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Colin Butts, Florida, USA
"Perhaps if we had someone with integrity"
 real 28k

Michael Blasenstein, Washington DC, USA
"This is a completely democratic process"
 real 28k

Luciano Monteiro, Sapiranga, Brazil
"American democracy is not what the Americans say it is"
 real 28k

Thomas Jacob, Dresden, Germany
"The disturbing thing is not the voting mechanism"
 real 28k

Dan Andrews, Cairo, Egypt
"The 12th Amendment provides for this"
 real 28k

Brian Chandler-Lorenz, Germany
"Campaign financing is obscene"
 real 28k

Harish Perinchery, Oman
"Perhaps Bill Clinton's term should be extended for another 4 years"
 real 28k

Steve Block, Florida, USA
"Didn't understand ballot paper"
 real 28k

Michelle Pouliart, Belgium
"Voters need somebody with charm"
 real 28k

Amir Ketabchi, London
"In Iran President Khatami was elected on over 80% of the vote"
 real 28k

Friday, 17 November, 2000, 10:31 GMT
US elections: Is this democracy?

Votes have to be re-counted and legal issues to be clarified before we know who will become the 43rd President of the United States.

The composition of the Electoral College now depends on a small number of votes in Florida, and the outcome will not necessarily reflect the popular vote.

Critics say this system is unfair and out of date. Others say that this drawn-out process is evidence of a healthy democracy.

How does it look to you? Do you think your own country has a better system?

We have been taking your questions and comments live on World Service Radio's Talking Point ON AIR programme.

Select the link below to watch Talking Point On Air

  • Your comments since the programme
  • Your comments during the programme
  • Your comments before the programme


    Your comments since the programme

    I'm amazed at the remarks of so many Americans concerning this presidential election. In fine American fashion everyone is concerned with the outcome - and whether or not their team is winning. But, I fear we've all lost, because so few of us have really considered the process, which appears to be deeply flawed. It certainly is not democratic.
    We've apparently sold democracy to moneyed interests who put on banal spectacles and little else. Now we've got to face the sad truth that our election results are probably as contrived as the debates and everything else connected with American politics.
    We really auction off the Presidency. Dollar votes are what matter in America - we've infused the phrase "Political Economy" with new meaning.
    Joe Stumpo, Philadelphia, US


    The people's choice does not always determine the leader in power

    Musa Bah, Gambian in UK
    Anyone who thinks there is democracy in America must look again at the role of corporate money and political lobbyists. Democracy is meant to be by the people and for the people. In America as in the UK, the people's choice does not always determine the leader in power and that to any reasonably minded person is not democracy. Perhaps it answers the reason for voter apathy.
    Musa Bah, Gambian in UK

    Wake up Americans! The Electoral College does not prevent large states from 'bullying' smaller ones. All a candidate has to do is win the election in the largest states and get their electoral votes! If this is not 'bullying', I don't know what is!
    Santhanam, India

    If Vice President Al Gore had not been such a "sore loser" Americans would have never have learned of the many problems with today's voting processes and equipment - just as we never knew of the 1000's of votes thrown away in previous elections. Our county clerks knew of these problems, yet didn't fix them. This is the real disgrace of our election process. If we are to live up to the claim that the US is the world leader for the democratic process, we should at least have voting methods that reduce the chances of mistakes and corruption. Re-vote Palm Beach County!
    Jeanine, Albuquerque, NM, USA


    I thank God that we have a monarchy in the Netherlands

    Karel Postulart, Zaandam, The Netherlands
    The presidential elections have been most awkward and somehow the American people have not been able to make the right decision. Throwing a coin would have worked out just as easily! A pity for all the money spent on the campaigns, but also for the fact that the greatest nation in the world is not able to provide a president with charisma that makes the choice very easy for the American people! I thank God that we have a monarchy in the Netherlands. It may be old fashioned or out of date, but I would have been very frustrated if we had the same situation in the Netherlands.
    Karel Postulart, Zaandam, The Netherlands

    May God save us all from Al Gore
    Jeff Hawkins, Tulsa, USA

    How low does the electoral turnout have to go before the system loses all democratic accountability? I'm not being a smug Brit about this: our local elections here regularly see turnouts of 30% or less, so not much legitimacy there. Somehow politicians in the western world just aren't connecting with their voters, are they?
    Neville Walker, London, UK

    United Nations observers should now step in to ensure that future elections in the USA are organised and run in a fair and democratic manner.
    Alan Marshall, Perth, Scotland


    I don't see what all the fuss is about

    Teresa, Pacifica, CA, USA
    I don't see what all the fuss is about. Let DEMOCRACY take its course. Let the system do what it legally and rightfully has to do to determine who will be our next President. We are all on pins and needles right now wondering who will represent us (for better or worse) for the next 4 years. This nation is in limbo right now and it's aggravating and frightening. So, LEAVE US ALONE and save your griping and criticism for afterwards. We normal, everyday Americans want immediate satisfaction but also want to win fair and square.
    Teresa, Pacifica, CA, USA

    If anything proves that Britain's good old "First past the post" system is best then the farce of the American Presidential Elections does. Here our constituencies are more or less the same size in electorate, are redrawn every 10 years or so and the party with the greatest number of seats wins. I think that it was only in the early 1950's and in 1974 (February) that the party with the larger popular vote didn't have the greater number of seats. So, to all the advocates of PR systems, leave well alone. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
    Steve Foley, Reading, England

