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US Presidential Election; China-US Relations; Ukrainian and Malaysian Elections Discussed

Aired November 5, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour. Whenever Americans elect a president in the United States, the whole world watches with bated breath. How will this affect us, they ask? Indeed, as the joke goes, people around the world believe they should also have a say about who becomes the leader of the only superpower.

But it is Americans who are voting and though Tuesday is Election Day, already long lines stretch across the country as people have started casting their ballots in early voting.

According to CNN's latest polls, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are tied in the popular vote. But here in the United States it's the Electoral College that counts, the complex system that weighs voting by states, not by the total number of votes that Americans cast. And in that tally, the president is said to be leading Mitt Romney. But, of course, the outcome is far from certain.

Also unclear: will American foreign policy change no matter who wins? In the only foreign policy debate between the two men, Mitt Romney had harsh words for the president's handling of key crises around the world.


FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You look at the record of the last four years and say, is Iran closer to a bomb? Yes. Is the Middle East in tumult? Yes. Is al Qaeda on the run, on its heels? No. Are Israel and the Palestinians closer to reaching a peace agreement? No. They haven't had talks in two years.


AMANPOUR: But in another debate, President Obama said that he had delivered on key foreign policy promises.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not everybody agrees with some of the decisions I've made. But when it comes to our national security, I mean what I say. I said I'd end the war in Libya -- in Iraq, and I did.

I said that we'd go after Al Qaeda and bin Laden. We have. I said we'd transition out of Afghanistan and start making sure that Afghans are responsible for their own security. That's what I'm doing.


AMANPOUR: In a moment, I'll speak with someone who knows exactly how tough it is to make foreign policy priorities and decisions, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

But first, a look at some of the other election stories that we're covering around the world.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Two brave women, worlds apart; two brave voices for democracy. When casting a vote could cost you your life.

And after the election comes the constitution. In Tunisia, they're inspired by the Arab Spring. In the state of Alabama, they've been writing one for 100 years, and still haven't got it right.


AMANPOUR: We'll get to that in a bit. But first, Madeleine Albright appreciates America's foreign policy challenges better than just about anyone. She served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and as secretary of state under President Bill Clinton. She was the first in a long line of distinguished women who have now served in that position.

And in May, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor.

Secretary Albright, thank you very much for joining me.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It's great to be with you, Christiane. Thank you.

AMANPOUR: So the all-important question that everybody around the world is really on tenterhooks waiting to know: how will American foreign policy change no matter who's elected?

ALBRIGHT: Well, if President Obama's reelected, which I expect, I think that he will continue to pursue a policy in which America's strength is evident by how we operate in an increasingly complex world with partners. I think that he has been quite remarkable in the way that he has understood the issues that are out there for us to deal with that really do require partnership.

And as you said, or as the president had said, he has done the things that he said he would do, which is end the war in Iraq, move to get us out of Afghanistan and deal with Osama bin Laden.

He also, I think, understands that there are an awful lot of other issues out there that require American engagement. He did say we were the indispensible nation and that we will do that in partnership with others.

So I think there will be a continuation of the policy with President Obama.

I'm more concerned if there should be a President Romney, because it's very hard to figure out exactly what he stands for. I think he has said, for instance, that Russia is our number one geostrategic problem, which made sense for the 20th century, but makes no sense in the 21st. And he's changed his mind on so many issues.

So I am more concerned about that.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me get to those points. And you bring up the indispensable nation. Of course, you are the one who coined that, so I'm sure it brings a smile to your face when the President of the United States says that.

But let me ask you, traditionally, when an American president is reelected, there's this idea of a second term freedom. There's this idea that they could perhaps pursue certain policies that perhaps they couldn't have done in a first term. And to that regard, I would like to play this sound bite. It was a hot mike recording between President Obama and President Medvedev of Russia.


OBAMA (from captions): This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility. I understand you.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA: I transmit this information to Vladimir, and I stand with you.


AMANPOUR: All right. So discussing with the Russian president how he would have more flexibility.

What precisely do you think he means? And when you talk about priorities in a second term, where do you think they should be?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think the president, you know, had moved forward on a New START treaty and was in the wake of having worked that through the Senate. I think that what the president understands is that one of the issues out there is how to have cooperation with Russia on the various parts of nuclear agreements that are not yet finished.

So I think he understands, as I said earlier, that he has to cooperate with a number of different countries.

