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Europe

European Press Review: Voting on the World's Behalf

European editorialists commented Tuesday on the US presidential election and also took issue with the similarly polarized contest for the Ukrainian presidency.

Italy’s La Repubblica wrote: "Perhaps a national election in another country has never before been followed with so much intensity, participation and partiality. The decision between Bush and Kerry can be defined as the first global election, in which 130 million voters in the USA function as a planetary parliament and elect deputies on our behalf to represent six billion men and women."

According to the Paris-based Le Figaro, in view of the fact that Europe’s relations with the US have been given such a bashing, any recovery will not be a result of the elections, whatever the outcome may be. "This can only come from our side." The French daily said it would be wise to seize the opportunity that these elections offer and "adjust the ideas we have of the USA to today’s reality."

In a comment on Britain’s traditionally close ties with the United States, London-based paper The Guardian said that Prime Minister Tony Blair was right not to side with either Bush or Kerry in the election campaign. If Blair drew up his own personal job specifications, “getting on with the US president whatever their party” would be high up the list of requirements. Blair worked at his relationship with Clinton and Bush -- and it will be the same if Kerry wins, the paper wrote.

Another London-based paper, The Daily Telegraph, commented that many people in Britain, and even more in continental Europe, are rooting for Senator John Kerry, desperate not just for a new face in the Oval Office and a change of tone, but also for a fundamental shift of American policy. But, if Kerry wins, it may not be long before America’s critics are once again bemoaning the heavy-handedness of the world’s superpower.

Austria's Die Presse took a similar view. It opined that while President George W. Bush abandoned the US's obligations to its partners and international law after the Sept. 11 attacks, we should not expect any new self-restraint from a President John Kerry either. However, the daily did write that Kerry would at least give US foreign policy a more civilized, cooperative touch.

Other European newspapers commented on another presidential election: Sunday's vote in Ukraine, which is to be decided by a run-off election later this month. Germany’s Die Welt wrote: "standing in line has become a rare occurrence in Eastern Europe. But on Sunday, millions of Ukrainians stood for hours for a scarce commodity -- a peace of democracy, for the right to be able to vote on who will be the next to take over the presidency with its powers." The daily went on to voice criticism of Europe’s reluctance to help the former Soviet republic in its reform efforts, and said so far the attitude of the West, including Germany, has been narrow-minded. On the one hand, it has applied strict European standards and, on the other, it has said no to an association accord with the EU and no new forms of cooperation with NATO. That being the case, we should not be surprised if Ukraine’s incumbent rulers repeatedly seek support from Russia, the paper concluded.

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