    With its first past the post system, a PM elected by MPs, a hereditary Head of State and an unelected Upper Chamber, Britain is light years behind the USA. It seems 200 or so retirees in the State of Florida will have decided the world's most powerful leader! Wonderful. In the UK, important retirees end up with no influence whatsoever, in the House of Lords.
    Liam Coughlan, Yerevan, Armenia

    They could go on Judge Judy. Let her decide.
    Luke Donegan, Perth, Australia

    In an election this close, without the Electoral College each party would now be demanding a national recount, precinct by precinct across the country, rather than in the single state of Florida as is the case today. There may be some legal nastiness over the next few days or weeks, but we litigate from morning to night anyway as naturally as breathing, so that will not be a problem. We will lurch along as usual.
    Nelson Blakely, Bucks County, PA USA

    I have always admired the US electoral system. Although it is not as great as I would like it to be, it is still better than the first-past-the-post system we have here in Canada. The situation unfolding in Florida demonstrates to all how important it is to go out and cast your vote, because as we are all seeing, EVERYONE counts.
    Kevin Knight, Toronto, Canada


    Yes, this is democracy in action

    Faye, USA
    Yes, this is democracy in action. We are the United STATES of America. The debacle in Florida only illustrates the power of each and every vote. I sincerely hope that this election will inspire Americans who had chosen not to vote in the past to get out and vote in future elections. We needed a squeaker like this to shake us out of our apathy.
    Faye, USA

    Those who cling to the notion that this is a healthy democracy are sadly deluded. The election process in the US is bloated; both in terms of the vast amount of money spent and the amount of time spent campaigning. The result, and the far more telling fact, is that a majority of those eligible to vote do not even bother.
    R. McNaughton Phillips, Seattle, USA

    I became confused by the ballot when attempting to vote and finally tore it up and left without casting a vote. But I blame myself for not asking for instructions first since I had always used machine ballots while up north and this paper one was admittedly confusing. I have always thought the Electoral College system was a redundant anachronism which would eventually cause the problems we are now seeing.
    Stephen B, West Palm Beach, Florida, USA

    I don't understand why anyone supports the Electoral College concept. It results in candidates focussing on states with large electoral college votes, e.g. California, while ignoring states with small electoral college counts, e.g.Vermont. It's highly undemocratic and should be tossed out as an old anachronism. Another problem in our elections is that many candidates are unopposed. In my congressional district the incumbent had no opposition, and the US senator from my state had only nominal opposition. So what does that say about how much my vote counts? I believe this reflects the obscene amount of money it takes to mount a campaign.
    Peter Nelson, Chelmsford, MA, USA

    Your comments during the programme

    I accidentally double-punched in the city council election out here. I can see how easy it is to do, especially with the butterfly ballot. I messed up, but in no way do I feel cheated of my vote. Al Gore should have won the election, but in fact, he did not. What he is doing now is tearing our country apart.
    Ben Murray, Irvine, California, USA

    I protest against Bill Clinton's proclamation that the results of Tuesday's election show that every vote does count. What has happened in the Florida counties demonstrates that not all votes do count. If they did, it would seem that Al Gore would have won Florida with a small, but significant margin. The present hullabaloo indicates that there has existed a degree of political corruption in US elections for many years which has only been significant when national election results were "too close to call".
    John Berg, Lindesberg, Sweden,


    We are aware of our arrogance

    Karen Knizek, New York, USA
    Please be advised that the irony of this situation is not lost on me nor on many of my fellow Americans. We are aware of our arrogance and of our "need" to stick our noses into other nations' affairs. I suppose I cannot blame you for rubbing our noses in it.
    Karen Knizek, New York, USA

    If this is democracy maybe the Americans should start to consider if they've ever understood the word democracy?
    A. Ruotsalainen, Wakefield, UK

    The farcical outcome of this election so far should make it abundantly clear to informed Americans that it is time to abolish the Electoral College, an institution geared to the eighteenth century. It would also be nice to think that from now on American political candidates will refrain from preaching to the rest of the world how "special" a democracy the United States is. This is a continuing insult to much older functioning democracies in other parts of the world, and smacks of jingoism and arrogance. Perhaps it also reflects the very insular American education system. I live in Canada, and a constant complaint here is the appalling neglect of and ignorance about the United States' two closest neighbours, Canada and Mexico.
    Michael Blayney, Victoria, BC, Canada


    I have come to view the circus of American politics with bemused detachment

    Paul Poletti, Utrecht Netherlands
    As an American living and working in Europe for almost 10 years now, I have come to view the circus of American politics with bemused detachment. But this year's election has really got my blood boiling. James Baker's announcement yesterday of the Republican attempt to block a hand recount of the ballots in Palm Beach is a boldfaced act of hypocrisy better suited to a former eastern-bloc or third world dictator. His stated concerns about the veracity of such a count and the superiority of machine counting are specious and without factual basis. If Republicans are really so concerned about protecting the "most precious right of citizens of a democracy", perhaps they should ask the UN to send international observers to Florida. If Bush and his cohorts are successful, it will be a long time before anybody anywhere in the world takes American moralising about the sanctity of the democratic process seriously.
    Paul Poletti, Utrecht, Netherlands

    It is sad to say, but Mr Bush and Mr Gore are making this thing a joke. To think that either of these men will be the leader of the free world is frightening!
    Paul Marlowe, USA

    This incident of recounting just shows how tough the competition is this time between the Republicans and the Democrats. What is ominous however is that US electoral politics from now on will definitely be shaped by more under-the-table tricks than the American public will ever know.
    Farouk Elbeshlawy, Hong Kong


    Democracy is about people making decisions having being presented with honest choices

    Paul Evans, London, England.
    Why do we always assume that the structure or the efficiency of an electoral system determines the quality of democracy? The questions around electoral colleges - or even the way the ballot papers are organised or votes counted - are less relevant than the terms on which people make decisions. Democracy is about people making decisions having being presented with honest choices. The near-universal problem in developed 'democracies' is the appalling state of the mass media. For the most part, news priorities are set by self-interested proprietors answering the demands of advertisers. News values are regularly determined by rating wars rather than the public interest.
    Paul Evans, London, England.

