[Hpn] "Banana Republic"
Mon, 13 Nov 2000 10:42:35 -0700
US officials bristle at "banana republic" charges
By Deborah Zabarenko
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Reuters) - As the United States stewed over Tuesday's
inconclusive presidential election, there was plenty of derisive glee on
Thursday from foreign capitals where voting is often the butt of jokes.
In Moscow, where elections are often questioned by outside observers, the
head of Russia's Central Election Commission sniffed: ``Our presidential
elections are conducted in more (of) a democratic fashion and are more
easily understood by voters'' than the U.S. elections that brought no
clear winner two days after the balloting.
Less officially, the Russian Web site www.anekdot.ru joked that Russian
election commission chief Alexander Veshnyakov had flown to the United
States to help straighten out the election mess.
``Latest reports show (Russian President Vladimir) Putin in the lead''
over Republican George W. Bush (news - web sites) and Democrat Al Gore
(news - web sites), the site said.
In Mexico City, another place where vote fraud has been chronically
alleged, the Mexican media smelled a rat north of the border.
Florida's popular Gov. Jeb Bush, the brother of the presidential nominee,
drew comparisons to Raul Salinas, the ''awkward brother'' of former
Mexican President Carlos Salinas, whose 1988 election victory was sealed
only after a government-run computer system tallying the vote ``crashed''
when early results showed an opposition candidate ahead.
``In this photo finish ... something bad is going on in Florida,'' said
Pedro Ferriz, a commentator for Mexico City's Imagen radio.
Italians Lampoon U.S. 'Banana Republic'
Mexican commentators and conspiracy theorists drew parallels between the
vote count in Florida and past election shenanigans that helped maintain
Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in power for seven
Opposition parties long alleged that the PRI, which lost its first
presidential election ever last July, stuffed boxes with ballots cast by
citizens long dead but still registered, among other underhanded tactics.
In Rome, home of ``opera buffa'' politics and governments that can change
as fast as the seasons, there was open gloating over the U.S. election
``A Day as a Banana Republic,'' the Rome daily newspaper La Repubblica
wrote in a headline about the U.S. vote.
``The first election of the new millennium has brought America into the
realm of the surreal,'' the newspaper said.
Its banner headline ``For a Fistful of Votes'' -- was a play on the title
of Sergio Leone's famous ``spaghetti Western'' film ''A Fistful of
Dollars,'' with Clint Eastwood.
``Forty-eight hours after the vote, the most powerful nation on earth is
not able to tell its citizens and the world who the 43rd president of the
United States is,'' said Rome's Il Messaggero newspaper.
A U.S. embassy party in Beijing meant to introduce the Chinese to the joys
of democracy, but wound up causing more confusion than anything else.
``It's so complicated,'' said 19-year-old language student Xiao Wangxin at
the party for 2,000, which featured live CNN, bagels and cream cheese and
a U.S. policy wonk in an Uncle Sam suit explaining how the Electoral
College works. ``I don't think this system is suited to China.''
A Chinese Foreign Ministry (news - web sites) spokesman said only that
``Every country must decide which election method it should use according
to local conditions.'' China's Communist Party has ruled for more than
five decades and brooks no opposition.
British bookmakers took a different approach to the U.S. vote: they let
people bet on it.
Two days after Americans voted, with no clear winner in sight, British
online betting firm Blue Square had Bush as the strong favorite to win the
election at 5/2 on -- if you put down five pounds you would get seven back
including your stake -- and Gore at 7/4.
US officials bristle at "Banana Republic" ridicule abroad over election
WASHINGTON, Nov 9 (AFP) -
US officials struggled to keep their upper lips stiff Thursday, but
bristled at derision being heaped on the United States overseas for
confusion surrounding this week's presidential election.
"Hah! And I stand by that comment," State Department spokesman Richard
Boucher said when asked about remarks reportedly made by Libya's UN
ambassador that problems with the vote proved American democracy was
Boucher insisted that despite gleeful lampooning of the election in the
world's media, foreign officials had been silent on the matter, at least
in their contacts with US diplomats.
"We're quite aware that there's a lot of interesting press commentary
overseas, but I've checked with our operations center and they haven't
seen any official cable traffic or reports from overseas or inquiries from
foreign leaders about the status of things or concerns," he said.
No one is "inquiring officially whether the United States is lost in space
or something like that."
A senior State Department official said he found the attention "amusing,"
but referred to those making insulting remarks as "the idiots around the
Another senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed
surprise the election had provoked snide remarks, but tried to put on a
brave face, saying: "It's no skin off our nose, bring it on."
And bring it on they did, as commentators around the globe ganged up on
the world's lone superpower and particularly its television networks,
which admitted to jumping the gun by prematurely awarding victory to
George W. Bush.
Also under siege was the entire US electoral system that could, in this
case, bring into office a candidate who received fewer votes than his
"America today is a laughing stock," wrote the British tabloid Mirror,
adding: "It's the sort of thing you would expect from a banana republic."
The German daily Die Welt said Tuesday's polls were a "macabre spectacle."
"A giant empire with 280 million citizens sends voters to the polls to
decide who should be the next American president and both candidates
remain in a dead heat in a way we have not seen in elections in
Uzbekistan," it said.
And widespread was the verdict that the electoral system was outdated and
in desperate need of reform.
"The first presidential election of the new millennium takes America into
the surreal world of a possible unprecedented constitutional crisis, a
crisis of confidence in the integrity of its electoral system," said the
Italian center-left daily La Republica.
In India, the world's largest democracy, pundits could not resist
suggesting the United States might have something to learn from its
"This alone should trigger a post poll debate about the validity of
electoral colleges and whether the US should not just switch directly to a
popular vote like the great democracy of India," the Asian Age said.
Boucher would have none of that, however.
"We follow legal processes, we count ballots carefully, we reach results
and we have peaceful transitions of power," the spokesman said.
"We've done this for 200 years in the United States and we think we know
how to do it pretty well," he said, adding that the country was not
interested in hearing proposals, lighthearted or not, for assistance in
counting votes in the Florida, disputed ballots on which the entire
"We have no reports that some government has offered to help us count and
I'm not aware that we have either the need, the desire or any necessity of
doing that any way," Boucher said.
Asked whether Washington, which has recently been forceful in calls for
the Organization of American States (OAS) to take an active role in
election reform in Peru and Haiti, thought the group might be able to play
a role in this case, he replied tersely: "I'm not going to entertain the
Webpage on the vote fraud 2000
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