OBAMA has won the US presidential election, defeating his Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The incumbent president has captured at least 303 electoral votes - more than the majority of 270 required for victory in Tuesday's quadrennial election. During his victory speech in Chicago, Obama said that "the task of perfecting our union moves forward". "We are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation," he said. "We know in our hearts that for the United States of America the best is yet to come." Obama said that he had congratulated Romney on a hard-fought campaign. "The Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service."In Boston, Romney told supporters during his concession speech that he had called Obama to congratulate him on his victory. "This is a time of great challenges for America and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation," he said. Obama won a string of key states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa and New Hampshire, though the vote-counting was far from complete.
After competing in his traditional Election Day basketball game, Obama had implored his supporters to vote in the final hours before polls closed in many states.Romney has taken 203 electoral votes from 23 states, including Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Indiana, South Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Alabama. Some 120 million people rendered their judgement between the Democratic incumbent and Romney after a long and bitter presidential campaign that magnified the differences between Americans wanting to continue Obama's approach to fixing the ailing economy and those who want to try a new path.
There were scattered reports of irregularities across the country, particularly from voters who said they were asked to show identification while waiting in line. In Pennsylvania, a judge ordered Republicans to stop demanding identification from voters outside a polling station. Voting machines also broke down in a number of polling stations. One man in Pennsylvania posted a video of a machine that did not let him vote for Obama, apparently a malfunction.
Romney voted on Tuesday morning near his home in Belmont, Massachusetts. From there he hit the campaign trail, a rarity for presidential candidates on Election Day. His campaign had events in Pennsylvania and the battleground state of Ohio. Obama voted more than a week ago in his hometown of Chicago, part of a campaign to encourage his supporters to take advantage of early voting. About 30 million Americans had already voted, a record number.
"Governor Romney, congratulations on a spirited campaign," he said to reporters on Tuesday morning. "We feel confident we've got the votes to win, but it's going to depend ultimately on whether those votes turn out."
His vice president, Joe Biden, cast his ballot in the early morning hours in his home state of Delaware. He travelled to Chicago in the afternoon to watch the results with Obama. Tuesday's vote capped off a gruelling campaign that became the most expensive in history. Candidates and outside groups spent some $2.6bn on the presidential race alone.
Obama used his final campaign stop to remind voters of his accomplishments: the economy's slow, steady recovery from recession; the rescue of the American auto industry; and the end of the war in Iraq.
Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Golden, Colorado, says voters there showed no signs of election fatigue.
"People are very energised, both Republicans and Democrats," our correspondent said. "People take these issues very seriously and do their research."
"We did see a lot of people arriving in the main courthouse in Jefferson County with several people getting out of each car.”
The entire House of Representatives, the lower house of Congress, is also up for election, as is one-third of the Senate, the upper house.
Republicans were generally expected to keep control of the House, though polls show them losing some of their 50-seat majority. Democrats control the Senate by the narrowest of margins: They hold 51 seats in the 100-member body. Polls show them maintaining that majority, and perhaps picking up one or two extra seats.
Obama will face a difficult task head globally. Among the challenges:
- Iran's nuclear program. The Iranian mullahs have continued to enrich uranium to weapons-grade capabilities despite warnings from the USA to stop. Sanctions promoted by Obama for years have hurt economic activity in Iran but have not persuaded the regime to end its nuclear program, which is in violation of UN agreements. Israel has said it cannot abide an existential threat from Iran, and may use military forces to end it.
- China. Asian nations are pleading with the USA to help them curb China's expanding territorial ambitions and the use of its growing military to force the region to abide by its demands. Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, all U.S. allies, are using their own militaries to confront China's quest for more energy rights in the China sea and its attempt to seize control of islands claimed by its neighbors.
- Middle East. The Arab Spring is turning into a takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood, which has never been friendly toward American or Western influence. Syria's brutal military operation against a rebellion is spilling into Turkey and Lebanon, threatening a wider conflict. Al-Qaeda terrorist have infiltrated the uprisings in Syria, and have are resurgent in Iraq.
