Making Sense of the U.S. Election, Leadership Handover in China

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By Erik Pineda | November 6, 2012 6:30 PM EST

It will be a pivotal week for economies around the world as the two largest markets get to pick their new leaders.

One is a done deal as China is all but formalising the ascension of President Xi Jinping, vice the outgoing Hu Jintao. The other must be decided by the estimated 120 million U.S. registered voters on Tuesday (Wednesday in this side of the world). It'll be a tossed up between the incumbent, President Barack Obama of the Democrat and the Republican Mitt Romney.

By the end of the week, Australia will witness almost simultaneous leadership transition on two countries it considered as major partners. America is Canberra's historical friend and the ties connecting the two nations were further strengthened in November 2011 during Mr Obama's state visit.

He forged with Prime Minister Julia Gillard an agreement that only renewed the deep friendship between Aussies and Americans. The two agreed to work closely as the Asia-Pacific region marches to further economic prosperity in the years and decades ahead.

Canberra embraced the so-called return of the lone super power in the dynamic area following decades of focus in Europe, the Middle East and the Central Asian region.

The county also has a giant interest in China, its expanding economy undeniably tethered to the resource-driven economy of Australia. Political stability fuels economic growth in China, which in turns leads to more business prospects for Aussie mining firms thereby supporting the country's mining boom, said to be nearing its peak.

Yet the right leader holding the baton in China would mean a Chinese economy that is constantly improving and stabilising, which in the process would redound in the resources boom in Australia extending its lifespan, delivering more in the investment pipeline that the Labor government has been brandishing.

That pretty much sums up Australia's hopes that Mr Xi would carry over, if necessary improve on the policies, of his predecessors that transformed China as the second biggest economy in the planet, directly benefitting its many trade partners, Australia including.

Australian stakes in the United States are both motivated by sentiments and economics, yet more emphasis on the former.

The White House contenders are somehow affiliated with the Australian politics. The Democrats are easily identifiable with the Labor while the Republicans are aligned with the conservative Liberal-National Coalition.

Yet ironically, some analysts see Mr Obama in Opposition leader Tony Abbott, at least in the way the Obama campaign has configured its assaults on Mr Romney, demonising the latter's policies and his character.

Such was the approach adopted by Mr Abbott against Ms Gillard, and for a while, he was succeeding and appeared all set to send the prime minister out of The Lodge in late 2013.

But that scenario played out many months ago as the latest opinion polls showed that Mr Abbott lags the Labor leader in popularity and the Coalition was losing its steam that had previously ensured its rousing victory. Now the government has a better fighting chance en route to the 2013 federal election.

Mr Romney also entered the contest an underdog, likely launching only a perfunctory challenge against the vaunted political machinery of the man-in-power, Mr Obama. But blunders, negativity among others, by the latter's camp afforded the multi-millionaire the chance to gain significant political traction.

Reuters said Mr Obama's fight was somehow a walk-in-park as he was ensured of garnering more than 270 Electoral College votes required to retain the U.S. presidency. But after the series of debates, and the series of mudslinging prior to that, the battle field was levelled.

Now the two are locked in a fierce race to convince the swing states of Iowa, Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin who would make the better president, which is the same case in Australia, where voters will likely witness an epic Coalition-Labor battle that was previously billed as the day the Labor reign ends.

Mr Obama was thought to easily win a fresh term at the White House notwithstanding the gripes about his dismal economic policies that saw the U.S. jobless rates zooming up to record highs. Now he is not too sure.

Mr Abbott was thought to easily boot out the Labor government in 2013 notwithstanding the ruling party's sound economic policies that left other economies wondering why they were wallowing in deep quagmires. Now he needs to contend with low approval rating and maybe fend off likely in-party challenges.

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