4 November 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Voices from nearly every corner of the globe have reacted to yesterday's confirmation that George W. Bush will hold the U.S. presidency for a second four-year term.
While leaders in Britain and Russia expressed optimism about the reelection, officials and commentators elsewhere were more cautious, stressing the necessity for cooperation despite continued divisions.
The mood in the Middle East, however, was less guarded, with many observers saying a prolonged Bush presidency will only bring more bloodshed and suffering to the region. "To the shelters," commanded one headline in a newspaper in Lebanon. "It's Bush."
Reaction in much of Western Europe was muted yesterday as the Republican incumbent declared himself the victor of the U.S. presidential race.
In Germany, people expressed dismay after Democratic candidate John Kerry conceded defeat in a hotly contested election that saw him garner 48 percent of the popular vote to Bush's 51 percent. Berlin resident Christina Reith summed up sentiments: "I am not very happy about the result. In fact, I am pretty disappointed although it was to be expected. I would have preferred Kerry win, irrelevant of whether his changes would have been big or small. In my view, Bush is a catastrophe."
A similarly grim mood was reflected in an opinion poll published today in a French newspaper, "Le Parisien". The poll said 65 percent of French citizens surveyed think that Bush's reelection is "a bad thing."
But European leaders appeared more sanguine.
French President Jacques Chirac, one of Bush's most vocal critics on the war in Iraq, expressed hope that a second Bush term would "reinforce Franco-American friendship."
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said he was optimistic Germany would continue "good cooperation" with the United States.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a key U.S. ally in the war in Iraq, warmly congratulated Bush on his win.
Blair's tone differed dramatically from a headline in a local tabloid, "The Daily Mirror," that read, "How can 59,017,382 people be so dumb?"
But even Blair sounded a cautionary note, warning that simmering tensions in the Middle East should be the world's key policy concern over the next four years. "The need to revitalize the Middle East peace process is the single most pressing political challenge in our world today," he said. "Therefore we must be relentless in our war against terrorism and in resolving the conditions and causes on which the terrorists prey."
Reaction in the Middle East was divided. Israel and the U.S.-backed leadership in Iraq were optimistic about four more years of a Bush administration. But many Palestinians voiced concerns that Bush would use his new term to continue what they see as an unapologetically pro-Israel policy.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, currently hospitalized in France for a critical blood disorder, congratulated Bush on his win and urged him to become more engaged in the Mideast peace process.
Iran's ISNA news agency quoted Mohammad Mohammadi, a deputy speaker for the parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, as saying the United States was headed for "international and economic ruin unless Bush is more careful in his second term."
Elsewhere in the Arab world, observers predicted Bush's new mandate would mean a spread of violence from Iraq to places like Sudan, Iran, and Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has generally opposed Bush's Iraq policy but has sought to emphasize common concerns over the war on terror.
Speaking on Russian television last night, Putin praised Bush as "a man of strong character," but warned that relations between Moscow and Washington may remain difficult. "Whoever is elected, [Russia's] dialogue with the United States will not be easy," he said. "Problems always emerge between countries such as the United States and Russia, which have so many mutual interests."
Central Asia, which has seen its ties strengthen with the United States under the Bush presidency, was generally optimistic on the outcome of the election.
Uzbekistan has hosted U.S. troops since the invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001. Commentator Kabulbek Karimbekov, speaking on official state television before Kerry's concession, said a Bush presidency was preferable to the alternative.
"It suits us if Bush is elected [U.S.] president. Bush's Central Asia policy is very stable -- not only for Uzbekistan but the whole of Central Asia. George W. Bush and the Republicans have not engaged in dirty interference in the internal affairs of CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] countries. Bush is a known horse, and only God knows what Kerry is going to do. He is an unknown horse. He criticizes Bush for Iraq. If he suddenly says, let's withdraw troops from Afghanistan and let Uzbekistan pull its own cart, what are we going to do? So I think Bush will be president," Karimbekov said.
Across Asia, officials and other observers cautiously welcomed the reelection, but urged Bush to abandon the unilateralism they say marked his first term in office.
From India to Australia to Japan, leaders also expressed concern about what an extended Bush presidency will mean for the war on terror, ties with regional giant China, and the looming nuclear threat in North Korea.
Speaking in Sydney, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a staunch Bush supporter, praised Bush's victory as a step forward in the antiterror fight. "This is a strong reaffirmation of his [Bush's] leadership of the United States in its fight against world terrorism. It's a victory for the antiterrorism cause. It's a signal for the rest of the world that it must redouble its efforts to unite to combat the threat that terrorism represents to all of us," Howard said.
In Beijing, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said relations between the United States and China had "significantly improved" during the Bush presidency, and expressed hope that mutual cooperation would continue to develop.
A spokesman for South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said Seoul "sincerely welcomes" Bush's reelection, and said the South Korean government will work more closely with Washington to peacefully resolve Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.
Newspaper commentary was less reserved. Hong Kong's "South China Morning Post" labeled Bush's win a "victory for divisiveness."
An editorial in Malaysia's "Berita Harian" accused U.S. voters of having "deafened their ears and blinded their eyes from the screams of babies and children who died in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine as a result of Bush's actions."
(compiled from staff and agency reports)
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