- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 31, 2010

ELECTION OBSERVERS

The ambassador from Singapore won’t be hosting a tea party on election night, but she will gather with her staff for pizza and soda to watch the returns with a critical eye on how the rowdy grass-roots political movement shapes the next Congress.

“This seems to be a very interesting election because of the tea party,” Ambassador Heng Chee Chan said. “We’ve spent some time trying to figure out who is the tea party and what they stand for on issues like trade and foreign policy.”

The ambassador, one of the longest-serving foreign diplomats in Washington, is watching her eighth congressional election since taking up her position here in 1996. She also has observed four U.S. presidential elections.

As with other foreign envoys interviewed by Embassy Row, Ms. Chan is most concerned about how a shift in power will affect her small but economically muscular country — ranked the second-freest market in the world for the past 15 years by the Index of Economic Freedom, published by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal.

Her concern is shared by one of Washington’s newest ambassadors, Audrey P. Marks from Jamaica.

“Clearly, I have come at a very interesting time,” said Mrs. Marks, who arrived in May. “I’m an interested bystander but not fearful.”

She said the Democratic and Republican parties both have promoted policies that benefit Caribbean and Latin American nations.

“The Obama administration has made a great effort to reach out to our region,” she said. “At the same time, Republicans have always been pro-business and pro-free trade.”

The midterm elections have attracted so much foreign attention that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe sent 50 observers from 21 nations — Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan and Turkey.

The delegation, which arrived last week, is led by Portugal’s Joao Soares, president emeritus of the Parliamentary Assembly. The observers will monitor elections in Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, D.C., and report their findings at a 2 p.m. news conference Wednesday at the National Press Club.

Some diplomats were reluctant to talk publicly about the elections, explaining that they were concerned about appearing to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States.

“There is huge interest back home in U.S. domestic politics,” said a British diplomat. “And that’s not surprising. We are the United States’ closest ally and its most important commercial partner — 1 million jobs on each side of the Atlantic depend upon it.

“So the embassy is following the midterms closely — and we like to think we have our British finger on the American pulse. Of course, we’re far too diplomatic to make any public predictions.”

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Thursday

Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia, a former ambassador to the United States and now chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh. He addresses the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on the conflict in the Middle East.

Andreas Pinkwart, a member of the state legislature of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany, vice chairman of the German Free Democratic Party and a former member of the German parliament. He addresses the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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