    America is always trying to teach lessons to other countries. Now the time has come for America to learn from other countries how they choose their leaders.
    Sisira, Sri Lanka

    Your comments before we went ON AIR


    We need to remember that the USA is a union of states

    David T, UK
    We can't really criticise in Europe as the pending European superstate will almost certainly work along the same lines. We need to remember that the USA is a union of states and was much more disparate when the electoral rules were set. Perhaps now that it is a more unified nation, electoral reform would be appropriate. This is progress and not an enormous criticism of the founding fathers. The one criticism I would have is the media input. Americans would probably cry 'freedom of speech' if they were gagged on the day of the election but the American pursuit of 'freedom for all' tends towards a resulting 'free for all'.
    David T, UK

    "Legal issues to be clarified" eh? That sounds like a job for those printers of money: The US lawyers! I wondered when they'd get involved.
    Harry, Munich, Germany

    Is the American system fair? Probably not. Is it entertaining? Absolutely. I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds the events in Florida absolutely riveting.
    Toby Jones, UK


    The Founding Fathers were elitists who had no faith in the population to make a knowledgeable choice for President

    Veronica Gresham, Pleasantville, USA
    Though the Electoral College does offer smaller states a louder voice in the political process, one must also remember another reason why it was created in the first place. The Founding Fathers were elitists who had no faith in the population to make a knowledgeable choice for President. These men were afraid that the voice of the people might actually be heard and someone who they did not like might become President. At the time these men agreed that no-one else but white male property owners were capable of choosing the President. Well, this is no longer the case. Women and minorities have the right to vote and it is a shame that these are the people who do not exercise this right.
    Veronica Gresham, Pleasantville, USA

    Why is there always such manipulation of the vote? While no system is perfect, are not most irregularities due to indirect methods of voting? This idea of protecting smaller political entities, only serves to protect the parties that are entrenched in the system. Worse, it seems to eliminate the choice of the majority. Whatever happened to democratic philosophies such as one person, one vote. It would sort this election out fair and square.
    Ost, Australia

    While it makes a lot of sense to keep most of the Electoral College system in place, it could be very easily improved by ensuring that College representatives from each state vote in proportion (or as close to) with the result within the state. The other point to make is that any democratic system must be "subject to the constant tyranny of the majority" - isn't that the point of democracy?
    Alice Sharp Pierson, London, UK (US citizen)


    The electoral system works just fine

    Philip Grebner, Peoria, Illinois, USA
    The electoral system works just fine. When someone looks as if they are losing an election, they get sort of shrill and agitated. What you're seeing is the media, lawyers and Jesse Jackson running around trying to blow things out of all proportion. Just wait a bit for the recount that Florida law requires in such a close election.
    Philip Grebner, Peoria, Illinois, USA

    What I don't understand is why have an Electoral College at all? It seems that some states get a raw deal as they only have 3 Electoral College votes, whereas California has 52. Doesn't that mean that the candidates are more likely to spend time campaigning in California, where there's 52 votes on offer rather than in Delaware that only has 3 - that seems unfair to the people of Delaware.
    Peter, Zurich Switzerland

    The elections in Yugoslavia were said to be undemocratic - partially because the opposition didn't have sufficient access to the media. To my mind the same can be said of America. The Greens and the Reform Party couldn't afford the advertising campaigns of the two main parties and weren't included in the TV debates - stacking the odds against them (and other) parties. The capping of campaign expenditure seems to be the only democratic option, but as the Democrats and Republicans profit from the current set-up, I can't see any reforms coming on that front.
    Chris Owen, Alkmaar, The Netherlands


    The Electoral College is a holdover from the days when only white, landowning males were allowed to vote. Times have changed

    Matt Lyon, Oakland, CA, USA
    I shouldn't be surprised at the number of people who think the United States of America is an actual democracy, yet I am. I don't disagree with their spirit, and I think this country should start to become more of a democracy. But let's face it - the Electoral College is a holdover from the days when only white, landowning males were allowed to vote. Times have changed. Perhaps if this country were more democratic, if people had more direct influence, then there wouldn't be the kind of apathy there is, especially among my generation, the so-called "Gen X." I'm afraid that the entire spectacle surrounding this election is going to turn more people off to the political process, especially if the Electoral College overrules the popluar vote.
    Matt Lyon, Oakland, CA, USA

    Thank you to those 19,000 American voters who spoiled their ballots. They've given third world despots a perfect excuse to say "even Americans don't have a working democracy, why should we?"
    Karanja Omondi Kipsufuria, Nairobi, Kenya


