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A weary world hopes U.S. saga is finally over

The media reaction shows foreign skepticism as well as fatigue.

©Associated Press, published December 14, 2000

LONDON -- "The race is finished, Gore" said Sweden's Expressen tabloid, summing up a common theme worldwide Wednesday after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Vice President Al Gore's hopes of more recounts in Florida.

Tuesday's ruling came too late for most morning newspapers outside the United States. But newspaper Web sites and breakfast television shows reflected widespread fatigue at the drawn-out saga, with few observers daring to contemplate more twists.

"Most Americans want a result, an end to the long and undignified wrangle through the courts," said an editorial in London's Evening Standard. Its headline: "Bush Awaits Gore's Exit."

Despite the apparently decisive ruling by the high court, some Europeans were skeptical that the lengthy post-election drama had truly run its course. They also appeared to confirm Justice John Paul Steven's lament that no matter the winner, the real loser of the election is America's "confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the law."

"It makes no difference what the Supreme Court decides. It has its own political position and makes its decision along those lines," said Matthias Tonecker, a German businessman from the Frankfurt area.

Norway's Aftenposten newspaper said in an editorial that Gore had "lost the American presidential election after an extremely complex Supreme Court ruling . . . but the court is just as split as the voters."

Austrian state radio called the decision "a blow of extermination" to Gore's hopes of reaching the White House.

And in Mexico, the respected Milenio daily newspaper featured the court's decision on its front page with the headline: "Bush, One Step Away."

The divided U.S. Supreme Court reversed a state court decision for election recounts in Florida's contested voting.

That effectively transformed Republican candidate George W. Bush into the president-elect.

The saga of counts, recounts and lawsuits over five tumultuous weeks held Gore and Bush in limbo and the world in thrall.

In Germany, a senior lawmaker for the governing Social Democrats said Bush would take office with "a heavy burden."

"Everyone knows a hand recount would probably have made Gore the president," Gernot Erler said.

In Italy, Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini said the United States should immediately consider reforms on election procedures to avoid a repeat.

He said he didn't expect major policy initiatives from the eventual winner.

In Japan, state-run television interrupted its programming Wednesday to announce the ruling.

But for many in Asia, the question remained: Does anybody know who won yet?

"I'm really fed up with the election news broadcast on TV and radio over here," said Chan Ting-wen, a 60-year-old food company worker in Hong Kong. "It's so unpredictable, like the weather.

"Sometimes they say Gore won. Sometimes they say Bush won the election. The news becomes extremely boring and annoying.

"Gore should give up."

Across the Asia-Pacific region, the drama has produced front-page stories and headlines, as well as endless jokes at dinner tables.

Many people, however, seemed to have lost interest.

"At first, the election was exciting and we followed it closely," said Mieko Yoshida, 51. "But after going on so long, it's become anticlimactic."

In Thailand, some expressed concern about the effect the election delay will have on the U.S. economy, now that its phenomenal growth is slowing.

"The new government must decide quickly whether there is going to be a hard or soft (economic) landing," said Sopon Ongkara, columnist for the English-language daily The Nation and a news editor for Nation TV. "Questions about the ability of and confidence in the U.S. government have an impact on the international community and the world economy."

In Cambodia, opposition leader Sam Rainsy took the unusual step of writing a letter to Bush and referring to him as the new U.S. president.

Thinking that a Bush administration would provide more assistance to pro-democracy advocates in Cambodia than the Clinton administration has, Sam Rainsy urged Bush to "strive even harder" to assist those fighting the authoritarian regimes in Cambodia.

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