Thu, Nov 04, 2004 - Page 5 News List

US Election: The Middle East waits and watches as the results roll in


Arab satellite networks kept a close watch overnight on the US presidential race, the extensive coverage a sign of the great importance attached to the election in the Middle East.

While many in the region appeared to support Senator John Kerry, in hope of changes in US policy here, Kuwaitis were hoping for the re-election of US President George W. Bush, the son of their liberator in the 1991 Gulf War.

The first President Bush led an international coalition that fought to end a seven-month occupation of Kuwait by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

At the election party, held in a traditional Kuwaiti wooden ship turned restaurant, lawyer and human rights activist Salah al-Hashem had two photos of the incumbent president pinned to his white dishdasha, or traditional robe.

Al-Hashem said he supported Bush not only for "emotional" reasons, but also because his policy on Iraq, and his push for more freedoms in neighboring Saudi Arabia were in Kuwait's interest.

"We know Bush's policy well and it is in our interest," he said. "But Kerry, we don't know what he would do."

State-owned Kuwaiti television broadcast The Road to the White House, a program that started shortly after midnight on Tuesday and would continue until results are announced.

The program offered commentary from Washington and Cairo, and in its Kuwait studio, it hosted political science teachers who offered analyses on the latest results.

Abdullah al-Shayeji, a lecturer at Kuwait University, said Kerry failed to offer voters a "convincing alternative" to Bush's war on terror.

A bar updated the electoral votes won by the candidates, and footage from polling stations from around the US was shown in the background.

Arab satellite networks Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya also aired continuous coverage, updating colored maps with state results, flashing electoral college results and talking to analysts about the election's impact on the Middle East.

Many Arabs on Tuesday said that they hoped Kerry would win, saying Bush had made the Middle East more unstable.

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