    Maybe change is underway for the worn out two party political system

    Shawn, Columbus, USA
    Most of the negative comments that I have seen on this page have hinged around the failings of the US election process. However, I think it is more accurate to say that this a failing of the current two-party political system. Every aspect of this country is saturated with some type of party influence. It is unfortunate that may groups of people vote for a candidate based simply on what they perceive to be the party's affiliations with certain social and economic strata. A perfect example is the Southern United States, which throughout most of the post civil war history has been dominated by the Democratic Party. This was largely due to old memories of party affiliations during the war. It is surprising to see that a Republican candidate made a clean sweep. Maybe change is underway for the worn out two party political system.
    Shawn, Columbus, OH, USA

    To answer the question posed by Mr. Clive Mitchell as to why so many people stayed home: You have to consider the simple fact that many people in this country believe - and not without some justification - that no matter who wins the presidency or is elected to Congress, the result will be the same. The giant corporations, the almighty political lobbyists, and the super-rich will continue to get their interests served ahead of the public interest. I don't see any major change coming, and I went and voted (for Ralph Nader)!
    Michael W. O'Brien, Philadelphia, PA, USA

    Well it is a bit of a mess, but a sad reflection that 45% of Americans never even bothered to vote! Who are they to complain about government after that! Yes, Florida is a mess (as are probably other States as well). The solution would be to make Florida and states with very small differences, hold another vote, with just the two candidates names for choices (leave out the obvious losers) and that way there will be a clear winner! Forget about lengthy and costly court cases - just re-vote.
    Margaret Carre, Brussels, Belgium


    In the past, the faults of the system mainly affected minor parties and minority voters, so they were ignored. This time they affect everyone

    Jon Livesey, Sunnyvale, USA
    The US election system has not suddenly become out of date or ossifed or racially biased. It has always been this way. The reason this has not been much of an issue in the past is that with all its faults, it has usually produced a decisive result. This time it has not, and now, when people look at it closely, they don't like what they see. In the past, the faults of the system mainly affected minor parties and minority voters, so they were ignored. This time they affect everyone.
    Jon Livesey, Sunnyvale, CA, USA

    May I point out that in 1997 in Iran President Khatami was elected on over 80% of the vote on a 90% turnout. This from a country that is frequently vilified and demonised as backward and undemocratic. Even the not- always-entirely-impartial media here and in America could not find fault with the electoral process there. To me that's real democracy and proof, if any were needed, that you can't always trust what you get told in the mainstream news and media. To quote Gore Vidal the Republicans and Democrats are merely two wings of the same party, the party of Big Business.
    Amir Ketabchi, London, UK

    A little bright spot in this messed-up election: The school-children in our community are more engaged in the process than ever and I expect increased voter participation as these school kids come of age. Both my children participated in mock-elections at their schools: Gore carried the elementary school (ages 8-10), Bush won at the middle school (ages 11-15)!
    Carol Aten, Exeter, NH, USA, formerly UK


    Whatever happened to one man, one vote?

    Kirsty Carter, Zimbabwean in the US
    No way is this a democracy! In North Carolina, we were not allowed to vote for Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate, whereas every other state was. Also, this system of the electoral votes is completely undemocratic. Whatever happened to one man, one vote? That doesn't exist in this country. It's the result of being told their whole lives that they are living in the greatest and most democratic nation on earth, so they begin to believe it.
    Kirsty Carter, Zimbabwean living in North Carolina, USA

    When the media gave the state of Florida to Mr. Gore early on as the counting started, there was no talk of improper ballots. But as soon as it became apparent that Mr. Bush was going to win Florida all these complaints came in. It's a shame, Mr. Gore, just accept the recount and let the balance of the overseas vote decide the winner, it could still be you since the lead has dwindled down to a bare 300 odd votes. If you are going to be such a sore loser I wonder what the world will have to go through if you do become the 43rd president of the United States.
    Jaswinder Singh, Bangkok, Thailand

    The American people and the rest of the world need to have confidence that democratic processes are functioning in Florida exactly the way they should be. The only responsible thing for both parties to do during the recount is to say nothing about the recount, except to praise Florida's officials and the recount process. However, vote recounts rarely yield new results, except by fraud, and the Democrats know this. Therefore, rather than patiently await the outcome of the final vote tally, they are pushing are the hot buttons they can find. In the meantime they are doing a tremendous disservice to the country and to the world by portraying West Palm Beach, Florida, as though it were the democratic equivalent of Port au Prince, Haiti. This is only another Vice Presidential lie, but this time it is a lie designed and intended to bring rioters to the streets. Shame on Al Gore and the Democrat Party.
    Eric Matthaei, Irving, Texas


    Gore needs to watch out for perceptions of a "sore loser"

    Lakshmi, NJ, USA
    Elections need not be perfect, they just need to be fair. There have been unintended errors, but there was no fraud. As awkward as it is for Bush to move in without popular vote, it is even more awkward for Gore to get in via a court battle! For now, Gore needs to watch out for perceptions of a "sore loser", which means a definite political death.
    Lakshmi, NJ, USA

    I thoroughly agree with President Clinton's argument that no American will henceforth be able to argue that his or her vote does not count - and perhaps this is something that we in the United Kingdom should learn from. It will be interesting, though, to see how the courts play their part in a so-called "democracy"; I agree entirely with Fiona Donnelly's consternation at the matter being decided in the courts. Dictating perhaps the most powerful job on earth to someone based on the interpretation of constitutional language laid out decades ago rather than on the basis of a popular vote seems to me somewhat anachronistic at best.
    Gerard Shaw, Durham, UK

