United Press International
News. Analysis. Insight.
November 3, 2004
Italians react to Bush election victory
ROME -- After George W. Bush's second straight razor-thin Electoral College victory, the Italian media began speculating about what it
would take to heal a deeply divided U.S. electorate, while many Italians wondered how difficult it would be for Bush to lead such a deeply
During the night in Italy -- as polls were closing in the western United States -- Italian television shifted back and forth about who would
be the likely winner before the race was declared a stalemate based on the possibility that a result in the key swing state of Ohio might
not be known for 11 days, when tens of thousands of provisional votes could be evaluated and counted.
When Democratic nominee John Kerry called to congratulate Bush in the early evening, Italian time, commentators immediately began
discussing what could be in store for the United States over the next days and months.
"When he won in 2000, George W. Bush said he was a "uniter and not a divider," a U.S. correspondent for the Italian television network
La 7 said after the Kerry campaign announced that the Democrat would concede the race. "How he will do that is a anyone's guess, but
the president has not shown ability in this area in the past."
Another commentator, for state broadcasting company RAI, picked up on Kerry's reported offer to work together with Bush to close the
divide between Democrats and Republicans, suggesting a major gesture from Bush to the Democratic Party, such as appointing a
Democrat to his Cabinet.
Even as the remaining possibility of a Kerry victory evaporated, Italians were unsure of the implications of the result. Several people who
spoke to United Press International expressed surprise that for the second consecutive election, the result hinged on the outcome of a
"Whoever ends up winning, how can they claim to lead a country when the vote is so evenly split that in the end only one state decides
who is the next president?" Lorena Checchini, a 42-year-old communications officer asked UPI. "Last time it was Florida, this time Ohio.
What it all shows is how divided the country is."
Antonio Masarelli, 55, a coffee bar owner, agreed.
"It's a good thing the U.S. is such a stable country," Masarelli told UPI. "With two such close elections in a row, many countries would
have a civil war."
Some Italian commentators were philosophical about the result. Giuliano Ferrara, the publisher of an elite newspaper called Il Foglio,
speaking on one of the Mediaset networks owned by Bush ally Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said that the U.S. electorate voted
based on emotion.
"America has voted with its heart and not its head," Ferrara said. "This is the way voting should be carried out, because the heart
understands more. The main issues in the United States, like safety, the future, and the economy ... (are) issues the heart understands
But Christopher Winner, a U.S. citizen and long-time Italian resident who is also the publisher of the Rome-based magazine The
American, told UPI that the election results were a blow to those who value international cooperation.
"The result of the race is absolutely demoralizing for internationalists, and rightly so," said Winner, whose magazine endorsed Kerry.
"Since Mr. Bush and his foreign policy has been disparaged in some European quarters, it was absolutely necessary for
America-watchers to determine if Americans themselves would, in effect, 'spurn or affirm' the president. The popular vote gives that
affirmation, and then some."
The Italian government has so far been silent about the result. Berlusconi, the Italian premier, has been Bush's staunchest ally in
continental Europe. And though local news reported that Berlusconi called Bush to congratulate him for his victory, the Italian leader who
has been in power longer than any other since World War II -- around five months less than Bush -- has not issued a public statement
on the U.S. election. Other top Italian political figures have been similarly silent.
According to Maria Rossi, co-director of the polling firm Opinioni, that could be because most Italians remain opposed to U.S. foreign
policy and Bush remains unpopular in Italy.
"Berlusconi is I am sure very happy that Bush will remain in power," Rossi told UPI. "But his support of Bush is unpopular at home. He
will say something about it obviously, but I don't think he will want to stress his view."
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