Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Nation (Bangkok) -- US Expats Vote in Primary Poll in Thailand

The Nation (Bangkok)
US expats vote in primary poll in Thailand

Published on February 5, 2008

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand was decked out in red, white and blue on Super Tuesday, as expatriate Americans of all ages had their say on which Democratic Party candidate should compete in the race for presidency in November.

The Chair of Democrats Abroad Thailand, Phil Robertson said this was the first time Democrat Primaries were happening in 34 countries across the globe, as well as over the Internet, and he expected a couple of hundred voters of all ages to come from all around the region to vote here in Bangkok.

"When I talk to friends of mine who aren't American they all say to me, 'You guys should be more careful about who you elect'. I think people who live overseas are broadminded and have an important voice, so I think I have a duty to make sure that voice is heard," he said.

While Democrats were divided as to who will make the best presidential candidate, Robertson said they would unite behind whoever was chosen to run for presidency.

Greg Auberry, 45, and wife Veronica Suozzi, 46, have lived abroad for many years, and have spent the last four in Hanoi. They brought their two young children all the way from Vietnam for their first taste of democracy.

"This is our democratic moment and they're so excited about it. We came to shop for groceries and we're also shopping for a presidential candidate!" Auberry said.

After much consideration, Auberry said he had decided to vote for Hillary Clinton.

"I think Obama's a much more exciting candidate, but I think in the long term Hillary will know how to govern in Washington. I think he [Obama] needs to earn his stripes. The economy, Iraq, there's too many variables for me to vote for him," he said.

He said he was unsure who would win the candidacy as it was a very tight race, but his children had their predictions ready. Dean, 10, although not an Obama fan, saw him as the frontrunner.

"I think Obama. I don't want him to win, but I think a lot of people like him," he said.

Meanwhile Ella, 4, is an Obama supporter for as good a reason as any other.

"She wants Obama, cause she like's his name!" Auberry said.

A couple of other Obama fans were Dr Jeffrey Wachtel and Dr Donald Persons.

Dr Wachtel, a leadership advisor, is from Florida and has lived in Thailand since 2001. He met, and almost found himself working for, George W. Bush Jr before he was elected President. This year he voted in his state primary, not as a Democrat Abroad, and had a last minute change of heart on his preference.

"I voted for Hillary and closed the envelope up. Then I saw the Iowa results and saw Obama had won. Barack showed all the signs of what we want in a leader. To me, he seems the number one candidate with the ability to lead," he said.

"It convinced me that Americans would vote for a black man who was a real leader and that showed me he was electable. That swayed me away from what was practical to what I thought was best for our country."

His friend Dr Persons, who has lived in Thailand since 1984, and attended Obama's church in Chicago, agreed.

"Barack has young people excited. She [Clinton] won't mobilise the people," he said.

"This guy is rock solid, good integrity, he speaks the truth and won't be pulled by the nose. The world needs him in that position. Governments of the world will be able to sit down together and talk."

Dr Persons said worry over his inexperience was irrelevant.

"The bureaucracy tells them what they do and what they don't do. He's not just alone, they will guide him. It'll be great for the America, for the world," he said.

Elizabeth Gray Boname, originally from Texas, has lived in Thailand for almost a year with her husband and two young children.

She said she was saddened by the change in foreigners' views of Americans over the past decade.

"As someone whose lived overseas since 1993, it's enormously sad for me as an American, to see how much the perception of our country has changed."

She said Obama was her preferred candidate because he was so refreshing.

"For the first time in a long time I actually have excitement for who is going to be our next president. I think he's an exciting candidate, I think he's someone who signals more change," she said.

Chris Kimble, Chair of Republicans Abroad Thailand, was the lone Republican in attendance. He said he was working on forging ties between the two groups, and although Republicans living abroad cannot physically come to vote as the Democrats can, he and his colleagues had worked hard to encourage people to vote in their home state ballot.

"We try to educate Americans on how to vote overseas. The biggest thing is to let Republicans know they can vote and how they can vote. We don't really put one candidate over the other," he said.

Both parties agreed on one thing: the presidential race is set to be a close and exciting one.

"This is gonna be an interesting election with a lot of controversy," Mr Kimble said.

Democrat supporters currently residing outside of the US who didn't have a chance to vote today, can do so in Bangkok this Saturday, February 9, and at other regional centres over the next few days.

See for details.

by Lily Partland

The Nation

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