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US presidential election result hangs in the balance

Although 99 per cent of the votes have been counted, it is still not known who has won the United States presidential election. A recount has been ordered in the state of Florida to determine the race's outcome that will now only be known on Thursday.

The count became necessary after the Democrat, Al Gore, and the Republican, George Bush, finished only several hundred votes apart. The race is so close nationally, that whoever wins in Florida will take the presidency.

Near final results put Gore on 49 per cent of the votes and Bush on 48 per cent, with Gore less than 300,000 votes ahead out of nearly 100 million votes 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.

With two states left to file their results, Gore had 260 votes and Bush 246. Only Florida's 25 votes would bring the candidates enough votes to secure a victory.

Florida's attorney-general, Bob Butterworth, said the state's law required a recount because the margin was so narrow.

The close finish comes after the US television networks forecast a Bush victory in Florida and declared Bush as the new president. They were later forced to retract the statement.

Nevertheless, he remains slightly ahead in the vote count in the state, in which his brother Jeb is governor. Bush's campaign manager said he was confident Bush's lead would be confirmed in the recount.

If Bush wins, the Republicans will be back in the White House for the first time in eight years. His victory would make him the first son of a former president since John Quincy Adams in 1825 to follow his father into the White House.

A victory would also have huge personal significance for the 54 year-old governor of Texas. It was Bill Clinton who unseated George Bush senior in 1992, and Bush relished the idea of defeating Clinton's vice-president, Gore.

Bush dealt blows to the Democrats with early victories in Gore's home state of Tennessee as well as Arkansas - the home of the outgoing president, Bill Clinton. For Gore, on the other hand there were important victories in California, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

In Congress, the Republicans successfully defended their majority in the House of Representatives, but lost their lead in the Senate, which is now divided exactly equally between the two parties.

In New York, Hillary Clinton made history by becoming the first First Lady to be elected to public office. She beat her Republican challenger for a Senate seat by a comfortable half a million votes.

swissinfo with agencies


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