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Global elections watch: All eyes on U.S. race

Who would foreigners like to see at the helm of the world's superpower – a Republican or Democrat?

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"I think no other administration has given so much assistance to this problem before," Ms. Maphumulu says. "This is what has to do with my life. I don't know about Iraq and other policies, but that is not as important to me. So, I am happy for the Republicans to win."

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Which policy would you most like the next US president to change?

Everyone interviewed responded similarly: America needs to act less unilaterally, to build solutions via consensus rather than imposing them. They want the next president to respect that every country has its own culture and approaches, which may not adapt well to prescriptions cooked up in Washington.

"Democrat or Republican, I do not care," says Fakhri Karim, a Baghdad newspaper owner and book publisher. "I just prefer a US president that would balance US interests with those of other nations.... The United States must construct its foreign policies based on local knowledge and not based on what advisers come up with at the Pentagon or in the State Department as they did in Iraq."

Svetlana Kurchavik, a Russian housewife, says: "I don't want America to interfere into other countries, or dictate their conditions to anybody."

In Mexico City, chauffeur Eloy Cortes says, "What I want more than anything is that the US become more conscious of the rights of immigrants in the US." He says that those illegal immigrants already there should be legalized and that the US should expand its guest-worker program. He, like most Mexicans, is against the construction of a wall between the two countries. "Putting up a wall makes it seem as if we are Jews and Palestinians."

Salvador Bautista, a plumber in Mexico City, wants to see similar immigration policy changes. Mr. Bautista, who worked in lettuce and strawberry fields in the US (once crossing illegally, the other time as a guest worker), also says the US can take on a much greater role in the current crises across the world, especially global warming.

In South Africa, John Thusi, a real estate agent from Soweto, says that Africans are bothered by big powers using Africa as a giant quarry to be exploited. "They send in their companies and mine everything out and make so much money on our backs. But they don't give us a share of what is ours."

Mr. Thusi likes Barak Obama for president. "I heard about a black man in America – Obama. I believe he is a good man. I am not sure of what he stands for, but if he is black and has gotten that far, he must be someone capable and special in America."

Where else are leadership changes expected this year?

Several other key elections – in Pakistan, Russia and Zimbabwe – will once again put democratic norms to the test.

Presidential election calendar

Georgia - Jan. 5

Lebanon - Jan. 12

Serbia - Jan. 20

Czech Republic - Feb. 8

Cyprus - Feb. 17

Armenia - Feb. 19

Russia - March 2

Taiwan - March 22

Zimbabwe - March

Paraguay - April 20

Dominican Republic - May 16

Iceland -June 28

Somaliland - Aug. 31

Azerbaijan - Oct. 15

Palau - Nov. 4

United States - Nov. 4

Maldives - November

Ghana - December

Sources: IFES ELection guide, news wire services