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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Election Concerns Arabs

CAIRO, Egypt -- One satellite station is urging Arab viewers to phone in their votes for U.S. President George W. Bush or Senator John Kerry. Kuwait television plans live coverage overnight until official results are in. The U.S. elections are Page 1 news in almost every newspaper in the region.

No matter the medium, the message was the same: The result of Tuesday's U.S. presidential election will have a great impact on the Middle East. And Arabs are paying close attention.

While Middle Eastern governments officially brush off the impact the outcome will have on relations with the United States, many Arabs have been frustrated and angered by what they view as Bush's misguided Middle East policy and American military aggression in Iraq.

"In the Arab world, the consensus is that the Bush tenure has made matters worse, especially for the Palestinians and the Iraqis," said an editorial in the Jordan Times. "Bush's rule has also destabilized the entire world. The war on terrorism appears not to have made a dent in organizations like al-Qaida and others like it."

"Arabs and Muslims are looking forward to the election results. Maybe if Kerry wins, then there will be some hope to resolve the issues of Iraq and Palestine," said an editorial in Jordan's pro-government Al Rai newspaper. Bush is widely viewed in the Arab world as unflinchingly pro-Israel.

In Lebanon, Joseph Samaha, editor in chief of the leftist daily As-Safir, wrote that international relations for the foreseeable future will be affected by Americans' decision Tuesday, "and the Middle East is at the heart of this equation."

It is regrettable, Samaha wrote, that the elections "will decide the fate of people who cannot vote in it."

The Arab satellite network asked its viewers, "If you had the right to vote, whom would you elect?" Call-in voting began an hour before the first polls opened on the east coast of the United States. Two hours into the calling, Bush had the early lead: 53 percent to 47 percent for Kerry in the unscientific gauge of viewer interest.

Early in the afternoon, the Al-Jazeera television network broadcast footage of New Hampshire voters using touch-screen terminals. The station planned live coverage of the polls, international analysts and a thorough history of both candidates, particularly their relations with the Arab world.

State-owned Kuwait Television was to air a live program, "The Road to the White House," overnight until results are announced, featuring reports from the United States and analyst comment.

Some Jordanians in the capital, Amman, said they planned to stay up all night to watch election coverage.

Jordanian pharmacist Salma Eissa said she prefers a Kerry win because the Democrats "don't use war to solve the world's problems."

Mohammad al-Fakhoury, owner of a cellphone shop in Amman, said he was sure Bush would win, though he hoped for a Kerry victory.

"I think there can't be anyone worse than Bush," he said. "He is a war-man. ... If Bush stays as president, he will surely destroy Syria and Iran."

Syria's official media said Tuesday it did not make a difference whether Bush or Kerry won the elections.

"Bush and Kerry are the same, as they turn facts upside-down," said the English-language Syria Times in a leading article. "Arabs want fairness, whether it is Bush or Kerry who wins the elections."

In Iran, where the head of the Security Council last week endorsed Bush, President Mohammad Khatami said he has no preference.

"But we hope they, whether Bush or Kerry, will move logically and justly to meet the interests of the American people and in line with noninterference in the internal affairs of other countries, detente and establishment of peace based on justice," he said.

One Arab country where the Republican ticket remains strong and the president's father is a hero is Kuwait, a U.S. ally freed by American-led forces under the first President Bush after Saddam Hussein invaded in 1990.

"In Kuwait, we have love and respect for the Bushes because they moved the world to liberate Kuwait from its occupier, the toppled Saddam Hussein," wrote a columnist for Al-Anba daily.

But Kuwaiti civil servant Ibrahim Ahmed said it would not make much difference who wins. "They will continue to have double standards when it comes to the Palestinian issue."