I do think that one of the things where there will be something different and it's already a beginning of that is what has now been called the rebalancing to Asia, a genuine understanding that the United States is an Atlantic as well as a Pacific power, and that we have to deal with a rising China that is both a friend and a -- in some ways a competitor.

And the various aspects to do with that and the fact that so many people really live in Asia and that we have to spend a lot of time dealing with that. So I think that will be very much a part of a second term of an Obama administration.

AMANPOUR: And that, of course, is also up for debate in questioning, not just how America will deal with China, but how China will deal with the United States. There is a new Chinese leadership election a couple of days after the American election. And I want to read you something that presumed new president of China said a couple of years ago on one of his foreign trips.

Xi Jinping said, "There are a few foreigners with full bellies who have nothing better to do than try to point the finger at our country. China does not export revolution, hunger, poverty nor does China cause you any headaches. Just what else do you want from us?" said Xi Jinping a few years ago.

Just what does the United States want from China?

ALBRIGHT: I think that we want to have a relationship in which there's some cooperation on a variety of our economic issues that we have to deal with. I think we want China to play a responsible role globally because they are out there in many ways resource-hungry, looking for various areas where they can have an influence.

But as I said earlier, the United States wants to have other countries be partners in solving some of the problems that we have abroad.

I think what we don't want to see is a real escalation of problems in the South China Sea and we would like to see a cooperation in terms of dealing with some of the territorial issues.

What I find interesting was Xi Jinping was in the United States. We had a -- some of us had a small dinner with him. And I think he was looking for ways to build on the long-term relationship that's existed with China and see where the areas are that we can cooperate. And I think that's what we're going to be looking for also.

AMANPOUR: Well, of course, the Chinese could be forgiven for thinking that the United States is simply throwing rhetoric and harsh words at them. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney have thrown around harsh words at China during this election campaign. Do you think that's just the election?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think we do understand that our economic relationship with China is complicated and the issue is, you know, while we're talking about national security, for a lot of people voting tomorrow and in the early election, are questions about jobs and what our economic relationship is with China.

But -- and President Obama has made clear that he wants to see fair trade going forward and really a way of doing with that, not -- I mean, frankly, when you were asking what would happen with Governor Romney, he said he would declare China a currency manipulator on the first day. He hasn't told us what would happen on the second day, because that would really cause a major rift.

AMANPOUR: Well, Governor Romney has also said -- and we played it in that debate, that Iran is four years closer to a nuclear bomb. There's been no progress with Iran except for very harsh sanctions that this administration has leveled on Iran. But no progress in the idea of controlling their nuclear program.

What should a President Obama or a President Romney do to try to resolve this peacefully?

ALBRIGHT: Well, there's no doubt that Iran poses a major problem for the international community. And what President Obama's been able to do is to, in fact, put in these very tough multilateral sanctions and work towards isolating Iran internationally, which other presidents have not been able to do, and to then also make clear something that is very important.

He has said that Iran -- he would not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon, and that containment is not enough of a policy and that he hasn't taken any option off the table; whereas Governor Romney has made it sound as, first of all, he hasn't made clear what he's talking about, whether it's a way of having nuclear potential or whatever word he uses, but he also makes it sound as if we're ready to go to war with Iran.

And I think that's dangerous just to have that as a flat-out policy. And President Obama is working with the international community to see whether there isn't some negotiating path while not taking any option off the table.

AMANPOUR: And very briefly, the Middle East peace process, no movement for a couple of years. Mitt Romney said in the debates, it's -- or he said that it's a problem that will remain unsolved.

Does the next United States president have to reenergize that and restart that process?

ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, the Israelis are having an election in January themselves. That will determine a lot about what their position is. And I do think that it's something that has to be on the second term agenda.

But in the end, the United States can't dictate terms. And so I think it is important to reenergize that and I hope very much that both the parties, the Israelis and the Palestinians, will be prepared to move forward.

AMANPOUR: Secretary Albright, thank you very much for joining me.

ALBRIGHT: Great to be with you, Christiane, as always.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

And, of course, Secretary Albright doesn't just have an eye on the U.S. elections and foreign policy. She's also part of a commission that advises on fair and free elections around the world. When we return, a look at two women at the forefront of that fight in their own countries.

But before we take a break, here on the East Coast of the United States, they continue to feel the devastation of superstorm Sandy.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Just look at the latest cover of "New York" magazine, showing, really, a tale of two cities, flooding knocked out power in Lower Manhattan, while in the northern part of Manhattan, electricity continued flowing.