- North Africa. Militant groups aligned with al-Qaeda have spread throughout the region, in Mali, Nigeria, Somalia and Libya. One has been identified as responsible for the terror attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, which killed the American ambassador and three other Americans. Attacks on US embassies throughout the region have been attempted or plots to do so broken up.
- Europe. An economic crisis continues and may have an effect on the US economy. Deficit spending has not been slowed in debtor nations, and unemployment especially among younger workers has hit record levels, causing unrest in the streets and political battles.
- Russia. Another term for Vladimir Putin has brought with it a new wave of repression against democratic activists and political opponents. Putin has opposed
U.S. interests in numerous ways, blocking sanctions against Syria and Iran at the United Nations and helping Syria with weapons to continue its crushing of regime opponents.
In Moscow, the Kremlin welcomed the news cautiously and President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram of congratulations – though he was expected to call later. On the streets, Russians were lukewarm at best.
"It doesn't really make much difference who is president, Obama or Romney," said Oleg Korzin, 35, a Moscow businessman. "The US will never be a genuine ally or partner for Russia. Washington would be happy if Russia just ceased to exist."
In the Middle East, his victory was met with some skepticism by those questioned in Cairo. Analysts say Egyptians were focused on pressing domestic issues and political transformation to pay as much attention to this year's US elections as they did in 2008.
"Certainly the belief is that the willingness of Obama to use force only under the umbrella of international organizations makes people welcome his victory," said Mazen Hassan, a political science lecturer at Cairo University.
Iran's semi-official Fars news agency featured the headline "Republican's elephant crushed by Democrat's donkey."
In Pakistan, where anti-American Islamist groups have found safe haven, Obama has faced hostility for stepping up US-led drone attacks on suspected terrorist homes and camps. Other Pakistanis believe Obama has ignored the major problems of Pakistan, such as corruption and poverty, while focusing too much on Afghanistan, according to Pakistani daily newspaper, Dawn.
"In so far as our region is concerned, who the next incumbent is really not very material," wrote Dawn columnist Najmuddin A Shaikh. "If there was one thing that emerged clearly from the otherwise inane presidential debate on foreign policy and the vice-presidential debate it was that there is little daylight between the positions of Obama and Mitt Romney on Afghanistan and by extension on Pakistan."
At an all-night election party in the village of Kogelo in Kenya, the president's step-grandmother was surrounded by dance and cheers as the news broke of Obama's win. But global surveys have show that the president has fallen in favor from the 2008 elections.
A Pew Research Center study released in June showed global approval of Obama had slipped dramatically, most significantly in Muslim countries and in China. The study showed Muslims in the Middle East felt he did little to address their issues, among them going after Israel, improving their economic lives or ending military operations in Muslim countries.
"Obviously there is a little disappointment because he could not have possibly fulfilled the hopes and expectations that people had when he first came to office," said Jan Techau, director of Carnegie Europe, the European Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Still, Europeans in particular still hold Obama in high esteem – especially curious, says Techau, because Obama spent little time focusing on Europe, instead setting his sights on China and the Middle East.
"There's not a lot of love coming back from Obama to the Europeans that love him so much," said Techau.
Contributing: Naomi Westland in London; Marc Bennetts in Moscow; Sarah Lynch in Cairo.
Obama: The world's joy, Israel's Disappointment
While Barack Obama's victory was lauded across the world, there was uneasiness in the Israeli establishment and concerns in the media over whether the US President would try to extract 'revenge' on Premier Benjamin Netanyahu for his tacit backing of Mitt Romney.Though Netanyahu congratulated Obama on his victory and expressed hopes that they "will continue to work together", other leaders of the ruling parties had a difficult time hiding their disappointment, some openly saying that Obama was not trustworthy.
"The strategic alliance between Israel and the US is stronger than ever. I will continue to work with President Obama in order to assure the interests that are vital to the security of the citizens of Israel," Netanyahu said in his congratulatory message.
Despite the gesture, Knesset members from the Prime Minister's Likud party expressed their disappointment over Obama's re-election, expressing their hope that Israel would now be pressured into making political concessions.
