Puzzled World Reaction to U.S. Elections

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L O N D O N, Nov. 6 B Baffled by the process, underwhelmed by the candidates, the world is watching the U.S. presidential election with keen interest B for many believe that as America goes, so goes the globe. As the last military and economic superpower, AmericaBs policies and leadership are begrudgingly seen as setting the world agenda. BIf you get a fathead running it, which we just might, in terms of foreign policy, it could actually have a bad effect on us and our interests in this world,B says Ann Leslie of LondonBs Daily Mail. They may not like it, but they acknowledge AmericaBs influence. So much so that some people around the world argue they too should have a vote for the most powerful leader in the world. Playing on that frustration, a popular Moscow radio station, Echo Moskvy, is holding a mock U.S. election on their Web site. It even offers a tongue-in-cheek tip on how the U.S. could fight voter apathy. Each Russian voter gets a shot at a $1,000 sweepstakes

America: Land of Excesses

Europeans are bemused by the U.S. election process. America is seen as the land of excesses. A campaign running two years at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars is seen as a product of that excess in countries where parliamentary elections can run as little as two weeks or two days at minimal cost. And after all the time and money, to have an election that may produce a record-low voter turnout, is seen as verification the process is pure madness. European comedy shows love taking shots at America. BThis is the final week of the American election campaign,B says the host of BritainBs Have I Got News For You, BIn the forthcoming election, 20 percent of Americans will actually vote, the other 80 percent canBt fit into the polling booth.B There is a near universal view the U.S. presidential race has become little more than a beauty contest. Columnist Mark Steyn in BritainBs Spectator recently ridiculed what he calls AmericaBs obsession with physical appearance. He pokes fun at GoreBs over-the-top makeup job for the debates and beefed-up physique. BApparently, he started working out last year because focus groups showed that men didnBt think he was as much of a Breal manB as Bush. The Texas governor doesnBt pump iron, but he does run every day, usually in the afternoon after a light lunch and a couple of execution orders.B

Unimpressed With Candidates

The question often asked of Americans overseas is, BAre these the best candidates you can offer for the top job in the world?B BNeither candidate is very inspiring,B says BBC Radio 4Bs Talking Politics producer Dinah Lammiman. BThey are both rather dull and characterless and thatBs a worry because Clinton has certainly been seen as charismatic if nothing else.B The French weekly LBExpress seems to agree. BIf only the Constitution would allow Bill [Clinton] to run for a third term, he would easily win the election,B it writes in an editorial. The issue outside the United States is U.S. foreign policy B and neither candidate is seen as impressive. BWhen I was with George W. I said to him, BWe overseas think you are several sandwiches short of a picnic,BB says Leslie, Bbecause you muddle up Slovenia, Slovakia, you call the Greeks BGreciansB and donBt even know the name of the latest nuclear power.B And Gore doesnBt rate much higher. BForeign policy is about instinct,B says Peter Hitchens of LondonBs Express. BIf you contrast Gore with Bush, Gore would be no better.B

What the World Thinks

The big fear with Bush is that he will be an isolationist B a leader who doesnBt understand foreign affairs, who will back away from global issues and leave the rest of the world to fend for itself. BThere is a sense that the U.S. no longer sees it as important to include Britain or Europe in future plans and decisions,B says Lammiman. The German tabloid Bild Zeitung ran a headline last week: BU.S. elections: Which President is better for Germany?B Bush got high marks for having excellent advisers B particularly his father, who is seen as a supporter of German unity. But he was criticized for never having been to Germany. Al Gore scored high on issues of global protection of the environment and global finance. Germans also believe he would keep U.S. troops in the former Yugoslavia, which is seen as good for Europe. In many Arab countries, Bush would get the vote. BThere is a tendency in the Arab world to think Gore is too much sided with Israel. Bush is a new face while Gore has so many bluntly pro-Israeli positions,B says one Lebanese journalist. Not surprisingly, Gore wins with Israelis. BThe majority want Gore because he will continue with the Clinton attitude,B says Gil Tamary of Israeli TV. In France, Gore gets the vote. A poll in the daily newspaper La Croix found he would win by 59 percent. The Japanese favor Bush, believing he would focus more U.S. attention on Japan and less on China. Few Americans may perceive how inextricably linked the people of other nations feel toward the U.S. and its leadership. BWhether we like it or not what happens in the political atmosphere there, [the U.S.] will affect the political atmosphere here,B says Hitchens. Youth Tune In

WASHINGTON, Nov. 6 B Young people all over the world are tuning in to the U.S. presidential elections, but were it not for the pivotal role the new administration is very likely to play in their region, they would be perfectly willing to tune-out. In Britain, James Pavey, a 24-year-old lawyer, said the election was Brarely front page newsB and that many people his age Bknow little or nothing about the U.S. election.B BIt is not U.K. headline news,B he said. BHeadline news is more pressing and urgent: mass flooding, impending fuel crisis, [TV star] Davina McCallBs backless B and frontless B dresses.B A 25-year-old British investment banker confessed he would be taking a Bback seat approachB to the U.S. elections. BIBd be interested to know the outcome, especially because it will have an effect on financial markets. But I have no interest in following the intricacies of it,B he said. In the Middle East though, the elections are fairly closely followed among people in their 20s. BIn Israel, everything that happens in the U.S. is a big dealB said Roy Schwartz, 25. BEspecially now,B he added. BThe only thing that has been holding the peace process together has been Clinton. He has been the kindergarten teacher in the playground getting all of the kids to cooperate. Whoever comes in next will have a big effect on the peace process.B Gil Tamary, a correspondent for Israeli TV, said that for the most part, Israelis were very knowledgeable about the election. BThe U.S. president has great influence in Israel, and we try to give our audiences as much information about each candidate as possible,B he said. Many Israelis, Tamary said, know Al Gore better and believe that if elected, Gore will continue with the BClinton attitude.B Not that Bush in the presidential seat would dramatically change U.S. Mideast policy. BWeBve had Republican presidents before who have been pro-Israel,B said a 26-year-old Jewish woman. BThe Jewish lobby is strong in both camps.B But with BushBs proposed withdrawal of U.S. forces from some commitments abroad, she said, many Israelis believe a Bush White House would play less of a role in future peace initiatives. BThe Israeli press is dominated by one topic right now: the conflict with the Palestinians,B Tamary said. BIf the situation wasnBt so severe, Israelis would be watching the election more closely.B In Jordan, most youngsters look favorably upon Bush. BMany people in Jordan and the Arab world think that Gore is sided too much with Israel,B said one Jordanian journalist, who asked to remain anonymous. BBush is a new face, while Gore has so many pro-Israeli positions, especially with his pick of Lieberman [his Jewish running mate].B But most Jordanians firmly believe that U.S. commitment to the peace process would continue regardless of who is in office. Undoubtedly, many people will tune in on Wednesday morning to find out who won the election. Until then, it seems for many non-Americans, fervent following of the candidatesB every move is an American obsession alone.

B ABCNEWS' Lesley Blum

-- cin (cin@cin.cin), November 07, 2000


Monsieur Gore, Herr Bush?

http://abcnews.go.com/sections/world/DailyNews/ELECTIONS_world0001106. html

-- Bon chance a (tous@les.deux), November 07, 2000.

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