Lights came back on this weekend in some areas. But now many people will face another storm this week without heat or electricity. And you can take another look at this remarkable picture at We'll be right back.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. And in just hours, Americans will elect their next president. But elsewhere around the world, people fighting for free and fair elections face unimaginable danger.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): In Ukraine, a rally Monday in protest of last week's elections, which international observers called unfair and a step backward. They took place there today. A victory looked almost certain for the party of President Viktor Yanukovych, a man who observers say is growing more authorization by the day.

And in Malaysia, thousands calling for electoral reform -- simple, free elections -- have been met with riot police and tear gas.


AMANPOUR: Tonight, I speak with two women who are leading the fight for reform in those countries, two incredible tales of prison and death threats, all in the pursuit of democracy.

They are Eugenia Tymoshenko of Ukraine; she's the daughter of the jailed former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko; and Ambiga Sreenevasan of Malaysia, here with me in the studio.

Ladies, thank you for being with me.

Let me ask you both first, Eugenia, the dangers: how does your mother, how do you keep fighting for reform and democracy when there are such real physical danger?

EUGENIA TYMOSHENKO, UKRAINE POLITICAL ACTIVIST: Well, really, it's my mother who's in danger constantly every day in that hospital, which became a prison for her. She's watched 24 hours a day with invisible, hidden cameras in there everywhere, in each centimeter where she is. Her life has been in danger several times already and she wasn't able to contact us. She wasn't able to resist.

She still doesn't have a phone line that she can reach us on. She's not allowed telephone calls. But more than that, she wasn't allowed to participate in the elections, be the show trial and the designed persecution against her put her in jail. (Inaudible) --


AMANPOUR: And she's on a hunger strike (inaudible)?


AMANPOUR: Seven years --

TYMOSHENKO: (Inaudible) today. Today she is one week already been on hunger strike, protecting against massive falsifications, has been going on before election day in Ukraine and on the election day, and still going on now one week after the election polls are closed.

The 12th decision (ph) is where the proposition candidates leading have been blocked by the presidential people, by the militia who is attacking people, voters, those who came there to protect their votes.

AMANPOUR: Let me turn to Ambiga Sreenevasan.

You've heard the dangers that Yulia Tymoshenko has been going through, but you have as well. You're not running for anything, but you're leading a coalition. How do you do this in the face of this danger?

AMBIGA SREENEVASAN, MALAYSIAN POLITICAL ACTIVIST: Well, Christiane, actually, you have no choice. I mean, the choices are this: you either give into the intimidation, which means you undermine the whole movement, or you stand up to it.

And it isn't difficult, honestly, because of the tremendous support that we're getting from the people in Malaysia. And I think that's what's wonderful about this whole movement. It's not just Malaysians and Malaysia who are showing support, it's Malaysians around the world.

AMANPOUR: What, in a nutshell, are you looking for? Because the prime minister claims to be a progressive; he models himself, in fact, on the former British prime minister, Tony Blair. What is it that you need in Malaysia?

SREENEVASAN: Well, what we need is free and fair elections. It starts with that, because that's what gives rise to democracy. It's about building institutions. And I think -- I know that the prime minister holds himself out as a reformer. But really, the conduct says something quite different.

We have been under -- you know what's been happening to me. I'm not the only one that's been suffering. There are many people who have been suffering.

AMANPOUR: You've had death threats --

SREENEVASAN: Absolutely. And in fact, even recently, just yesterday, we've had members of our committee being hauled in for questioning. We -- I was stopped at the airport. We're all on some kind of a watch list. So what does that say? And what does it we're asking for? We're asking for free and fair elections. What's wrong with that?

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, Eugenia, because you know, it looks like these parliamentary elections, that the ruling party will win. Your mother's party in that opposition coalition looks to be coming second. What is it that you guys want, because I covered the Orange Revolution of 2004, and people seem to be disillusioned by democracy in the Ukraine, that the democratic leaders didn't deliver.

TYMOSHENKO: The elections on the 28th of October showed a massive support, not for democratic opposition and their three major forces are united opposition supported by the (inaudible) party. Those three parties actually gather more than 50 percent of the support. And if we calculate in total 70 percent of the people voted against the regime, that's including Communist opposition also.

