The poor showing by President Barack Obama's party in the U.S. election is not likely to lead to major changes in the country's foreign policy, and could even help improve the situation in Afghanistan, opinion makers said Wednesday.
"One would massively underestimate the president of the United States if one wanted to think that he would be weakened in foreign policy," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told ZDF television. "America is a strong country; the American president is a very strong and decisive president."
During Tuesday's midterm election, Obama's Democrats held onto the Senate but gave up their majority in the lower house to Republicans, the biggest gain by Republicans in the House of Representatives since 1938.
In France and some other countries, Tuesday's voting had been seen as a test for Obama, cheered around the world before taking office.
As former Danish Foreign Minister Mogens Lykketoft said, "American politics will be locked." But foreign policy isn't likely the top casualty, many opinion makers said.
The Republican sweep is good news for Afghanistan, said Nader Nadery, Afghan analyst and director of independent Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan. He predicted that it won't change the course of the war and is unlikely to affect the troop drawdown date of July 2011, but said it will likely mean quicker House approval of money earmarked for Afghanistan.
Ahmed Torabi, the head of Integrity Watch Afghanistan, warned that the influx of dollars would have to be better monitored to avoid waste and corruption. "When the Republicans were in power, there wasn't any strong oversight in the way aid was spent," he said.
Some analysts said they think the election results are more likely to change U.S. domestic policy than foreign policy.
"America is a democracy and policies do not revolve around one person in the United States. Therefore, I do not expect any change in the U.S. foreign policy," said Ishtiaq Ahmad, a professor of international relations at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan. There was no immediate reaction by the U.S.-backed government in Pakistan.
Will the delicate Middle East peace process be a victim of the midterms?
Zalman Shoval, a confidant of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., thinks not. "Foreign policy is the prerogative of the president, even if he is weak," said Shoval.
And in Indonesia, where Obama spent part of his childhood, there were still those holding onto the notion that Obama's experience in their country would help bridge ties between the West and the Muslim world.
"It will be harder for him, yes," said Sonni Gondokusumo, a former playmate. "But he's not going to give up. He's going to keep struggling because this isn't just what's best for the world but for Americans. He still has two years to prove himself."
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