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Italy Holds Its Breath for U.S. Election Results
OCTOBER 30, 2004 - As Americans head to the polls on Tuesday, Italians will be waiting breathlessly to find out if incumbent George W. Bush manages to beat Democratic opponent Senator John Kerry. So far, the race has been neck and neck and things got even more dramatic over the weekend, when a new Osama bin Laden tape addressing the U.S. election surfaced, causing worry that bin Laden might be signaling another terrorist attack.
In light of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the ongoing war on terrorism declared by Bush after the 9-11 attacks on the United States, and lingering concerns about nuclear arms in North Korea and Iran, more Europeans are following the U.S. presidential election with a closer eye than ever before. About 58 percent of Italians who responded to a September poll by GlobeScan and Eurisko SpA are hoping Kerry wins. Only about 14 percent of respondents sided with Bush.
The deciding factor for most Italians seems to be the U.S.-led conflict in Iraq. About 47 percent of Italians believe that Iraqis were better off with Saddam Hussein and that the invasion worsened their situation, according to a Swg-L'Espresso survey at the end of September. This reaction comes after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi committed more than 2,000 troops to the U.S.-led coalition - and his undying loyalty to W.
The Italian public was never quite sure if it wanted to send its troops to participate, even if they would be in Iraq as peacekeepers refraining from military action. The debate escalated as Iraqi insurgents continued to attack and kill members of the coalition after Bush declared the war was over. After 18 Italian paramilitary were killed in a bombing in Nasiriyah and two Italian women volunteering for a charity organization helping Iraqi children were kidnapped and held hostage, one thing is certain; the majority of Italians want to pull out of Iraq.
But with just days before the U.S. presidential election, Berlusconi continues to pledge his support for “his friend George,” according to Reuters. While campaigning for local Italian politicians on the island of Ischia in the Bay of Napoli, Berlusconi said, “We hope and believe the next president will again be Bush.” But he added that even if Kerry wins, Italy will remain allies to the United States.
For the first time, newspapers across Europe are writing editorials endorsing one or the other U.S. candidate. The European media has kept a close gaze on the election developments, almost as if it was a local battle, according to Peace, Earth & Justice News. PE&J also reports that the Italian media, mostly owned by Berlusconi, weighed in as well. The publications without ties to the prime minister are largely pro-Kerry, especially La Repubblica, which is also the most critical of Berlusconi.
In a world that is getting ever smaller, thanks to technology and globalization, many resent America's newfound position as moral police to the world. They wonder what gives the authority to the United States and whether it's fair. Many things have divided America. Many things have divided Italy. But nothing has divided the world quite like the decisions of the Bush administration. Only history will tell us if he's a hero or our greatest nightmare - and we all have our opinions on which one he will turn out to be.
Regardless, if you're an Italian American, it's your job to make sure you cast your vote. Some would argue that it's never been as important as it is this year. If you're an Italian in other parts of the world, it's time to hold your breath for the results - figuratively, not literally - because the next U.S. president could determine the fate of us all - literally, not figuratively.
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