Published on Friday, November 10, 2000 by Agence France Presse
Africa Offers To Send 'Observers' To Help US End Poll Confusion
PARIS - 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 action.

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

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."

A pedestrian looks up at Mexico City's most popular tabloid's sensationalistic headline in reaction to the cliffhanger general election in the USA, November 8, 2000. The U.S. woke this morning without a President elect as votes were recounted in the decisive state of Florida where the result will tip the balance. REUTERS/Andrew Winning
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 substantial irregularities" 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 Mail.

As the presidential vote cliff-hanger threatened to drag on into next week, there was widespread 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 willful fraud and/or gross incompetence" and called for a re-run of the vote in areas where there had been significant irregularities.

Copyright 2000 AFP