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Obama in farewell to Europe: “Democracy bigger than any one person”

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Athens  – Outgoing US President Barack Obama has reiterated his reassurances to his European allies amid fears that his successor, right-wing populist Donald Trump, is a threat to democracy.

“The next American president and I could not be more different… But American democracy is bigger than any one person,” he said in a speech in Athens, referring to Trump, who takes office on January 20.

“My administration will do everything we can to support the smoothest transition possible,” Obama pledged, “because that’s how democracy has to work.”

Obama saw the Greek leg of his farewell tour to Europe as an opportunity to laud the country as the birthplace of “demokratia.”

“I came here with gratitude for all that Greece, this small great world, has given humanity through the ages,” the president said in his keynote speech in Athens after a trip to the famed Acropolis.

He conceded that democracy can be “slow, it can be frustrating, it can be hard, it can be messy,” but added that ultimately it is “better than the alternatives.”

Despite being planned before the November 8 election, Obama’s final international tour as US president has become a voyage to calm nerves following Trump’s shock victory, with uncertainty reigning over what kind of policies the outlandish political outsider may pursue.

Obama campaigned heavily for Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton in the often ugly run-up to the election. She won the popular vote but lost out on winning enough states to give her the electoral college backing required to make her the country’s first female president.

Despite the Democrats’ defeat in the presidential race, Obama stressed the importance of free and fair elections “because citizens must be able to choose their own leaders, even if your candidate doesn’t always win.”

In his speech, a charm offensive peppered with accented Greek words and references to cultural staples such as ouzo, Obama lent the country the US’ support as it struggles to implement painful austerity measures in a bid to revive its shrivelled economy.

Obama maintains high popularity at home and abroad towards the end of his time in office. However, his visit to Athens has been punctuated by thousands-strong protests led by unions and hard-left groups demonstrating against US imperialism.

Obama’s reassurance tour in the wake of Trump’s electoral success continues with a trip to Berlin, where he is expected to arrive late Wednesday afternoon. He is scheduled to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday and attend a meeting with Merkel and other EU leaders on Friday.

– dpa

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