    The Americans always brand other countries, especially developing countries as undemocratic at the slightest hitch in their electoral processes. This incident shows that American presidents are actually elected by less than 30% of the population and the saddest thing is that, as shown by the people in Florida, most of them don't even know who they are voting for. This incident proves two things: Firstly, most less educated people in third world countries are much smarter than the Americans when it comes to voting and, secondly, most leaders in third world countries are elected by popular votes from the people. So much for American democracy and the so called "government by the people".
    Zack Fauzi, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    If it were here, they┤d say "this is so third world". Well, we have just had elections for mayors all around the country. Only 2 hours after the last Brazilian voted, there were final and official results, no doubts, no crisis. If you guys in the US wish, consider yourselves welcome to learn a better election process from the "Third World"
    Fernando Campos, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


    The disturbing thing is not the voting mechanism, but the way the two main candidates try to find ways to change the results in their favour

    Thomas Jacob, Dresden, Germany
    Most (non-US) correspondents here seem to be sticking out the neck a bit too far. After all there is hardly any other country in world which can claim to have a more democratic system than the US (with the possible exception of Switzerland). The disturbing thing is not the voting mechanism, but the way the two main candidates try to find ways to change the results in their favour.
    Thomas Jacob, Dresden, Germany

    The American system is a fair and functioning system as many correspondents have already pointed out. What is worrying is the quick recourse to legal channels that the loser will no doubt take. To have an election decided by one or a panel of legal representatives makes a whole mockery of the election process. If Gore is still behind after the second recount, then perhaps he should just concede defeat gracefully, wait his time and try again next time.
    Paul Williams, London, UK

    Once again the professional political pundits have gotten it wrong. The "crisis" in American Presidential election politics is actually a wonderful boon, a reiteration that our Constitutional processes allow for peaceful, legal change. In this instance, the weaknesses of the two party system and the electoral college (an anti-egalitarian institution) are being revealed in a way that demands redress. Deficiencies that have existed for more than 150 years now may finally be corrected. God Bless peaceful political chaos for it injects life into what otherwise has become a stagnant democracy.
    Don Truitt, Panama City, Florida, USA

    If it had been the Third World, America would be sending observers, now it is time for the Third World to send Election Monitors.
    Embakala, Kampala, Uganda


    Isn't that a terrible indictment of the system that more than any other promotes style over substance?

    Adam, London, England
    In reply to Amy, from Washington DC, who said "it's our system, so we should be the only ones that get to bitch about it": Americans regularly spend their time bitching about anyone and everyone else's version of government - why shouldn't we bitch about yours? After all, the decisions that you make will affect us all - yet half of you couldn't even be bothered to leave the TV coverage of the election and vote. Isn't that a terrible indictment of the system that more than any other promotes style over substance?
    Adam, London, England

    The electoral college was a system devised by America's educated elite to ensure that the nation be run by the wealthy landowners. It holds no significance in this day and age, and additionally is rather undemocratic. A system which can let 270 individuals decide who the president should be (they are not required to vote for the person who carried the state), is certainly not a democratic one.
    Hely Chavan , Indian in the US

    This is democracy at it's best - the current situation shows that neither candidate has a credible majority - and hence neither deserves to be President.
    Neil Cooke, Warwickshire, UK


    I wonder if this is the model of democracy that America wants the world to follow

    Asmerina, Asmara, Eritrea
    I wonder if this is the model of democracy that America wants the world to follow. I burst into laughter when I was told that one of the candidates was distributing cigarettes to the homeless in the streets, so that they can cast their vote for him. I felt ashamed of the American democracy. In my opinion more than 100 nations of the world do have a better democracy than the US does. America is no more a force of example for democracy.
    Asmerina, Asmara, Eritrea

    The current US election situation has highlighted the fragility of the American system. The federal system of government can be exposed by the semi-autonomous systems which each state adopts. Take the ballot papers in Palm Beach County - if I were a presidential candidate spending millions of dollars on a campaign I'd make damn certain that voting mechanisms had been checked by an independent authority - to ensure fairness and impartiality in presentation and clarity - long before election day. Maybe Gore and Bush should have another TV debate on the current situation. They certainly should have both kept quiet whilst the recounts take place. It sums up the entire campaign - neither candidate has shown any qualities which place them above the other.
    Robin Howard, Chorley, UK


    Irregularities associated with Third World elections will pale into insignificance

    Albert Devakaram, Chennai, India
    The recounting of votes, legal battles between the Republicans and Democrats challenging the vote count, "confusing" ballot paper in Palm Beach County, irregularities in the exercise of franchise, allegations such as fraud and tampering with ballot papers, in the utter chaotic Presidential poll in the U.S., have all a tinge of similarity to a lesser or greater degree to any election scenario in Third World countries like India. In the past the Western media used to "gleefully" discuss threadbare the poll irregularities and delays in announcing the results in developing countries. If the dispute is taken to court, dirty linen will be washed in public. If that happens (I hope it doesn't) the irregularities associated with Third World elections will pale into insignificance. One fails to understand why the world's richest nation is using the obsolete or archaic ballot paper, when a developing country like India has begun introducing electronic voting machines in many polling centres. The current high electoral drama has made "the world's self-proclaimed policeman" a laughing stock in the eyes of the whole world. What kind of democracy is this?
    Albert Devakaram, Chennai, India

