Electoral Approval in Amman

Harold Lyons is a student at the University of Maine, Orono and an ISA Featured Blogger. Harold is currently studying abroad in Amman, Jordan on an ISA Fall 1 program.

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minis...
President Barak Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons

The election of 2012 was of personal importance to me. The election was not significant to me because I was particularly supportive of either candidate, quite the opposite really. It would have been the first presidential election when I would be eligible to vote. The ability to vote for our leaders is a right I have never taken for granted, and I was genuinely excited to exercise my right. Spending time in the Middle East studying political science has only made me appreciate my rights more.

Imagine my disappointment when I was unable to exercise my right. I never received my absentee ballot. I am by no means an isolated case. A number of my classmates studying abroad also failed to receive their absentee ballots. There are many reports of other overseas voters’ missing ballots. Obviously, voting overseas entails some impressive logistics, but that does nothing to temper my disappointment. I was left to wade through my social networks, to live vicariously through my friends’ political opinions and decisions.

Naturally, my friends took to hallowed ground of political discussion, Facebook. They argued the political merits of marijuana legalization in Colorado, as well as  the legalization of gay marriage in my home state of Maine. They argued for their respective candidates, how either party’s goal was to “ruin America.”

Some of the most thought-provoking political conversations I have had in regards to United States policy have taken place in Amman, Jordan. It is no secret that much of America’s public is politically uniformed, and their knowledge goes little beyond media propagated party lines. This generalization does not hold true in Jordan, where even the most cursory of conversations tend to gravitate towards heavier fare. It escapes me, the last time I had a conversation that did not involve a combination of religious beliefs, political stances and personal morals.

Even the Jordanians who speak little English know one word: Obama. The morning following our election, we climbed into our bus as normal. With a wide grin, our bus driver exclaimed, “Obama!” So far, the general consensus of the people I have talked to are happy that our president extended his term. When asked why they display such affection, answers tend to resemble, “well, he has to be better than the other guy.”

In my experience in Amman, Obama seems to be viewed as the President who replaced Bush. Unsurprisingly, Bush is not generally well liked here in Amman. As well-versed as Jordanians are in knowledge of United States policies, I have yet to receive a substantial answer when asking about Obama’s approval.

I have always found it peculiar that people in the Middle East have taken such interest in our elections. It makes sense, the policies that our administration enforces probably affect Middle Easterners more profoundly than Americans. I am most interested in seeing how the United States’ relation with Israel progresses, especially since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly supported Mitt Romney.

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