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U.S. election dispute worries friends, pleases foes

In an Israeli newspaper cartoon, the Statue of Liberty gives a U.S. ballot "the light test"  

(CNN) -- With the U.S. presidential election stuck in seemingly endless challenges, other countries are puzzled and voicing concern about the state of democracy.

"People are concerned that if the greatest democracy in the world, the most technically advanced, the most slick, can get this kind of glitch, how bad can it go elsewhere?" said Justice Johann Kriegler of the South African Constitutional Court.

In so many nations, the American style of government was the benchmark. The Philippines modeled its political system so closely after Washington's it has even impeached its president.

Observers say it is vital to those outside America that its election process be exemplary in its openness, honesty and fairness.

"I would really not like to think that something that we have fought against in our country can happen in America, the country that we have always taken as a role model for democracy," said Marko Blagojevic of the Belgrade Free Election Center.

"I think it's very important that we should have a president who has the authority in his own country and the rest of the world, to be leader of the free world," said former British Foreign Secretary Lord Peter Carrington.

China: 'There is something wrong'

Meanwhile, others are using the events to denigrate the U.S. system.

"It's clear the U.S. electoral system is not as fair and as perfect as the country boasts," said an editorial in the main English language newspaper in China's state-controlled media.

An academic at Tsinghua University agreed. "This case makes both elites and the public believe there is something wrong with America's democratic system," said Yan Xuetong. "You do not have the right to lecture others."

Cuba recently blamed the Florida election problems on President Fidel Castro's foes, and declared the state a "banana republic."

Israel knew how to share

Israelis are transfixed by the protracted battle for the presidency, though they, especially, should understand the stress that arises after a virtual tie in a national election.

Chinese TV reports on the Florida recount  

In 1984, Israel faced a crisis after a runoff election left the political parties unable to form a coalition government. After a two-month standoff, the Likud and Labor parties hit on a unique solution: a national unity government with a rotating prime minister. After two years, Shimon Peres yielded power to the Likud's Yitzhak Shamir.

That worked, Israelis say, because both men agreed to elevate themselves beyond their political antagonism and delay their ambitions.

'We were forced to act by consensus and not by majority," says Peres. "It was very difficult ... yet we found, on many occasions, a way to solve problems."

CNN Beijing Bureau Chief Rebecca Mackinnon, Havana Bureau Chief Lucia Newman, and correspondents Jerrold Kessel and Jim Bitterman contributed to this report.


Friday, November 17, 2000


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