Watching Cameron in Kabul


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“Clegg is a rock star!!” came the shout from Tamana Dosi, 23, sitting in a 24hr café in Dhaka at 2am watching the leaders’ debate.

Tamana, like thousands of others in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Ghana, will be voting in the UK election with a vote donated to her by one of the thousands of British citizens who are taking part in the Give Your Vote campaign.

The second televised leaders' debate which focused on foreign policy was watched live in the middle of the night in Kabul and Dhaka, as groups gathered to scrutinise the leader they will be voting for.


Iraq and Afghanistan

Clegg’s opening speech won immediate approval from the global electorate, "We all jumped and shouted when he said we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq – I am sure the voters in Afghanistan and Ghana felt the same. Good to hear British leaders sound humble for once," said Tamana.

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In Kabul, opinions were divided. Hussain, who put himself in the Cameron camp before the debate questioned Clegg's suggestion that the UK should distance itself from the US. "It would just leave a vacuum between the two groups here and others would take advantage of it - it would leave Afghanistan divided. Only through working together and including the Afghan people are we going to build the best future for this country."

There were also a few Labour supporters in the mix, "up to this point of the debate I'd vote for Mr Brown's party because he seems to be more supportive of Afghanistan, as a strategic partner for the Afghan government," said journalist Younis Iftazar.

All the spectators said they would be talking more about the UK election and recommending their choice of candidate to other Afghans for the all-decisive vote in Kabul on April 30th.


Global issues, UK electorate

Osama Asoh, a Give Your Vote co-ordinator said, "You can see that there is a real debate about Afghanistan amongst Afghan people, but somehow that's not communicated to the global leaders who are making choices about the future of the country."

In Accra, Kojo Pannan, who heard the debate through a patchy internet connection stream on LBC.FM with other local community activists tweeted his thoughts during the debate as @voterinaccra, saying "Thank you Mr Clegg for realising that this is global."

The immigration debate drew the same response across the three countries. Kojo in Ghana texted, "David Cameron is the same person who wants to cut immigration and tighten borders yet UK citizens are free to settle or 'emigrate' to developing countries. Which African can enter into Europe and walk freely before collecting a visa?"

Over in Bangladesh, Julianne Hader who's hopes of studying in the UK were dashed after she was rejected a transit visa and a flight to Amsterdam, stood and shouted at the screen after Brown proposed tightening the borders. "There are brilliant students here who are denied better opportunities for higher education because of this issue - it does no service to the people in the UK or the young people around the world."

The issue of climate also provoked heated responses. In Ghana, Francis commented "Gordon Brown says Europe should work together with America and the G20 to tackle climate change, but there is no mention of working with Africa or other developing countries like Bangladesh who are at the forefront of climate change - where is the developing world in this debate?"

In Bangladesh, Nick Clegg's commitment to dealing with climate change as the world's most important issue gained him more support, "We want to see the UK taking a lead and not following the US-- it could be a far more powerful force for the world." Atique Chaudhary

A future connected?

The event's message went beyond political posturing for the three parties. Hussain Hazara who works with an NGO on aid-monitoring in Kabul said, "Next time I would like there to be a real global debate for people everywhere taking part in the same election - we are here watching this in Kabul and also as part of Give Your Vote but there are others across the world. It's amazing to know this because I feel like for the first time we are a global community that can act and discuss together. This should happen more - I find it very exciting."

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