At the same time, opposition gathered today next to the central electoral committee to demand fair elections, to demand those opportunities (ph) where the opposition candidates were winning, but their victory was stolen. Thousands of votes have been stolen from people who went and supported democratic opposition.

We demand those to be given back, at least to those 12 people. We're not talking about that at least 15 percent of opposition vote have been stolen in the free election campaign that was rigged, that was falsified. They just completely distorted by a controlled media and (inaudible) resource (ph).

AMANPOUR: Do you believe, Eugenia, that your mother will be forced to serve those seven years? Or is there a hope that she will somehow -- is there an appeal? Will she be able to come out?

TYMOSHENKO: The international pressure is growing by hours now. The admissions observer (ph) electoral admissions have been present in Ukraine, unprecedented number of people, around 1,000 people, political leaders in the world following the situation, recently Secretary Clinton, High Representative Ashton, Commissioner Tulia (ph) all made very strong critical statements on the election.

That actually pulled the shadow on the whole program of the government, the actual. Now it's very obvious that the regime's aim is to get -- was to get constitutional majority by any illegal means possible. Now it seems to be impossible.

The pressure continues and we believe my mother will be free in several months, also up to the European Court of Human Rights, carries out the decision and we hope that justice will be restored and my mother and others will be free.

AMANPOUR: And Ambiga, you told me there were protests; there were some 20,000 pro-democracy activists in the streets of Malaysia. How do you think your movement is impacting the government? Do they see it as a threat or no?

SREENEVASAN: Oh, they clearly see it as a threat. And that's why we're facing the kind of oppressive conduct that we are by the government. It wasn't just 20,000, actually, Christiane. The last one was -- well, our count was more than 100,000, but 200,000 people. Malaysians don't take to the street easily. So if they have, there is a good reason for it.

AMANPOUR: Do you think that if there was a free election that your side would win, the reformists would win?

SREENEVASAN: Well, to be honest, as far as our movement is concerned, we're not -- we're not worried about who wins. We're worried about the process. The process is important because what it needs to reflect is the will of the people. It's about legitimacy. It's about honoring the right of the voter to vote.

But what we're looking for -- and this is what's wrong with the elections at home. We have problems with the electoral role. We have registrations of foreigners, who have been given citizenship for votes. That, in fact, is something even the government has recognized, because they have set up a royal commission to look into that in one of the states in Malaysia.

So it has happened. We are also concerned about the media. There's no free and fair access to the media. If you look at the media, the mainstream media and the online media, you'll be forgiven if you thought you were in two different countries. So the opposition starts with a tremendous disadvantage.

And the -- sorry, one more thing is the election commission does not enjoy the public confidence that it's supposed to, and that's what the problem really is.

AMANPOUR: We've see the Arab Spring; both of you have obviously seen that. Your countries have been witnessing it.

Ambiga, do you think that that is something that might happen in Malaysia? Do you think you'll see these reforms and a change in your system?

SREENEVASAN: Well, let me tell you where we're coming from. We don't want an Arab Spring. We want to choose our leaders through clean and fair elections. We want to do it through the ballot box, which is why the government really, if they want peaceful transition of any sort -- it can be the same government.

It can be the same people coming in. They have to allow it to happen through clean and fair elections. That's what we're asking for. We want to bring change through the ballot box, if there is to be change at all.

AMANPOUR: Ambiga Sreenevasan, thank you very much.

And Eugenia Tymoshenko, we'll be watching. Thank you very much indeed for joining me.

TYMOSHENKO: Thank you so much.

AMANPOUR: And when we return, we'll have a final thought.



AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, a free election is the foundation of democracy, but the hardest part can be writing a constitution to solidify that democracy and provide precious rights to all.

Imagine a world where the Arab Spring and the United States of Alabama have something in common.

In Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began nearly two years ago, they are still debating a new constitution, as liberals and moderates argue with the ultraconservative Salafis, who want to impose a version of sharia law. Sound complicated?

Well, in the state of Alabama, on election Tuesday, voters will decide whether or not to get rid of racist language in their constitution, which dates back to the days of segregation between black and white.

Even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against it 50 years ago, the antiquated language calls for separate but equal schools.

Rewriting Alabama's constitution, which is said to be the longest in the world with 850 amendments, won't be easy. So let Tunisia and other emerging democracies beware: whether Ukraine, Malaysia or anywhere when it comes to getting it right, it can take centuries and a strong constitution.

That's it for tonight. Thank you for watching and goodbye from New York.