    Some would consider India to be a vast country, even the largest democracy in the world - $3 billion on an election there would be interesting. For all this cash spent getting out the vote, you have a 50% turnout. That cannot be put down purely to political apathy! Also the money that has come from commerce and industry was not given purely as a gift, there has to be a payback of some sort - it's not just independent white rich men that buy power, even more frightening is unelected Western corporations greasing the palms of politicians seeking election. I personally have taken great pleasure on observing the farce being played out in Florida, it takes my mind off our unelected House of Lords.
    Andrew May, London

    The claims that the Electoral College system somehow gives the smaller states more representative power, as far as the Presidency is concerned, is nonsense. This result of this election demonstrate that the larger states still carry the majority of the vote. If the US is really a republic modelled after that of ancient Rome then perhaps the president should be called Emperor for his/her term and the election should be done away with in favour of a good stabbing. Granted these would be Clinton's last days but he could at least take solace that quite a few Republican Senators would have been forced to take their own lives by the Praetorian Guard (the ATF?) after the Monica Lewinsky debacle.
    Steeve McCauley, Montreal, Canada


    I am proud of the way this country has reacted in response to this situation

    Nathan Taraska, College Park, MD USA
    I am an eighteen year old male in college who voted for Al Gore in the election, and while outsiders see this as a sham in which the voters were bamboozled, I am proud of the way this country has reacted in response to this situation. Before insulting the democratic process in this country and lamenting at how we cannot even elect a president without scandal and lawsuits, you must realize that this country has never been more evenly split in the history of the country. Consequently, I am very happy to see the candidates and people taking all the precautions necessary, and instead of insults and violence, everyone has gone through this process with an incredible sense of maturity.
    Nathan Taraska, College Park, MD USA

    American democracy is not what the Americans say it is. It is certainly better than a dictatorship, but it has to change a lot in order to be considered a model. The problem is that Americans are not modest enough to accept that they are not a model, that their system is old and may lead to things like what has happened. They keep saying "Our democracy is beautiful", when they must be saying "We have a solid democracy but we have to make it better". Then they might be able to change the system. The electoral college, the winner-takes-all system favour the two main parties to remain as the only options. If the US had a system more alike to the Western European ones (regardless of the fact of being presidential), many people who have never voted would go to the ballots and change history, voting for new parties, new ideologies, and perhaps building a new and better democracy.
    Luciano Monteiro, Sapiranga, Brazil


    In the USA the money spent on the circus around electing a president is now simply obscene

    Brian N Chandler-Lorenz, Germany
    Like all the other countries pretending that they are democracies, the USA is a politocracy - the government is made up of politicians, and is run for the benefit of politicians! People who vote for this very special elite class may believe the lie that they are told that these types are going to "represent" them. They don't. They "represent" the parties and the big financing people behind them who pay for all the fun. Who pays the piper call the tune, as everyone should remember! In the USA the money spent on the circus around electing a president is now simply obscene.
    Brian N Chandler-Lorenz, Bad Krozingen, Germany

    I think that if the election was only for the need to overhaul of the Electoral College system. Al Gore has won the popular vote, but he still may not become president. The American people have spoken, and yet their choice may still not get into office. If there is again a chance for the people to give the vote it will happen again. So what is the need for revoting?
    Faraz Ali, Pakistan

    I am shocked to know how a US president is elected, in the 21st century. If the US want to follow the Electoral College system, why do they have such elections in first place? Why can't all congressmen elect the president? Maybe as in India?
    Surendra, India

    As a non-American (British) I felt Gore was the least bad of the two, but whatever great things he might do as president could never make up for the damage he'd do by winning an election via the courts. The presidency is not some prize that he has a right to. He should wait for the recount and the postal votes and leave it at that, which will probably be a win for Bush, albeit by a tiny margin. Gore can't claim victory because he "nearly" won. The world would indeed be horrified if America allowed that.
    Graham Bell, Natal, Brazil


    Every democracy, including our own and that of ancient Rome produces exclusions

    Valerie West, Redditch, UK
    Clive Mitchell, UK, expresses concerns about the US democratic process because the greater percentage of Americans did not bother to vote. This is not peculiar to the US. The voting turnout in the UK is seldom any better. This raises the question "Should voting in a democracy be mandatory, as for example in Australia?" and if it were is that democratic. Also, the idea of democracy = one man one vote has always been a misnomer. Every democracy, including our own and that of ancient Rome produces exclusions. Not every Roman citizen was eligible to vote.
    Valerie West, Redditch, UK

    Latest Information Technology techniques should be used for voting and counting; the current system is too slow for the coming 3rd millennium. Voters will have to be at least this much computer literate.
    Ravindra S. Karve, Thane, India


    People can only chose one of two members of a ruling elite

    P. William, London, UK
    It's more like a monarchy than a democracy. You can chose from the son of a senator, raised from birth to be president (a modern day prince) and the son of a former president. Next time round, the wife of a former president will probably get in. There may superficially be a democracy but the system conspires to make sure the people can only chose one of two members of a ruling elite.
    P. William, London, UK

    America is obviously split down the middle between Republicans and Democrats. Maybe the best solution is Gore and Bush combining in a government of national unity: One being President and the other Vice-President, then swapping roles after 2 years. Egos, I fear, might get in the way, however.
    Keith Revels, Edinburgh, Scotland

    A happy democracy? It's becoming less and less like it every day - possible Presidents scrabbling around in the dirt to pick up a few votes here and there. It's demeaning. How can foreign nations take a president seriously when he doesn't appear to have the support of the majority of his people? To be honest, no conclusion is going to be truly satisfactory, even if they replay the whole expensive shambles again.
    Charlotte Nolan, Cambridge, UK

