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No White House winner yet

The next occupant is still unknown

(Keystone)

Americans are still waiting to hear who their next president will be, following a recount in the key state of Florida. The situation has led to accusations of irregularities, as well as criticism of the US electoral system.

The recount in Florida became necessary because the voting margin between the two candidates was within 0.5 per cent, triggering a compulsory recount under state law.

Both candidates received 48.9 per cent of the Florida vote, with Bush edging slightly ahead with just under 1,800 votes in the original count. The race is so close nationally, that whoever wins in Florida will take the presidency.

Near final nationwide results gave the Democrat Al Gore 49 per cent of the votes and Republican George W Bush 48 per cent, with Gore leading by less than 150,000 votes ahead out of nearly 100 million ballots cast.

But the winner of the popular vote will not necessarily become president. Voters choose an Electoral College of 538 members, which in turn elects the president.

Final results are expected on Thursday, but there is a slight possibility that the recount could be so close that absentee ballots may be needed to determine the outcome. If this were the case, it could take until November 17 before a result is known.

The lack of a clear winner has provoked accusations of irregularities as well as criticism of the US electoral system.

In Florida there were allegations that efforts had been made to prevent blacks from voting, that not all ballot boxes had been collected, and that a confusing ballot sheet had resulted in some voters choosing the wrong candidate.

The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) called on the US attorney general, Janet Reno, to investigate reports that blacks were turned away at one polling station because of an alleged ballot shortage.

The NAACP said the allegations suggested "a pattern of deliberate attempts to suppress the level of African American votes".

Like the rest of the world's media, Swiss newspapers on Thursday went to town on what the tabloid "Blick" described as "the craziest US election of all time".

Under a cartoon of both men sitting at either end of a perfectly balanced fulcrum, the Tages Anzeiger headlined its story: "the whole world is waiting for Florida".

Several Swiss papers point to the divisions between the two main candidates and possible shortcomings in the American electoral system. "The deadlock between the Democratic and Republican candidates for the White House has revealed the deep divisions which President Bill Clinton has papered over during the past eight years."

"Le Temps" agrees that American society has been polarised by presidential candidates with very different political policies. It too points to deep-seated divisions.

"Whoever is declared winner may ensure that the bizarre manner of his election is rapidly forgotten, but the America over which he presides will be more difficult to lead."

Like other papers, "Le Temps" points the finger at American television channels for precipitately announcing results, describing the situation as "the most extraordinary mess in the history of television".

With a touch of irony, the "Basler Zeitung" reproduces a still photograph of an American television screen proclaiming "Bush Wins". It says it was a night in which the world's only superpower voted for chaos.

Taking its cue from the recount in Florida, the "Neue Zurcher Zeitung" asks whether the electorate can be sure that votes were correctly totted up in other "battleground states". It also says the ballot papers in Florida were particularly confusing, leading elderly voters in particular to complain that they were misled.

The paper's cartoonist, Chapatte, summarises the drama with a drawing of an archetypal Florida man, surrounded by television cameras and journalists, saying "the most powerful man in the world, that's me".

swissinfo

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