Sarcasm and Indignation as World Reacts to U.S. Election "Fiasco"

November 14, 2000 - 0:0
TEHRAN As doubts grew over voting methods in the as-yet undecided us presidential election, countries around the world have reacted with gleeful sarcasm and indignation.
Countries stretching from Cuba to Russia and Zimbabwe to Italy have delighted in talk of confusing voting forms, miscounts, unopened ballot boxes and intimidation in the close-run election which has failed to elect either Republican George W. Bush or Democrat Al Gore.
The South African press suggested that African nations should send observers to help the United States "join the established democracies", a call echoed in Ivory Coast and even Zimbabwe.
Washington itself had said Zimbabwe's general election in June had "fallen short of free and fair".
The press in Communist Cuba claimed the world would look down on the United States as a "Banana Republic" if new elections were not called in Florida where Cuban exiles live, according to the AFP.
Other countries berated by the United States for their allegedly less-than-democratic regimes joined the fray. "The United States postures itself as a model of democracy for the whole world.
But fewer than 50 percent of Americans vote, while in (Iran's) Islamic Republic, which they call anti-democratic and despotic, there is close to 90 percent participation," said former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rasfanjani.
Russian commentators too enjoyed the chance to turn the tables on their Cold War foe, claiming that Russia's election process was far more democratic and easier for voters to understand.
Several Moscow newspapers mocked the neck-and-neck race as a made-for-television drama worthy of a Hollywood production.
"The producers of this grandiose show called the presidential elections suddenly made everyone doubt that it is indeed the voters who decide the final outcome," Kommersant remarked.
China also scoffed at what it saw as a "flawed" democracy. "It is clear that the U.S. electoral system is not as fair and as perfect as the country boasts," said the state-run English language newspaper China Daily.
Elsewhere in Asia, the message was the same: Bitter wrangling has tarnished the image of U.S. democracy and undermined Washington's authority as the self-proclaimed leader of the free world.
And amid all the point scoring, some commentators expressed concern about the potentially destabilizing impact of the uncertainty.
"All this (wrangling) would be of little concern to foreigners, other than as a subject of amused commentary, if not for the fact that the U.S. has 6,000 nuclear warheads," Singapore's The Straits Times.
There were jibes even from U.S. allies in Europe with Italy's would-be Prime Minister Francesco Rutelli saying that the U.S.
process was "stupefying" and "not so different" from Italy's.
In Britain, the Observer newspaper on Sunday quoted an unnamed aide to Prime Minster Tony Blair describing the situation as "deeply shocking" and a "stolen election." Solace for the country which upholds its system as a shining example for the world to follow was hard to find, though the United States was treated to a few kind words from France.
Conservative daily Le Figaro said the delay in announcing the result was "precisely because every vote counts", which was a measure of democracy.
Many experts believe that the U.S. election system with Electoral College having the final role is not direct representation.
The composition of the Electoral College now depends on a small number of votes in Florida, and the outcome will not necessarily reflect the popular vote.
Critics say this system is unfair and out of date.
After manually reviewing one percent of ballots cast in Tuesday's presidential elections, Palm Beach county officials tallied 33 new votes cast for Democratic candidate Al Gore, and 14 for Texas Governor George W. Bush, the Republican candidate, resulting in a net gain of 19 votes for Gore.
The electoral authorities considered this discrepancy was enough to put in doubt the result for Palm Beach, Florida and therefore the entire balance-tipping state a finding with which the U.S. democratic leaders concurred.
Whoever wins Florida will get 25 electoral votes, a winning margin in the presidential election, with Bush already holding 246 votes and gore 262. A candidate needs 270 of the 538 votes in the Electoral College to win the presidency.
Former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger said Sunday prolonged electoral wrangling in the courts could hurt democracy in the United States.
"No court should decide an election," Kissinger said in an interview published in the Sunday newspaper Welt Am Sonntag, according to AFP.
He said that when the recounting is over in the State of Florida "I hope strongly that the loser will publicly recognize his defeat and rule out further judicial steps." "If every election is contested in the courts, then the democratic process will suffer enormously," Kissinger said.