    This is a great revelation! After all the Western Democracy is superbly faulty! I think we should all learn from this US election which shows that even after 200 years of practising democracy, the USA can still turn clumsy.
    Kolawole Raheem, Finland

    From what I've heard, this is likely to be another battle in the US that'll be won by the lawyers!
    Paul C, England


    Surely the President is chosen from the votes cast on the day and not in the courts

    Rob, UK
    Rerunning the vote in Florida would surely not be right as the people of Florida would effectively get to choose the President. That would be undemocratic as some people would be bound to vote differently second time around. Similarly legal challenges over vote paper layouts and 'disenfranchised' voters are a nonsense. How many other people across the states spoiled their votes? What about them? Surely the President is chosen from the votes cast on the day and not in the courts. I really think the American people, and the candidates themselves, would be best served by giving up this unseemly squabble as soon as possible and getting on with it after the Florida recount is done.
    Rob, UK

    I cannot believe this is happening in the US, the bastion of democracy and the land of justice and equality. This is clearly not democracy. Some others have called the US a republic & I tend to agree with this view. What I find annoying is that the US wants to have its cake and eat it. For so long, they have championed the rights of the majority in "democratic" elections in other countries while they ignore it in their own backyard. If America is truly a republic, the electoral college votes should decide the matter & the popular vote should be dispensed with in future elections. If it is not, I think it is time to revisit the electoral college system. Keeping both the popular vote & the electoral vote will cause confusion again sometime in future.
    Jide Famuyide, Cannes, France

    If we got a result as close as this in the UK, people would be talking about hung parliaments and coalition governments. Sad that it doesn`t seem to have occurred to anyone in the US to try co-operating for a change.
    Oriel, Glasgow, UK

    Maybe they ought to give the presidency to the person who can eat the most raw eggs in 60 seconds. It would then be a meritocracy of some kind - at the moment it certainly isn't "best man wins".
    Russell Long, UK


    how can the US ever be a valid and credible example of democracy

    Nikola Cobic, Belgrade, Serbia
    Who would have thought it? What was happening in Serbia just two months ago is happening in the US now. And the US are policing the world trying to "teach" the world what democracy is. Well what a farce! After these elections and all the irregularities of them, how can the US ever be a valid and credible example of democracy?
    Nikola Cobic, Belgrade, Serbia

    It seems that the United States needs independent monitors as is so often imposed on other countries where the USA would scorn their so-called democracies. The States is the country of advanced technology yet their antiquated system is laughable. I'm sure Bush will win the election and Al Gore the popular vote implying that the majority vote did not mean anything - democracy, I'm not so sure?
    Douglas Gagiano, Stelenbosch, South Africa

    I haven't been more entertained by an election before in my life! It is amazing how the Democrats will justify changing all of the rules as a tactic to get their guy in office. The lawsuits are a joke! The Constitution says that the Presidential Election shall be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Period. A re-election on any other day is unconstitutional. My suggestion, pay better attention when you vote, it might actually count. The only change I would make is to have revolving primaries. Here in Oregon, I would have voted for McCain if I'd had a choice.
    Brian Woodard, Portland, Oregon, USA


    I think the spirit of democracy expects that the winning majority should be greater than any rejected voting papers

    John W, Holland
    I think the spirit of democracy expects that the winning majority should be greater than any rejected voting papers. Therefore, because of the 19,000 rejected ballot papers and for the sake of legitimacy there should be a revote in the problem areas. Then nobody will feel cheated, which is what democracy is all about.
    John W, Holland

    Much is made of the 19,000 'spoiled' ballots in Palm Beach, FL. The assumption made by many is that if the ballot paper had been designed differently these 19,000 votes would have gone to Gore, thus securing him the election. Before we make this assumption, we should ask 'How many spoiled ballots were there last time in 1996'. The answer, according to a commentator on 'Newsnight' (BBC, Nov 10), was 16,000, and this with a more 'user friendly' ballot design! I sincerely hope that the Gore campaign do not mount a legal challenge based on their perception that these 19,000 voters were disenfranchised as this would give the Bush camp every right to challenge the results in Wisconsin and Iowa, where the margins of difference were both below 10,000, on the same basis. Let the Florida recount take its due course, include all the postal ballots, and hope that both Gore and Bush honour the result without recourse to the courts.
    Ian Welsh, Grantham, UK

    Any democratic system basing its decisions on simple majorities allows for this situation to occur - this is no more undemocratic than a landslide victory. The fact that people are unhappy about it does not invalidate the system. Rather than attempting to assign blame to a system that has operated with little objection for centuries, perhaps residents of the US ought to ask their friends and neighbours whether they voted - this result seems to be more about apathy than the alleged corruption. the responsibility ultimately lies with a population either too apathetic to vote at all, or too ill-informed to vote correctly.
    Kevin Myers, Bangor, UK


    it should finally open the eyes of Americans that a two centuries old system of democracy cannot remain forever

    Balaji Raghu, India
    This has been such a close election and it should finally open the eyes of Americans that a two centuries old system of democracy cannot remain forever. It has to change with the times! The electoral college system does not sound fair. I think it makes more sense to determine the winner based on popular vote as is done in my country, India. It is still absolutely ridiculous that the presidency should be decided by a few hundred votes when Al Gore is actually leading the popular vote by more than 200,000. It sounds as if the voice of small bunch of people matters more than the voice of the nation as a whole. The candidates should take it all as part of the game and one of them should compromise so that they do not drag their country into a power vacuum and uncertainty. The guy who does become the president does not really have a mandate and his job is not going to be easy, he is going to be a king who wears a crown of thorns!
    Balaji Raghu, India

