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Germany

Germany Responds Cautiously to US Vote

President Bush or President Kerry? No one knows for sure yet but experts in Berlin have already started to consider the implications of both scenarios for Germany.

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Many Europeans wonder how the US elections will affect them

With the outcome of the presidential election in the United States still open, German politicians were hesitant to comment on any of the two main rivals and the Social Democratic-Green party governing coalition in Berlin hadn't made any official statements on the election. But speculation was running high as to what a re-elected President Bush or a President Kerry would mean for the future of transatlantic relations and ties between the US and Germany in particular.

Social Democratic Interior Minister Otto Schily said he’d have no problems at all with Bush staying in office for another four years. He acknowledged that German-US relations were strained over the war on Iraq, but added that it makes no sense any longer to concentrate on differences and discrepancies.

"As far as I am concerned, I’ve very good relations with members of the Bush administration," he said. "Our cooperation particularly in the fight against terrorism has been very close and well coordinated. Chancellor Schröder and President Bush have met a couple of times after the war on Iraq to get a few things straight and improve their relations. Constructive transatlantic relations will remain a pillar of our policy no matter who will be the next US president."

Karsten Voigt, coordinator for German-American relations in the German Foreign Ministry, echoed Schily's tone, using the situation with Iran to highlight the need for better cooperation between the United States and Germany, and with the whole of Europe in general.

George Bush mit Thumbnail

President Bush

"In Iran there is clearly a need to work together," he told Reuters. "The Europeans -- the British, French and Germans -- are seeking a peaceful solution. But the goal is to prevent, together with the Americans, Iran gaining access to nuclear weapons."

Voigt dismissed the idea that the US would consider taking pre-emptive action against Tehran to resolve the standoff. "Let us hope and work together to ensure that the cooperative solution the Europeans are working on will be successful," he said.

However, parliamentarian and Green party member Hans-Christian Ströbele was much less diplomatic in describing his feelings about the chance of Bush staying in office.

If President Bush can defend his slight lead then my worst dreams will come true," he said. "Because this would mean that the majority of Americans are in favor of his policy and believe that the war on Iraq was justified. For me, though, that war was an unjustified invasion of another country and an attack not mandated by the United Nations. Bush’s re-election would be a dark day for all peace-loving people in the world.”

No high expectations

John Kerry in Iowa

Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry

Former German Christian Democrat parliamentary speaker Rita Süssmuth, who is in the US right now in her capacity as an OSCE election observer, told DW-RADIO she doubted that Bush would be the man to achieve a turnaround in Iraq and in transatlantic relations.

“I don’t think that George W. Bush -- if he gets re-elected -- will pursue a more moderate policy in his second term," she said. "He’ll not be able to reduce the increasing polarization in society, she says. He’s known to be a man who sticks to what he announces in his programs. So, she concludes, we will continue to see a policy right of centre and will have to wait what this means for Europe and Germany.”

Opinion polls in Germany see the majority of people here in favor of John Kerry. But foreign policy expert Henrik Enderlein from Berlin’s Free University warned against high expectations.

“If Kerry wins, the German government should be prepared to answer questions that the Democrat has said he would ask. There are a number of demands concerning Europe’s and Germany’s commitment to the reconstruction process in Iraq and military involvement there, he says. I doubt whether the government in Berlin is looking forward to these nagging questions.”

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