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Interview: Democrats would improve US-Image

Interview with Christine Schon Marques, International Chair of "Democrats Abroad"

What is special about the Democrat’s Global Primary?

For the first time American citizens living overseas will have four ways in which they can participate in the Democratic Party’s election process. They can go to a polling center, vote by fax, by mail – and new this year – they can vote via the internet. Since 1976 we have been sending a voting delegation to the national conventions in which the Democratic presidential candidate is selected. This year our Democrats Abroad Primary will be held between February 5th and 12th. The results will be announced by February 21st.

What is required to vote in the primary election?

Those wanting to vote at a voting center during this eight day period simply need to bring identification, register as a Democrat and vote. For other voting methods, the deadline for registration is the 31st of January. This can be done at www.democratsabroad.org.

Where are the voting centers located?

They are all over the world; whether in Indonesia, India, Russia or Cambodia. There will be eight voting centers in Germany: in Berlin, Frankfurt, Duesseldorf, Heidelberg, Landstuhl, Stuttgart, Goettingen and Munich. These voting centers are located in public places. In Heidelberg, at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies and in Berlin at the restaurant ‘Max and Moritz’. The exact locations and opening times for all voting centers can be found on our homepage.

Is there also a primary for supporters of the Republican Party?

No, ‘Republicans Abroad’ does not send a delegation to its party’s nominating convention. It is not an official part of the Republican National Committee. On the other hand, we have a designation similar to that of a state and will send 22 delegates to the convention in Denver.

How many registered Democrats are there worldwide, and how many live in Germany?

It is not really known how many Americans reside abroad. Estimates lie between four and seven million. We do not release our membership numbers, but many, many more Americans will take part in our primary this year than took part in 2004. There is a great deal of interest, especially since so many of us are disappointed and angry about the presidency of George W. Bush. That will help us this year. Many Americans who have never voted, or haven’t in a very long time, want to vote this year. They are registering to vote with us, or joining our organisation to volunteer to help in the primary, in order to steer our country in a new direction.

Are there also registered Democrats in countries like Iraq, Cuba or Iran?

We have members in over 100 countries. There is a very small group in Iraq called “Donkey’s in the Desert” (The donkey is the symbol of the Democrats). We also have members in Afghanistan, but no official groups in Cuba or Iran.

What topics are especially important to „Democrats Abroad”?

Since we live all over the world, we are especially effected by the negative consequences of Bush’s politics. The end of the war in Iraq has been of major importance to us for many years, and it will remain a major theme this year. It is important for us that the new president concentrates on strengthening the economy, lowering the deficit, improving healthcare and becomes more involved with the problem of global warming.

Which of the two, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, is better qualified for the job?

I will be one of the 22 convention delegates, but I have not yet decided which candidate I will support. We are very happy with all of our candidates and believe that they share our values and will bring our country forward.

Which candidate would be best for improving international relations with the USA?

I think that both would work very hard to improve the image of America abroad. The candidates all understand that diplomacy must play an important roll. They all understand how important good relations with our allies are.

The campaign between the two favorites in your party, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, has been very caustic over the past days. In the meantime, the Kennedy family has endorsed Obama. What do you and other overseas Democrats think about all of this?

At the moment, our candidates are getting a good taste of how hard the campaign against the Republican nominee will need to be fought. Regarding the Kennedy’s: the primaries are part of the decision phase and people are free to support who they like. In this regard, I do not have an opinion on the Kennedy endorsements.

Which Republican would you like to see as the opponent?

That is difficult to say. Overseas Democrats compare our candidates with those of the Republicans. It won’t matter if it is John McCain, Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee: All would simply be a continuation of the terrible Bush years. Therefore, whoever is chosen to stand against our candidate he will need to be prepared for a hard battle and uncomfortable questions. As a New Yorker, I would personally find it interesting if the former major, Rudi Giuliani was the candidate. He would have as much of a problem as the other Republican candidates when it comes to standing up against our candidate.

Interview by Malte Arnsperger, English Translation by Susan Haug