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World Bewildered by U.S. Election

(11/27/00 11:14:58 AM PT)

Associated Press

LONDON -- Confusion, cynicism and distaste greeted the news Monday that after weeks of political wrestling, there is still no certainty about who will be the next president of the United States.

'This has been the strangest presidential election of modern times and has not reflected well upon the country,' opined The Times of London in an editorial Monday. 'An exercise in democracy has evolved into another lucrative venture for the lawyers.'

In Hong Kong, courier Wong Siu-kam reflected a common incomprehension about the complexities of the vote and the count. 'The United States is such a technologically advanced county, so why is there so much chaos?' he asked.

More wrangling ensued Sunday after Florida's secretary of state declared George W. Bush the winner in the decisive battleground and Vice President Al Gore vowed to fight the certification in the courts.

The back-and-forth in the courts and the painfully slow recounts in some Florida counties have puzzled people in countries whose leaders are elected in one-person, one-vote contests or by parliament.

But the latest developments pushed the presidential race back onto the front pages and the top of news bulletins across Asia and Europe on Monday.

'Florida Chooses Bush as President,' proclaimed a headline in La Stampa, a moderate daily in Turin, Italy, then added: 'Gore Challenges: The Results are Uneven.'

'Bush victory in Florida by 537 votes,' read The Times of London headline, reflecting the narrowness of the margin.

Three weeks after the ballot, the drama is producing mixed reactions outside the United States some of them quite similar to feelings inside the United States. Some people are tired of it, others say it doesn't matter who wins and many say the chaos proves the United States is not perfect.

Indian Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, at the annual Indian Economic Summit, was quoted by the Indian Express newspaper as saying on Sunday that many people criticize India for enacting reforms slowly.

'But at least we're getting things done,' he was quoted as saying. 'We've seen what's happening in the U.S., they can't even elect a president!'

The confusion has been an eye-opener for many who held up the U.S. system as a model of democracy. In Japan, a country ruled by a U.S.-written constitution, some were perplexed.

Takayoshi Ishizeki, 55, a salesman for a paper pulp company, said the controversy shows the electoral system is troubled and that the candidates are lacking.

'It makes me think that both candidates aren't so good,' he said. 'Japanese politicians are the worst, but this makes me feel American politicians aren't that different.'

There was also increasing worry that the election would leave the United States divided, depriving the winner of the legitimacy needed to rule and carry weight on the international stage.

Gianni Riotta, a La Stampa columnist, warned that when the unknown 'President X' wins, he and his new administration will have to confront a long list of potential crises and emergencies, both domestically and internationally.

But for some, the outcome is immaterial.

'How does it matter to me?' asked Bachchan Singh Rawat, a government employee in the Indian capital, New Delhi. 'We have a government that doesn't work. There, even if there is no government, things will work.'

-- Martin Thompson (, November 27, 2000

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