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Foreigners in Germany Closely Following US Vote

As Americans head to the polls Tuesday in one of the most closely-watched White House races, DW-WORLD.DE spoke with some foreigners living in Germany about why the vote matters to them.

A polling station in Ohio, USA

The US vote has far-reaching implications for the wider world

“This presidential race is kind of an entertainment show,” said Daniel Benitez, a 27-year-old engineer from Venezuela who’s lived in Germany for five years. "I’ve been paying more attention to the US elections than to those in Venezuela, where I can vote.”

That's easy enough to understand. In recent weeks, Europe's media has reported on every twist and turn of the high-voltage, personality-driven US presidential drama.

John McCain with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

California Governor Schwarzenegger adds some showbiz power to McCain's campaign

Vastly different from its more staid counterparts in Europe, the Hollywood-style US campaign trail has grabbed headlines in European papers. And with Democrat Barack Obama poised to make history by being elected America's first black president -- most polls show him leading over Republican John McCain -- media coverage has reached fever pitch in the past days.

“Every day, in nearly every European paper or television program, there are features on the election,” said Anna Ferigo, a native of Italy. “So I’ve been paying a lot more attention than I’d planned to.”

Obama the clear favorite

All that coverage seems to have created strong opinions among non-Americans about who they'd like to see in the White House.

Recent opinion polls from more than 70 nations show people favoring Obama with a resounding three-to-one over John McCain. Many believe Obama's international background would go a long way in helping restore America's image and credibility, badly dented by the US-led war on Iraq.

For many who DW-WORLD.DE spoke with, their preference for Obama was driven by their desire to see the back of President George W Bush after eight years in office.

“I’d go for Obama for the fairly naive reason that he's not a Republican,” said Karin Walker, a British national living in Germany “I'd be damned if I put my money behind another Bush.”

Barack Obama greets crowds of supporters in Berlin

Obama was treated like a rock star when visited Berlin in July this year

That sentiment was echoed by Benitez who said he feared another Republican president would simply carry on with the Bush administration's policies.

“I would vote for Barack Obama, not because I think that he will save USA or the world, but because I think that McCain would do worse, continuing the political line of Bush.”

"US decisions affect the world"

Anna Ferigo voiced the commonly-held view that expectations were being set too high and that Obama would not be able to deliver.

“I have the impression that Obama is watched here in Europe as a sort of messiah,” said Ferigo. “Should Obama win, it's not that magically all the problems which involve the US -- and directly or indirectly, Europe -- will be solved. But I would be incapable of voting for a candidate who chose Sarah Palin as his vice president. Impossible.”

Beyond the vehement rhetoric, some of those interviewed said they feared another Republican administration would worsen the troubles afflicting America.

“I fear an era of hyper-Conservatism that would restrict civil rights and exacerbate an already growing economic and class divide between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’," says Katherine Verhagen, a Canadian lecturer in the University of Bonn’s North American Studies Program.

Only one person -- an Iraqi refugee in his 40s who asked to remain anonymous -- said he’d choose McCain. “I’m concerned about Iran. What is the US going to do to stop Iran? Talk to Ahmadinejad? Obama's answer to that just doesn’t cut it for me.”

Eventually, regardless of whether Obama or McCain win the election, the US vote will have far-reaching implications for the world closely watching it.

"Nearly all of the decisions made in the USA affect the globalized world we live in," said Benitez.

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