s. Jack moved to Toronto in the 1970s and earned his Ph.D. in political science from York University. Jack -- a prominent voice on the social democratic left -- entered municipal politics -- was elected six-times to the Toronto City Council. On the council, Jack was a driving force behind Toronto’s Healthy Cities Program, affordable housing initiatives and Canada’s first municipal AIDS strategy. In 2001-02, Jack served as President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. In January 2003, Jack was elected federal Leader of the NDP on the first ballot, capturing 54% against five opponents. In the 2004 elections, Jack led the NDP to victory in 19 seats in the House of Commons (a gain of 5 seats). Jack himself was also elected to Parliament from the Toronto-Danforth riding in Ontario in the 2004 elections. Jack was re-elected in 2006, and also led the NDP to victory in 29 seats (gain of 11 seats). Jack will against lead the NDP into the next federal elections, which could come as early as this year. Jack is also the author of several books, including a Canadian bestseller on his vision for Canada's future.

Q. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL RACE TO DATE?

ANSWER: What has impressed me about this race so far is the excitement it has generated among Canadians. We’re seeing our neighbours to the south go through a major shift in the way they see their political leaders. I think Americans have felt alienated from their leadership for a long time, and with this race they are seeing an opportunity to choose a different kind of leader, one who understands the issues that affect hardworking people in their daily lives. It’s actually quite exciting to see ordinary Americans speaking out, making it clear that the next president they elect will be the person who is able to really listen to what the people are saying and who is committed to running the country in the way they want, rather than just acting in the interest of corporations and lobbyists. Canadians are paying attention to what is going on next door and they’re being inspired to make similar changes on our side of the border.

Q. WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR THE NEXT U.S. PRESIDENT?

ANSWER: The U.S. is at a critical juncture right now and Americans are facing many challenges. I hope that the next president will be someone who can take a long, hard look at the way things have been done in the States and come up with a plan to change direction in a number of key areas. Canadians would like to see an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more and more Americans agree with that point of view. Working people south of the border are also looking for economic measures to protect their jobs, through a re-negotiation of NAFTA, for example, or through changes in the way America treats foreign workers. I hope that the next president will be someone with the political will to follow through on all the changes that have been promised throughout the campaigns for the nominations. And I hope he or she will govern without ever forgetting that they owe their success to regular people who volunteered or voted for them.

Do you have a connection to a foreign political leader, elected official or prominent candidate you'd like to have answer these two questions? Please email Ron if you know someone you'd like featured here.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 04.01.08 | Permalink |


VIEW FROM ABROAD: NIRJ DEVA, MEMBER OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT (UNITED KINGDOM).

UNITED KINGDOM: NIRJ DEVA, MEP, of the Conservative Party. Born into a political family in Sri Lanka, Deva was raised in Great Britain. He speaks Sinhalese and English, is a Catholic, and holds dual Sri Lankan and British citizenship. Originally trained as an aeronautical engineer, he became active in British politics and think tanks beginning in the 1970s. In 1985, Deva became the first Asian-born person to be appointed by Queen Elizabeth II to the office of Deputy Lord Lieutenant for London -- a title which he holds for life. In 1992, Deva was elected as a Conservative to the British Parliament -- only the second Asian-born person elected to the House of Commons. He represented the riding of Brentford & Isleworth until 1997, when Labour ousted him and captured the seat. In 1999, Deva became the first Asian-born person to be elected as a Conservative member of the European Parliament. He was re-elected in 2004. He formerly chaired the European Parliament’s delegation to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. Deva launched a campaign urging Britain to hold a referendum on the European Parliament -- and espouses the Tory view of Britain's role in the new Europe as "In Europe, not run by Europe."

Q. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL RACE TO DATE?

ANSWER: I have been following American politics for the past part of 40 years and have never before witnessed such an interesting race. Just eight months ago, it appeared as if Hillary Clinton was a lock for the Democratic nomination and political commentators were writing John McCain’s political obituaries. How things change. The rise of Barack Obama as a credible candidate for the Presidency only goes to show what an amazing country America is, coming only 45 years since Dr King’s inspirational “I Have a Dream” speech. Last week, the artful way in which Senator Obama managed to transform criticism of his relationship with Jeremiah Wright into to high praise and critical acclaim further goes prove his substance and worth as a Presidential candidate. That said, America is facing profoundly difficult challenges in the years ahead – challenges that four years in the Senate cannot prepare you for. From his membership of the "Gang of 14" in the Senate to his early support for the troop "surge" that is working in Iraq, John McCain has proved himself to be exactly the kind of bold, consensus-building leader America needs. I was delighted to be in Washington, DC, for "Super Tuesday" when John McCain as good as secured the Republican Presidential nomination and am hopeful that he will be elected in November as the next President of the United States.

