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'Is Nick Clegg the British Obama?' asks Arab press as UK poll swings on change

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After two impressive performances in televised debates between leaders of the three major political parties in the run up to the UK's May 6 general election, some in the Arab media are comparing the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg to charismatic US president Barack Obama, writes Tom Trewinnard.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user David Spender

The 2010 general election is the first time Britain has seen US-style televised debates, pushing political weekly Al Mushahid Assiyasi to wonder whether the UK electorate may follow their US counterparts when it comes to polling day:

The question remains: Are the British are copying the Americans, the nationals of their former colony? They take after some of their election campaign management methods, such as using the Internet to win votes, engaging candidates' wives in campaign battles, in addition to TV debates. So, will they imitate the Americans once more and vote for the first time for a candidate who is not a member of the two major parties, like did the Americans when they elected their first black candidate for the presidency of the White House?

يبقى سؤال هو أن البريطانيين باتوا يقتبسون من الأميركيين، مواطني مستعمرتهم السابقة، بعض أساليبهم في إدارة الحملات الانتخابية، مثل استخدام الإنترنت لاستمالة الناخبين، وانخراط زوجات المرشّحين في المعارك الدعائية والحملات الترويجية، الى جانب تنظيم المناظرات التلفزيونية. فهل إنهم سوف يقلّدون هذه المرة الأميركيين في الذهاب الى التغيير ويصوّتون لأول مرة لمصلحة مرشّح من خارج الحزبين الكبيرين، كما فعل الأميركيون عندما اختاروا أول مرشّح أسود لرئاسة البيت الأبيض؟

With much of the Arab media showing little interest in policy issues surrounding the election, particularly as foreign policy has thus far given way to domestic and economic policy in the debates, London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat looks back to the Iraq war and finds other parallels between Clegg and Obama:

The most important point that may play a major role helping Clegg win the second debate is the fact that his party had opposed the invasion of Iraq when the resolution was being voted in the parliament. Does this ring a bell? Of course there are many signs of similarities between Clegg and Obama, who adopted the same tactics to introduce himself to the Americans as the best judge of things, despite his limited experience and young age. So, could Clegg succeed also succeeded like Obama?

النقطة الأهم التي قد تلعب دورا كبيرا في فوز كليغ بالمناظرة الثانية، هي أن حزبه كان الوحيد الذي عارض غزو العراق عندما تم التصويت على القرار في البرلمان. هل يذكّركم هذا بشيء؟ بالطبع هناك علامات تشابه كثيرة هنا بين كليغ وباراك أوباما الذي اعتمد التكتيك نفسه في تقديم نفسه إلى الأميركيين على أنه صاحب الحكم الصحيح، رغم قلة خبرته وصغر سنه. فهل ينجح كليغ كما نجح أوباما؟

Also closing with the same tantalising question, UAE daily Al-Etihad contemplates the two men's unlikely rise to power, noting that if Clegg does succeed, he will be the first man to break the Labour and Conservative stranglehold on UK politics in recent history:

Despite all this, Clegg had not attracted much public attention until last Thursday's debate when he managed to present his party as the alternative to the two major parties that have been alternating power for 65 years. Would the British take after their American peers in the next election due in three weeks? Would they elect the "Liberal Democrats" For the first time like the Americans voted for the first time for a black presidential candidate so that History would refer to Clegg as "Britain's Obama"?

رغم كل ذلك فإن كليغ لم يجذب اهتمام الرأي العام كثيراً، بل استماله فقط في مناظرة الخميس الماضي حين نجح في تقديم حزبه على أنه البديل عن الحزبين الرئيسيين اللذين يتبادلان السلطة منذ 65 عاماً. فهل يقلد البريطانيون أقرانهم الأميركيين، في الانتخابات العامة القادمة بعد ثلاثة أسابيع، فيختاروا "الأحرار الديمقراطيين" للمرة الأولى، كما فعل الأميركيون حين صوتوا لأول مرة لصالح مرشح رئاسي أسود... ليتحدث التاريخ عن كليغ بوصفه "أوباما بريطانيا"؟!

Thanks to Nouran and Deena for their translations. The views in this post are taken from diverse sources and should not be taken as the views of Meedan.