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Democratic Party supporters were in a jubilant moodImage: AP

US Mid-Term Elections

DW staff / AFP (sp)
November 8, 2006

Europe is following the US mid-term polls where Democrats who swept Republicans from power in the House of Representatives and gained seats in the Senate may push for a change in foreign policy, particularly Iraq.


Democratic congresswoman Nancy Pelosi vowed to push for a change of policy in Iraq on Tuesday after her party gained control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, for the first time since 1994.

The race for US Senate in several states, and the ultimate balance of power in that body, was still too close to call several hours after polling closed.

Many Europeans, watching the election results closely, are hoping the shift in leadership will lead to changes in Iraq policy. Other issues important to Europeans -- such as broader Middle East policy, trade, and environmental issues -- are also likely to be affected by US political change, observers said.

Wahlen USA Nancy Pelosi Kongress
Nancy Pelosi will be the first woman to be elected House SpeakerImage: AP

Pelosi, who is now set to become the first woman in history to be elected House Speaker, said mid-term election results proved that the American people felt it was time for a change. The influential San Francisco liberal is already on record as calling for a phased withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and indicated she would continue to campaign for a pullout.

Pelosi voted against the 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq.

"Today the American people voted for change and they voted for Democrats to take our country in a new direction," Pelosi said. "And that is exactly what we intend to do."

Europeans expected to welcome Democratic advance

Pelosi's words are likely to assure many European leaders, particularly Germany and France who were vocal opponents of the war in Iraq. Even in countries that traditionally supported the Bush administration on the Iraq war, the mood has palpably changed in recent months as the chaos and bloodshed in Iraq has taken a turn for the worse.

Europeans will be also be hoping that a decisive advance by Democrats in the US election could usher in a new era in transatlantic cooperation.

"Many in Europe would like to see Bush get a bloody nose in these elections and view the Democrats as closer to the European way of thinking," Mark Leonard, a foreign policy analyst at the London-based Center for European Reform told the daily International Herald Tribune.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Gouverneur von Kalifornien
Schwarzenegger bucked the anti-Republican trendImage: AP

Antonio Missiroli, Chief Political Analyst of the European Policy Center in Brussels, added that speculation on the departure of US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will likely increase, as he will be made a "scapegoat" for the Iraq debacle.

"Europeans would expect some change in policy, and possibly also personnel. ... I suppose most Europeans might welcome a new face (as defense secretary), and a turning of the page on Iraq and the wider Middle East."

Democrats also gained six gubernatorial seats in to take the majority of state houses for the first time in 12 years, US media reported.

Former Hollywood action star Arnold Schwarzenegger bucked the anti-Republican trend and was re-elected governor of California, helped to victory by his pro-environment stance. But Democrats picked up governorships in six other states from Republicans, scoring wins in the previously Republican-held states of Arkansas, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Ohio, according to projections.

Hillary Clinton says America has voted for changeImage: AP

Thus, European policy analyst Missiroli said, a main effect of the election may not come from the Democrats at all, but from members of President Bush's own party.

"My impression is that (on environmental issues,) the midterm elections will matter more for the gubernatorial races than for congress," Missoli said. Schwarzenegger's victory "might mean it is still possible for a Republican political leader to do an environment friendly policy, and therefore this could have consequences over the next months and years in American policy at large."

US votes for change

The race for seats in the Upper House of Congress, the Senate, were still being counted in Virginia and Montana, several hours after the close of voting. Whether the Senate will be ruled by Democrats or Republicans is still unclear.

But an upbeat Hillary Clinton said America had voted for change, after she was reelected to the Senate Tuesday. She told her supporters that New York and the country wanted a new beginning.

The former First Lady, who easily secured reelection and is widely expected to run for the presidency in 2008, told campaigners at her acceptance speech that she was prepared to "roll up my sleeves and get to work."

Flanked by husband and former president Bill Clinton, she pointed to the wide picture of Democrat gains, with control of both the Senate and House of Representatives in the opposition party's sights.

"This is a big night for Democrats, isn't it? ... I want to thank you for standing up for change," she told screaming supporters in a New York hotel.

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