Q. WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR THE NEXT U.S. PRESIDENT?

ANSWER: America’s reputation on the international stage has undoubtedly taken a hit over the past few years. America is the United Kingdom’s strongest ally and as such it is very much in our interests to see a United States that is respected on the international stage. The next President must immediately close Guantanamo Bay; a facility whose very existence has become a stain on America’s reputation on the international stage and has become a powerful recruiting tool for terrorists. All forms of torture of terrorist subjects must be ceased immediately. As Senator McCain has said, America must send a message to the world that, in contrast to our shared terrorist enemies, the United States “upholds values and standards of behaviour and treatment of all people, no matter how evil or bad they are.” I would also like to see the next President get serious about tackling climate change and continue to carry about the excellent work started by President Bush and my friend Senator Sam Brownback in tackling poverty in the third-world. On an institutional level, I would hope to see the next President support my friend Senator Norm Coleman’s work in fundamentally reforming and democratizing the United Nations. Whilst I would freely admit that the Iraq War has not been as successful as I would have liked, it would be foolish in the extreme for the United States to abandon the country. British and American forces must “stay the course” and finish the noble job we started.

Do you know a foreign political leader, elected official or prominent candidate you'd like to have answer these two questions? Please email Ron if you know someone you'd like featured here.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 03.25.08 | Permalink |


VIEW FROM ABROAD: NICK CLEGG, MP - LEADER, LIBERAL DEMOCRATS (UNITED KINGDOM).

UNITED KINGDOM: NICK CLEGG, MP, is Leader of the Liberal Democrats. Born in 1967, Nick is former print journalist who began his career a trainee writer at the US magazine The Nation. He later worked as a development aid and trade expert for the European Commission. In 1999, he was elected as a Member of the European Parliament. Nick stood down as an MEP in 2004, spent a year as a university lecturer, and was then elected to the British Parliament from Sheffield Hallam in 2005. Elected as Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party in December 2006, Nick has focused on marrying the party’s twin traditions of economic and social liberalism to deliver social justice -- and promises to double the party's seats in Parliament in the next elections. A new The Guardian/ICM poll this week shows the LibDems rapidly gaining on Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party. The numbers: David Cameron / Conservative - 45%, Gordon Brown / Labour - 29%, Nick Clegg / Liberal Democrat - 21%.

Q. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL RACE TO DATE?

ANSWER: Just six months ago it looked like Hillary Clinton was set to lock down the Democratic nomination by Super Tuesday, while the Republican race seemed wide open. I have watched with fascination as John McCain has ground down his opponents, and the Democrats have become ever-more torn between Senators Clinton and Obama. There is no doubt that the 2008 race for the White House should favour the Democrats: the background of economic slowdown, foreclosures and a catastrophic war in Iraq makes it difficult to argue for four more years of a Republican Commander-in-Chief. But the longer that John McCain is out campaigning -- while the Democrats attack one another -- the stronger his hand will become. More broadly, this race has shown that whatever criticisms people make of the US political system, running for president is an extraordinary test of character which exposes both the strengths and weaknesses of those who choose to do it.

Q. WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR THE NEXT U.S. PRESIDENT?

ANSWER: My hope is that the next President will break with the past eight years and take the steps necessary to restore America’s moral authority in the eyes of the international community. That means bringing American troops home from Iraq, but it also requires a President who is prepared to stay within the letter of international law rather than following the path of least resistance. The next President should be resolute in the face of terror, but he or she must not undermine their pro-democracy message by breaking the law. Closing Guantanamo Bay and denouncing all forms of torture – including so-called waterboarding – are key to rebuilding trust in America and American values. That day cannot come soon enough.

Do you know a foreign political leader, elected official or prominent candidate you'd like to have answer these two questions? Please email Ron if you know someone you'd like featured here.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 03.19.08 | Permalink |


 

 

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