World Reacts to US Elections

Will America have a better relationship with the international community now with the Democratic shift in Washington? Or has the Bush administration demanded its links to no repair?

From the Associated Press:

MADRID: US mid-term election results that heralded a massive power shift in the American political landscape - capped by the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - were widely greeted with jubilation around the world, with many expressing variations on the same sentiment: It's about time.

From Paris to Pakistan, politicians, analysts and ordinary citizens said Wednesday they hoped the Democratic takeover of Congress and the departure of his combative Defense Secretary would force US President, George W. Bush, to adopt a more conciliatory approach to the globe's crises, and teach a president many see as a 'cowboy' a lesson in humility.

In Italy, Premier Romano Prodi said Rumsfeld's surprise resignation in particular underscored the depth of what has happened in America.

"Even though US politics had already started changing, Rumsfeld's resignation means an accentuation of this change," said Prodi.

"We'll see over the next few days what the new direction will be. But certainly we have a political structure both in the executive power, in the House and in the Senate that is deeply different from that of a few days ago."

The defense secretary was both deeply hated and grudgingly admired overseas for his unwavering stance on Iraq and support for controversial Bush administration policies like the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and harsh interrogation methods that many feel border on torture.

In Afghanistan, the government of President Hamid Karzai expressed sadness over Rumsfeld's abrupt departure.

"We are sad that he has resigned," Jawed Ludin, Chief of Staff for Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, told The Associated Press.

"We in Afghanistan are very pleased and very grateful for (Rumsfeld's) support for Afghanistan."

Ludin added that Kabul did not expect Washington to changes its policy toward the country.

UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, who has been criticized by some conservative Republicans, offered a diplomatic take on the impact of a Democratic Congress on work at the United Nations.

"We have been here for over 60 years," Annan said. "We have seen lots of elections in the United States, and we have worked with the winners, whether (they are) Democratic or Republican, and we look forward to working with the administration and the new Congress as they move in, and we will want to work with them as effectively as we have worked with others."

Elsewhere, giddiness over an electoral black eye for Bush was almost palpable throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

In an extraordinary joint statement, more than 200 Socialist members of the European Parliament hailed the American election results as "the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world" and said they left the Bush administration "seriously weakened."

In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez, an outspoken critic of the Bush administration, applauded Rumsfeld's resignation and suggested Bush should quit as well. The leftist leader beamed as he read aloud a news report of Rumsfeld's resignation.

"Heads are beginning to roll," Chavez said during a news conference Wednesday. "It was about time he resigned. The president should resign now."

In Paris, expatriates and French citizens alike packed the city's main American haunts to watch results overnight and early Wednesday, with some standing to cheer or boo as vote tabulations came in.

One Frenchman, teacher Jean-Pierre Charpemtrat, 53, said it was about time US voters figured out what much of the rest of the world already knew.

"Americans are realizing that you can't found the politics of a country on patriotic passion and reflexes," he said. "You can't fool everybody all the time - and I think that's what Bush and his administration are learning today."

Democrats swept to power in the House of Representatives on Tuesday and seized the Senate with a narrow win in the state of Virginia amid exit polls that showed widespread American discontent over Iraq, nationwide disgust at corruption in politics, and low approval ratings for Bush.

Many said they thought the big gains by Democrats signalled the beginning of the end of Bush's reign. The next presidential election is in November 2008, and Bush is not eligible to run for re-election.

In Copenhagen, Jens Langfeldt, 35, said he didn't know much about the mid-term elections but was opposed to Bush, referring to the president as "that cowboy".

In Sri Lanka, some said they hoped the rebuke would force Bush to abandon a unilateral approach to global issues.

"The Americans have made it clear that current American policy should change in dealing with the world, from a confrontational approach, to a more consensus-based and bridge-building approach," said Jehan Perera, a political analyst.

The Democratic win means "there will be more control and restraint" over US foreign policy.

Passions were even higher in Pakistan, where Bush is deeply unpopular despite billions in aid and staunch support for President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

One Opposition lawmaker, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, said he welcomed the election result, but was hoping for more. Bush "deserves to be removed, put on trial and given a Saddam-like death sentence," he said.

But there were also some concerns that a power split and a lame-duck president might stall global trade talks or other initiatives where US cooperation is needed.

On Iraq, some worried that Democrats will force a too-rapid retreat, leaving that country and the region in chaos. Others said they doubted the turnover in Congressional power would have a dramatic impact on Iraq policy any time soon, largely because the Democrats have yet to define the specifics of the course they want to take.

In Denmark, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told broadcaster TV2 he hoped the president and the new Congress would find "common ground on questions about Iraq and Afghanistan."

"The world needs a vigorous U.S.A.," Fogh Rasmussen said.

There was also some concern that Democrats, who have a reputation for being more protective of US jobs going overseas, will make it harder to achieve a global free trade accord. In China, some feared the Democrats' resurgence would increase tension over human rights and trade and labor issues. China's surging economy has a massive trade surplus with the United States.

The prospect of a sudden change in American foreign policy could also be troubling to countries such as Britain, Japan and Australia which have thrown their support behind the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Democrats campaigned on a platform that demanded a change of direction in Iraq, and the war has lost the support of the majority of American voters.

"The problem for Arabs now is, an American withdrawal (from Iraq) could be a security disaster for the entire region," said Mustafa Alani, an Iraqi analyst for the Gulf Research Center in Dubai.

He said the Middle East could be left to cope with a disintegrating Iraq mired in civil war, with refugees fleeing a failed state that could become an incubator for terrorism.

On Thursday, Australia's conservative Prime Minister John Howard said he did not believe Washington would pull its troops out of Iraq.

"The strategy is not going to change," Howard told reporters in Canberra. "Clearly the president has reacted to the vote, obviously he has and that is sensible, but his reaction does not amount to a fundamental change in direction."


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