The World Watches And Wonders

Tents at a UNHCR refugee camp set up in Ruwaishid, Jordan, about 50 miles from the border with Iraq.
CBS / Liz Baylen
The headlines screamed "Washington, we have a problem," "Forrest Chumps" and " It's Bush, it's Gore...oh, we give up."

But the oversized typefaces weren't splashed across the U.S. dailies in the days following Tuesday's landmark presidential election. It's the world's newspapers that have been having a field day commenting on America's election anxiety.

As the United States struggles with a tense uncertainty about the nation's political future, the Florida recount and the final presidential vote also remains front-page news all around the world.

A worker in Cameroon says it seems "incredible" to him how the election is going, considering the United States "is globally considered the father of democracy."

The question of who will be the next American president after a razor-sharp vote is enough to make housewife Ritsuko Kawahara from the Tokyo suburbs nervous.

"They should end the election soon - it's better for global stability," Kawahara said Friday.

But while millions from the around the world cast their eyes toward Washington, few Americans are even aware that Egypt's current parliamentary election has involved gun battles, tear gas, destructive riots, at least one death and dozens of injuries. Nor do many U.S. citizens know Canada is undergoing a nasty, hastily called national election for its prime minister.

Americans living in Israel have taken a fervent interest in the U.S. election, the outcome many feel will have a profound impact on America's relation in securing peace in the unstable Middle East region.

CBS News Correspondent David Hawkins reports approximately 200,000 U.S. citizens live in Israel. About 10,000 are from Florida of which about 90 percent are registered Democrats, said Sheldon Shorer, chairman of Democrats Abroad in Israel.

"The American living in Israel cares very, very much about the American-Israeli relationship and is very involved in politics and wants to have that voice heard," Shorer said.

With hopes fading for a quick result in the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, world leaders from Cuba to Thailand were fearful that political limbo in the United States could start to shake the world's trade and security systems and unsettle Washington's top allies.

"I hope an electoral result will come out as soon as possible," Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono told reporters Friday morning.

In Brunei, where U.S. President Bill Clinton will join leaders from Asian and Pacific Rim nations for an annual summit next week, senior officials said they would be watching for any hints of future U.S. policy.

"Our interest will be high for anything that the United States says that looks into what will happen next year," said Kobsak Chutikul, senior economics official at Thai Foreign Ministry. "Given the status of the U.S. election, anything they say will be very interesting."

Still, officials meeting Friay to prepare the agenda for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit said the U.S. uncertainty would not undermine the gathering, held to hammer out trade issues.

"I don't think so; hopefully not," Ricardo Lagos, Chile's senior official to APEC, said of that possibility.

Unofficial results from Florida's recount showed Bush ahead by 327 votes. But that may not end the wait. Democrats threatened lawsuits over the voting, and Republicans considered recounts in two other states.

Japan's Yomiuri newspaper called for a quick, accurate and conclusive recount to avoid mounting "anxiety" in the rest of the world - and avoid putting a politically weakened man into the White House.

"The turmoil over the vote count should not be allowed to cloud the president's authority," the Yomiuri said in an editorial Friday. "It is to be hoped that the disruption ... is not a sign of global turmoil in the years ahead."

Even communist Cuba has jumped into the fray of latest debates on how to fix the allegations of voting irregularities by recommending a new election just for Florida voters. Cuban leader Fidel Castro has offered to send observers to ensure fair balloting.

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, in New York on Thursday for a U.N. visit, wondered what the United States would say if the complaints of voter confusion over some ballots and reports of alleged irregularities had been registered during elections in other countries.

"I believe that those in the United States who have always tried to become judges of the elections that take place elsewhere must be receiving a lesson of modesty and humbleness," Perez Roque said at a press conference.

Cuba's Communist Party daily, Granma, went so far as to blame Florida's electoral irregularities on foes of Fidel Castro, charging that Cuban exiles in the Sunshine State were desperately trying to regain political power lost with Elian Gonzalez's return to the island.

Some of the reaction on Friday mirrored concerns in the United States about the Electoral College system, under which a candidate can receive fewer popular votes but still win the election.

Norway's biggest newspaper commented, "It is not in keeping with basic democratic principles for the one who gets the second-largest share of votes to win the presidential election."

In Bangladesh, international relations expert M. Shahiduzzman called the all-or-nothing American system "pathetically flawed." The Statesman newspaper in India predicted that criticism of the system will mount, no matter who wins the election.

"It is a safe bet that when the dust has settled, there will be a cry for electoral reform," the newspaper said in an editorial Friday.

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