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Around the world, interest in the U.S. presidential election has rarely been so intense. From Asia to Europe, people have been glued to radio and television sets or at all-night parties, nervously awaiting the outcome of what may be the most important U.S. election in decades. Important, that is, for the entire world, as the winner will play a lead role in shaping international political and economic life.
Prague, 3 November 2004 (RFE/RL) -- All-night parties were common across the continent as Europeans and Americans abroad sacrificed their sleep to follow the results from the U.S. polls.
Many in Europe and around the world had hoped Democratic challenger John Kerry could pull off an upset over U.S. President George W. Bush. But they likely went to bed disappointed late this morning.
While some Americans partied the night away in Harry's Bar, a famous Paris night spot, others in the French capital were less jovial. Francois, a French woman interviewed by Reuters in the streets of Paris, seemed to sum up the sentiments of many Europeans: "I do not know yet if it will be Bush or Kerry who will win, for the moment it looks like Bush, but I think that will be very disappointing for France".
In a very tight race, Bush appears headed to victory, with a majority of the popular vote. But the key state of Ohio officially still remains in the balance -- and Kerry has yet to concede defeat.
As vote counting continues, the world waits with bated breath. After all, decisions by the leader of the world's only superpower will affect the political and economic life of many countries. And as the U.S.-led war on terror goes forward, the next president will have to decide questions of war and peace.
In Australia, which recently reelected pro-Bush President John Howard, the time zone allowed people to spend a comfortable evening viewing as the results flowed in.
And passions seemed more tempered than in Europe, said Tony Stephens, a journalist with the capital's biggest newspaper, "The Sydney Morning Herald." "[To call it] excitement might be putting it a bit high, it's [a case of people being] mild, rather than wild with excitement, perhaps, but they are certainly interested," he said.
But elsewhere, the results were not as quick coming in as most people had hoped.
In Asia, giant television screens in squares, shopping centers, and rail stations carried the latest details of the tally.
Interest was high in Taiwan and South Korea, which have close defense ties with the United States, as well as in Pakistan, a front-line state in the U.S.-led war on terror.
In South Korea, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill sought to assure people watching the election results on television that Washington will maintain its close ties with Seoul. "I can just say that I think both President Bush and Senator Kerry had made very clear the importance that they attached to our relationship with the Republic of Korea," Hill said. "So we are going to continue to work very closely to be in very close consultations on issues of mutual concern, including of course the situation on North Korea's nuclear programs."
In Japan, a close U.S. ally, AP reported that the big TV screens in Tokyo's Ginza district were not carrying footage from the election. The news, however, focused on an election-related issue -- a Japanese hostage killed in Iraq by militants opposed to the U.S. presence there.