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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08KUALALUMPUR979 2008-11-05 11:06:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Kuala Lumpur
Cable title:  

INITIAL MALAYSIAN REACTION TO U.S. PRESIDENTIAL

Tags:   PREL PGOV ECON KDEM KPAO MY 
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KUALA LUMPUR 000979 

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON KDEM KPAO MY
SUBJECT: INITIAL MALAYSIAN REACTION TO U.S. PRESIDENTIAL
ELECTION

Summary and Comment
-------------------



1. (U) The U.S. presidential election result attracted major
attention and immediate reactions in Malaysia on November 5.
Foreign Minister Rais promptly issued a Malay language
statement noting that Senator Obama's victory brings new
possibilities in the bilateral relationship, and expressed
hope that the new U.S. administration respects national
sovereignty and does not prioritize force in dealing with
global problems. International Trade and Industry Minister
Muhyiddin called for the incoming administration to play a
critical role in resolving the international financial
crisis, while questioning whether the U.S. would adopt
protectionist measures. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim
expressed "admiration" for Senator Obama and said Malaysia
could learn something from the election of a racial minority,
but stated he disagreed with Obama's Middle East positions.
The Embassy hosted a well-attended election event,
extensively covered by local media, with hundreds of
Malaysian, diplomatic, and American citizen guests watching
the conclusion of the U.S. election.



2. (SBU) Comment: The immediate Malaysian government and
political reaction to the U.S. election results has been
congratulatory and positive, with an undertone of caution and
implied criticism of current U.S. policy. The initial
Malaysian comments appeared geared foremost to the domestic
audience. End Summary and Comment.

Foreign Minister's Statement


--------------------------





3. (U) Foreign Minister Rais Yatim released a one-page Malay
language statement on the "Victory of Barack Obama in the
U.S. Presidential Election" several hours after the election
results were broadcast in Malaysia the afternoon of November
5 local time. The Foreign Minister stated that, "Obama's
victory is seen as bringing change and positive values in
international relations.... Malaysia also welcomes his
victory as a new beacon in the struggle to fulfill the
demands of democracy.... Obama's victory brings about
numerous new possibilities in international relations
especially in U.S.-Malaysia bilateral relations in years to
come. Malaysia will continue to maintain and increase the
mutual harmonious relations with the new American
administration."



4. (SBU) The statement concluded by expressing hope that the
Obama Administration would act "with more respect for the
sovereignty of small nations" and "not prioritize power and
force as tools to resolve various global problems."
(Comment: FM Rais' comment on sovereignty echoes his remarks
before the UN General Assembly in September in which he
called for respect of Malaysia's sovereignty, widely seen as
a reference to U.S. public remarks regarding rule of law in
Malaysia's on-going prosecution of Opposition leader Anwar
Ibrahim. End Comment.)



5. (U) Minister for International Trade and Industry
Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, speaking with reporters, offered
congratulations to Senator Obama and said, "we would like to
see America not only playing an important role but a critical
role, particularly in trade with developing countries like
(Malaysia)." Muhyiddin went on to say that, "Our concern is
the economic and international crisis. The U.S. is faced
with the most severe financial crisis. We want to see
whether America under Obama will adopt a pro-protectionist
policy to safeguard its domestic interests like employment,
job creation, investment and businesses."



6. (U) The Foreign Ministry informed us that Prime Minister
Abdullah would write to Senator Obama and transmit the
congratulatory letter via Embassy Kuala Lumpur on October 6.

Opposition Leader's Remarks


--------------------------





7. (SBU) Anwar Ibrahim, speaking to journalists in
Parliament in the hours after the U.S. election result,
reportedly said, "I know it is not easy to say anything
positive about America, at least not in Malaysia,
particularly not the way the media has been portraying me (as
beholden to the U.S.)...But (Obama's) strength... is that he
is prepared to engage. And this is very critical for the
U.S." Anwar said that while disagreed with some of Senator

KUALA LUMP 00000979 002 OF 002


Obama's foreign policy positions, noting that "some of his
views regarding the Middle East conflict are quite
disturbing," Anwar nevertheless had "great admiration for him
personally." The Opposition leader stated that Obama,
"represents the face that is willing to engage and have a
meaningful dialogue...." In a reference to Malaysia's
largely race-based politics dominated by the ethnic Malay
majority, Anwar described as a "healthy and welcome trend"
the situation in which "you have a black and minority leading
as an American and not as a black person. We should learn
from this."



8. (SBU) Comment: Anwar made his comments against the
backdrop of the National Front government's frequent efforts
to portray the Opposition leader as a U.S. puppet. Anwar's
coalition includes the Islamist PAS party that has been
highly critical of perceived U.S. policy in the Muslim world.
End Comment.

U.S. Embassy Event Well Attended, Extensive Media Coverage


--------------------------



--------------------------





9. (U) By the afternoon of November 5, most online versions
of local Malaysian newspapers posted wire stories describing
Obama's victory in the U.S. election. Local TV news networks
covered the conclusion of the election from the ballroom of
the Renaissance Hotel, where Embassy Kuala Lumpur held a
large event to watch the returns along with hundreds of
invited guests. Ambassador Keith was interviewed extensively
by multiple local media outlets. National news agency
Bernama provided live feed from the U.S. Embassy event
throughout the morning of November 5, as polls closed and CNN
projections came in declaring Senator Obama to be the winner.
KEITH