The race is on for Obama White House invitations

7th November 2008, Comments 0 comments

Steinmeier and Merkel will be hoping that some of Obamania might rub off on them as they gear up for what could be a tough election campaign.

Berlin -- The US presidential election might have been decided but the race is now on for early invitations to Barack Obama's White House.

With Germans enthusiastically joining in the global celebrations of the 47-year-old Illinois senator's sweeping victory, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier are both likely to hope they are top of the list for talks with the new US president.

Obama's inauguration in January will come as the build-up starts to next September's national election in Germany, when Merkel will be heading up the nation's conservative bloc as chancellor candidate and Steinmeier will be leading the Social Democrat ticket in the poll.

But then Obama's election also appears set to bring to end what has at times been a difficult eight years in the US-German relationship culminating in the tensions unleashed by Berlin's opposition to Bush administration's decision to launch the war in Iraq.

In congratulating Obama on his election, Merkel was quick to invite the president-elect to Germany as soon as possible.

"We can solve the issues that are pending on the basis of our deep friendship and partnership," said Merkel.

Faced with a gloomy economic outlook in the run-up to the September election, both Steinmeier and Merkel are likely to want to play up their foreign affairs credentials as a counter balance to what is likely to be a grim roll-call in economic numbers.

But more to the point, as the economy slumps into stagnation, unemployment rises and exports sink in the coming months, both Steinmeier and Merkel will be hoping that some of Obamania might rub off on them as they gear up for what could be a tough election campaign.

This is particular the case as both Merkel and Steinmeier have been members of a coalition government that has been widely criticized by economists and business leaders for failing to take advantage of the solid economic growth of recent years to press forward with key reforms of Europe's biggest economy.

German officials are already hoping that the successful mass rally that Obama held in Berlin in July will help to boost their standing with the incoming Democrat-led US administration.

In the meantime, German commuters on their way to work joined the nation's political and cultural elite in expressing their hopes that an Obama White House might result in a new dialogue between the US and Europe.

The German-born actor Armin Mueller-Stahl, who recently starred in Hollywood director David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises and the popular US TV series The West Wing told German radio he saw Obama as a new Nelson Mandela adding that what was needed was a president to bring people and countries together in a peaceful way.

Obama represented an "open and liberal Christianity" said a spokesman for Germany's Protestant Church, Bishop Martin Schindehuette, who also expressed the hope that the new Democrat administration would help to ease recent tensions with the Muslim world.

Many Germans also confessed that they had been up much of the night watching TV and celebrating at election night parties across the nation as the votes rolled to ensuring that Obama would become the first African-American president.

While Steinmeier was holding an early morning press conference in Berlin's Foreign Office on what he described as Obama's "extraordinary victory," the last guests from a US election party were stumbling out of a nearby office building to make their way home.

A round of less-than-encouraging company earnings dampened the positive mood that emerged on stock markets across Asia following Obama's win from spreading to the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

However, traders and business leaders also joined in the sense of euphoria surrounding the Obama victory amid hopes that his administration will focus quickly on the economic problems facing the US and as a result help to pull the world's biggest economy from the brink.

This in turn could help to lay the foundations for a rapid economic recovery to take shape in European economies.

"Only with Europe and the US working together can the solutions to global challenges be formulated and introduced," the Federation of German Industry chief Juergen Thumann said, welcoming Obama's election said.

Andrew McCathie/DPA/Expatica

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