After Big Wins for Bush, Howard - Blair Next to Face Voters

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:15 PM EDT

Pacific Rim Bureau ( - The "emphatic" outcome of the U.S. presidential election sent a signal around the world that the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq was prepared to complete the task in the interests a democratic future for that country, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Thursday.

Howard, one of a handful of allies who took the unusual step of supporting President Bush publicly during the U.S. presidential campaign, told reporters he had spoken with the president by phone, congratulating him on his "remarkable victory."

Howard was himself returned to power last month with an enhanced mandate, taking control of both houses of parliament.

Like Bush, Howard faced an electorate divided over the war on Iraq, although the economy and values also were key issues for voters. Both leaders received strong backing from evangelicals and other Christians.

The Australian leader made no secret of his high regard for Bush.

"This is a wonderful personal victory for a person who I like," he said. It was also "a strong reaffirmation of his leadership of the United States in its fight against world terrorism."

Howard said he wouldn't presume to speak for Americans, but it was clear that in Australia's case, "the very negative campaign that was waged against my government in relation to Iraq failed to resonate."

Bush's victory, he added, "will send a very clear signal around the world that the coalition of more than 30 nations in Iraq is determined to stay the distance, is determined to give the people of Iraq the opportunity of reaching out for a democratic future."

The third member of the troika that took part in the military campaign to overthrow Saddam Hussein, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is expected to call a general election in the spring.

Good news for Blair

Unlike Bush and Howard, Blair heads a center-left party which has been deeply divided over the war.

Howard declined an invitation to express a view on "an election that hasn't even been called," but said he admired the British leader for "the great courage he's displayed in confronting his own party on some difficult issues."

During the U.S. campaign, analysts in Britain had differing opinions on how the outcome would affect Blair's position. Some argued that Bush had been a political millstone around Blair's neck, and one the British leader would gladly jettison. Others said a defeat for Bush would leave Blair isolated and vulnerable at the polls.

"I think for Mr. Blair it's probably good news," Prof. Robert Patman, a British-educated international relations specialist based in New Zealand said Thursday. "He did invest a lot in supporting President Bush over Iraq."

"He must be encouraged by the outcome in the United States, and he much be encouraged by the fact that Mr. Howard, who is another important partner in the coalition of the willing ... also prevailed."

Patman said the worrying thing for Blair was that, unlike the other two allies, the majority of his Labor Party did not share his views on a link between the war on terror and Iraq.

Nonetheless, he said, the Bush victory probably made Blair less politically vulnerable than if the president had lost, and if that outcome had been attributed largely to vote unhappiness over Iraq.

Reaction from other coalition partners:

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi:

"The continuation of Bush in American politics makes things easier for us. As for international policy, Bush will continue with the policy that assigns the United States the role of defender and promoter of freedom and democracy."

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi:

"I want to develop Japan-U.S. ties further by giving importance to the confidence and friendship I have built with President Bush."

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo:

"We stand forthwith behind America in defending the ramparts of freedom, collective security and the rule of law everywhere. I'm confident President Bush will unite America behind his principles."

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun:

"We wholeheartedly welcome the re-election of incumbent President Bush ... his victory is a choice made by the American people based on his leadership in the past four years."

Aleksander Kwasniewski, Polish President

"From the point of view of Poland's interests, further co-operation with George W. Bush is good news. I hope that this will also mean increased activity in bilateral affairs, as they lacked sufficient engagement."

Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, speaking before the outcome was finalized:

"Whoever wins will be our friend. The United States liberated us from a dictator from a very long period of war and agony. We will always be grateful to America for what it has done and continues to do."

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow