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US electoral system gets pasting in Swiss press

The US media fell over itself to be the first to confirm, and then deny, the election result

(Keystone)

Swiss newspapers have had a field day after the United States presidential elections failed to pick a winner between George W Bush and Al Gore. The tabloid "Blick" described it as "the craziest US election of all time".

Two days after the elections Americans are still waiting to hear who their next president will be, following what may turn out to be the closest-run race in history. The two candidates were so close at the close of voting that a recount became necessary in the state of Florida.

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.

The German-language Tages Anzeiger newspaper reflected Florida's new importance by headlining its story: "the whole world is waiting for Florida", under a cartoon of the two candidates sitting at either end of a perfectly balanced fulcrum.

Several Swiss papers interpreted the situation as evidence of 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."

The French-language "Le Temps" agreed that American society has been polarised by presidential candidates with very different policies. "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" also has a jibe 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 German-language "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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