"Obama is not good for Israel and we're concerned that he will try to pressure Israel into making concessions because of his chilled relationship with Netanyahu," a Likud lawmaker was quoted by Ynetnews as saying.
Another Knesset member, who had expressed his support for Republican candidate Romney noted that the Israeli Prime Minister would have no choice but to come to terms with Obama's re-election."In the end we will have to work with him, and that's what will happen. In spite of the disappointment over this re-election, I believe that Netanyahu and Obama will eventually work together," he was quoted as saying.
Knesset member Danny Danon too expressed his disappointment saying that "Obama cannot be trusted".
"The State of Israel will not surrender to Obama. We have no one to rely on but ourselves," he argued.
The frosty relations between Netanyahu and Obama were highlighted throughout the US election campaign in the Israeli media and the Israeli Premiere's tacit backing of Romney was amply visible.
This led some to believe that the US President would work against Netanyahu in the forthcoming Israeli elections, if elected a second time.
Romney also re-iterated his support for Israel in no uncertain terms accusing Obama of throwing the close ally under the bus and declaring that the Jewish state will be his first stop on the international map.
The ties between Obama and Netanyahu have soured over Israel's policies of continuing building settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. The us, under Obama, has also resisted Israel's calls for laying down clear "red lines" to stop Iran's nuclear programme.
First African-American president of the US swept to power in 2008 promising "change", and won a second term in 2012.
Obama's signature achievement in office has been his reform of health care [Reuters]
|Barack Obama made history when he was elected the United States' first African-American president in November 2008, and he swept to re-election with a victory over Republican Mitt Romney in 2012.|
In a speech to supporters in Chicago after winning the election, Obama pledged to work with Democratic and Republican leaders to reduce the nation's federal deficit, fix the tax code, reform immigration and reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil.
Obama's first term in office had been dominated by the passage of his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as "Obamacare", which he signed into law despite fierce Republican opposition.
Obama also ordered the bailout of the country's struggling car industry in 2009 and signed into law a repeal of the military's controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy preventing gay people from serving.
He also signed into law the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which tightened regulation of the financial system.
On the international stage, Obama has withdrawn US troops from Iraq, a conflict he opposed from the beginning, although thousands of US troops remain in Afghanistan.
The president has failed to close the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, as he had promised in 2008.
In 2011, the president ordered a team of Navy SEALs to kill Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, at his compound in Pakistan.
The son of a Kenyan father and US mother, Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961.
Obama later obtained his degree in New York and spent several years working for church groups assisting the poor in Chicago in the midwestern state of Illinois.
Eventually, like several other presidential candidates, he entered the legal profession, becoming the first African-American president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review while obtaining his law degree.
He then returned to Chicago, teaching and working as a civil rights lawyer before entering the Illinois state senate in 1997.
Path to power
In 2004, Obama was elected to the US senate, only the third African-American to achieve such a post since the US' Reconstruction era of the late 19th century.
Not long afterwards, Obama delivered the keynote speech at the Democratic Party's annual convention in Boston, Massachusetts, in which he criticised George Bush, the US president at the time, and called for an end to the Iraq war.
The speech sparked national interest in the young senator, and soon led to a wave of queries from the media over whether he would announce his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.
When he finally did so, there was a media frenzy. The young, photogenic senator was feted by many as the new face of the Democrats.
But he only secured the nomination after a long and at times bitter presidential primary campaign against rival Hillary Clinton, the New York senator and former first lady.
After he won the presidency, she accepted his offer to become secretary of state.
Four years on
The 44th US president took office with an approval rating of more than 80 per cent. As his first term draws to a close, however, his approval ratings have hovered slightly below 50 per cent.
Although the unemployment rate fell below eight per cent in September, for the first time since Obama took office, it is still high by historical standards.
National polls show the president running roughly even with his Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, although Obama has small leads in some critical swing states such as Ohio.
Some speculate that Obama's response to Hurricane Sandy, a 'super storm' that hit the East Coast a week before election day, may have given him a boost in the polls.
One exit poll found two-thirds of voters cited Obama's response to the storm as a factor in their vote.