Africans offer to help U.S. learn democracy

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Mon Nov 13 13:12:34 MST 2000


Friday, November 10 10:27 PM SGT

Africa offers to send 'observers' to help US end poll confusion

PARIS, Nov 10 (AFP) -

African nations suggested Friday sending 'observers' to the United States
to help overcome presidential poll confusion as the world's press argued
over whether it was witnessing electoral chaos or simply democracy in

"International observers should be put in place" because "the United
States must join the established democracies," said South Africa's daily

A top aide to Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe endorsed the idea:
"perhaps now we have reached a time when they can learn a lot from us.
Maybe Africans and others should send observers to help Americans deal
with their democracy."

Others fantasized about observers dressed in Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda
shorts, alongside UN Blue Helmets, investigating Al Gore's campaign claim
there were "serious and substantional illegularities" in the ballot.

"It is a shameful reflection on our continent that, in the US's hour of
need, we were not there beside our American brothers and sisters to help
and advise where we could," said an editorial in South Africa's weekly

As the presidential vote cliff-hanger threatened to drag on into next
week, there was widspread surprise this could happen to the world's most
famous democracy.

"An American legend collapses -- suspicions of fraud in US vote," ran the
headline in Turkey's mass-circulation Hurriyet daily.

"Even in the United States there is electoral fraud," the Bulgarian
financial daily Curentul wrote.

Congo's independent La Reference Plus said Thursday the US vote provided
"strong arguments for bad leaders and dictators in Africa."

"If this happens in the United States, how do you want everything to be
clean and transparent in the poor African continent," added the daily.

Portugal's Diario de Noticias also echoed the view that democracy was
being undermined: "In the end, this (US vote) is bad news for democracy in
America. And in consequence, is bad news for democracy."

But the French press dismissed that notion, saying the true winner in the
US presidential elections was, in fact, none other than democracy.

"The current crisis will be overcome," wrote the conservative daily Le
Figaro, dismissing claims the chaos will damage the US.

"In spite of waiting two more days and playing with the nerves of
onlookers, it's only the vote count -- precisely because every vote counts
-- which determines the outcome of the vote. That is democracy."

Democracy is imperfect but "it's worked for two hundred years. And not
that badly," it said.

Britain's press, however, began dividing along party lines, debating the
rights and wrongs of attempts of Democrat Al Gore camp to overturn the
result in Florida, which his Republican rival George W. Bush won by a
whisker, according to the initial count.

"Desperate Al Gore began fighting dirty last night in his bid to snatch
the US presidency," wrote Britain's best selling tabloid, The Sun.

The right-leaning Daily Telegraph echoed this view, saying Gore's team had
"opted to challenge the results rather than concede defeat graciously."

The Guardian, however, came out in support of the vice president for the
sake of US democracy.

"It said there had to be challenges to the alleged "possible wilful fraud
and/or gross incompetence" and called for a re-run of the vote in areas
where there had been significant irregularities.

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