Running on enthusiasm, concern and a good deal of caffeine, hundreds of Germans and US ex-pats in Berlin stayed up all night Tuesday, following the US election results in real time.
At Potsdamer Platz, election partygoers watched results trickle in
At 11:30 on Tuesday night, a crowd of several hundred was shivering in the cold outside the entrance of the Tränenpalast, an events venue in central Berlin.
They were waiting to get into the election night party which had started half an hour earlier, ready to spend the night following the outcome of the neck-and-neck race between US President George W. Bush and his democratic challenger, John Kerry. A collective groan went up as a voice on a loudspeaker announced that the Tränenpalast was full; 700 people had already been admitted.
“We didn’t image that so many people would come tonight. It’s marvelous,” Sarah Benz, press spokesperson for Vote44, a German pro-Kerry group which sponsored the election night party, told DW-WORLD. “It’s important that we have a voice too.”
The event at the Tränenpalast was just one of several going on in Berlin where Germans, Americans, or interested parties of any nationality could watch the election results come in as polling stations across the US closed and votes were tallied in this contest that has been followed extremely closely in Europe, particularly Germany.
“I’m very interested in politics generally anyways and I’m very much against the present American government,” Daniel Buseños, a 30-year-old student at Humboldt University, told DW-WORLD. “I want to see how the night goes and it’s not enough to wake up tomorrow and know what the results are.”
His view on the Bush administration was shared by just about everyone in the building. If there were supporters of the president from Texas in the room, they were keeping that fact to themselves. But it’s not likely that Republican sympathizers would have felt at home at the Vote44 event, since the stated aim of the group was to do all they could to ensure that John Kerry was elected as the 44th president of the United States.
The evening’s program reflected that goal. As the crowd settled in, the MC for the evening introduced Hans-Christian Ströbele, a left-leaning member of parliament from the Green party, who preached to the choir for a while about the need to bring about regime change in Washington.
Scene from Wim Wenders' film "Land of Plenty"
He was followed by a screening of German director Wim Wenders’ new film, "Land of Plenty" (photo). Set in Los Angeles, the film explores the darker side of American life in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, exploring themes of paranoia, poverty, fear and discrimination.
“This election is about how American decides to develop, whether it keeps going in the negative direction it has been since the attacks or takes a turn for the positive and returns to being the America I knew and loved in my childhood,” said 30-year-old Oliver Frauenkron who was carrying a large US flag.
Two additional large-format screens on either side of the venue showed television broadcasts from Germany’s main public channel and the BBC. As results started trickling in, and states on the US map were colored in red if the vote there went to the Republicans or blue if to the Democrats, groans and cheers would erupt respectively.
While Europe always keeps a close eye on the world’s one remaining superpower and its main electoral contests, this time around the vote and the campaign leading up to it has been watched like none other in recent history.
German-based Vote44 instituted a project to make sure democrats both in the US and those living abroad were registered to vote and did all it could to convince them to go to the polls on Tuesday. Berlin itself hosted at least five election night parties, and many more were scattered across Europe and the world. In Germany, both of the public television stations and several private ones held all-night election coverage.
“You cannot stay away from this whole campaign and the elections. They concern the whole world,” Marilene Eigenveld from Amsterdam told DW-WORLD. “The Dutch government is following George Bush so its also concerning Holland and we have troops in Iraq as well.”
Although the crowd here was mostly German, there were some Americans in attendance. They said they weren’t surprised at the intense level of interest on the part of Europeans, a level of interest that American student Patience Graybill said often surpasses that of US citizens.
“It doesn’t surprise me that Europe is very interested, especially given the recent trans-Atlantic relationship,” she told DW-WORLD. “The American president has incredible power and he’s basically the president of the world. I think most Americans don’t really understand that.”
About a 20 minute walk away, at a cinema at Potsdamer Platz, the election night party sponsored by the group American Voices Abroad had a more American flavor to it.
All eyes were on the TV screens at the election night parties
The downstairs lobby had been decked out in red, white and blue bunting and balloons. Many of those in attendance were filling up on buffalo wings and home fries followed by free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. A cocktail bar was open and several large screens broadcast the CNN network. The largely American crowd, still predominately pro-Kerry, stood about discussing his chances or the general state of the post-Sept. 11 world.
At about 2:30, when the results from the northeastern states started rolling in and Kerry pulled ahead of Bush in the electoral college vote count, the mood skyrocketed. But about an hour later, as the states in the Midwest tallied their votes and large swaths of the country began turning red on CNN’s large map, the conversations began quieting down. Some began putting on their jackets and leaving.
Others just stared at the screen, silently sipping their beers, succumbing either to fatigue or to a growing sense of resignation.