    Americans are the only ones with a right to bitch about their electoral system?!? It would be nice if the Americans took the same approach to other countries systems / cultures / politics! That aside, I think that the rest of the world does have a right to an opinion, seeing that America is the self-elected 'Leader of the Free World'. The Americans' choice of President has an effect far beyond America's borders, so it's only right that the rest of the world takes an interest.
    Chris Owen, Alkmaar, The Netherlands

    The USA is in the unenviable position of being in one of the closest Presidential elections in our history with a single states electoral votes making the difference, but isn't it every vote cast being equal that makes a representative form of government a democracy or a republic. For those that don't understand our system, the electoral college was a compromise our founders decided on to ensure all the states would have a voice in who would be our President, of course at the time only white male land owners were permitted to vote so agricultural states that had fewer land owners therefore fewer voters, if it were only the popular vote that they thought important the states would simply have sent representatives to declare the tally. Thank God it has never been disbanded, with a narrow 200,000 votes separating our present candidates, can you imagine the task of recounting the ballots from the entire country! For Richard in the UK, a concession speech is not binding, it's just a show of good sportsmanship which unfortunately isn't being shown at present in either camp.
    Mike, Las Vegas, NV


    the US has one of the longest standing govenmental bodies in the world so remember that before mocking it

    Dan, San Jose, CA USA
    I just love all the anti-US sentiment. You have to remember that the US democracy is 213 years old. Sure there are some democratic systems that might be better but most of them are less then 100 years old. Sure the electoral college can seem unfair, but it keeps states like my home state of California from dominating the others. I'm sure that there is something that can be done to establish a better balance between the Electoral and Popular votes, but the US has one of the longest standing govenmental bodies in the world so remember that before mocking it.
    Dan, San Jose, CA USA

    Of course it is democracy. To an outside observer the problem seems to be a dedication to gadgeteering which extends into all aspects of American life including elections. As far as I can understand the process, there were holes punched so that a machine could read them ┐ here in Switzerland they have "votations" on the federal level every few months. Voting begins at 7am finishes at about 5pm on a Sunday and results are known by seven o'clock. Ballots are hand counted on the spot and the only gadget used is a pencil. Needless to say that exit polls are virtually unknown and television gurus are not allowed licences to spout hogwash.
    Kostas Laskaris, Geneva, Switzerland

    I voted and I was not confused. I am a registered Libertarian. Do I care how things turn out? Yes. My biggest concern is that we keep things on a high plane, but I despair that will not be so. It looks like we are in for a god awful mess and there is no telling where it will go and when it will end. Perhaps if we had someone with integrity ...
    Colin Butts, Milton, Florida, USA


    The main problem with this election is the candidates, nobody likes either one of them

    Jim Martin, North Carolina/USA
    The electoral college is there to give equal representation in polling, just as Mike Hamilton, in West Virginia, stated. Otherwise, the huge population in California could over-rule the 1.7 million people in West Virginia. It levels the playing field, or was meant to. The main problem with this election is the candidates, nobody likes either one of them, they are not popular men and the choice was dismal. The people in Tennessee, where Gore came from, say he is not the hometown boy they sent to Washington as a Senator. George W. is seen as a heartless killer as Texas' govenor, and none of the Bushes are considered brilliant. For months people have argued that it is a "no choice election". But then, the best qualified never run for the presidency. If just one of the candidates had been the latter this never would have happened.
    Jim Martin, North Carolina/USA

    Due mainly to the preferential system of voting, Australia has had a number of very close elections, both at federal and state level, where the results have not been known for weeks. We have even had by-elections after the main election, which have actually determined who would occupy government. Our 'version' of democracy has been able to withstand this without a credibility loss. The one issue that has amazed me in the current US elections is that, if you felt that you made a mistake, you could not recast your vote, due to the process of voting. We still rely on the pencil and eraser. This seems to provide basic democratic safeguards !
    Tim, Australia

    Our generations have volunteered, fought and died for this system of representation. Under our elected leaders, we have a legacy of life liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A democracy? I believe its a shining model of democracy!
    Scott Conley, Jackson Ohio USA

    A Democracy? If you have 60 million dollars to spend on a political campaign you too can become a U.S. senator. Mr. Corzine did so in New Jersey. Maybe we should start selling seats for congress on ebay to the highest bidder in the next election.
    Alexander Muller, California, USA

    If you flew over the US from New York on the east coast to Seattle on the west coast, the reason for keeping the Electoral College would be more apparent. You would spend hours over a vast state like Wyoming, where the population is smaller than that of a few blocks of New York City. If presidents were elected directly, the particular concerns of such a state would never be addressed by the executive branch, and Wyoming citizens would feel less like a part of the union. The United States of America is first foremost a union. The Electoral College, far from being a curious relic, plays a vital part in preserving that union. It certainly would not be an appropriate mechanism for most countries, but it is a workable solution to the US's unique geographical/political pressures. I think far more important reforms need to be addressed before we modify the Electoral College. Issues such as campaign finance reform and standardized voting processes would go much further towards creating "a more perfect union."
    Patrick Murdock, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

    Amy from Washington, DC, USA says, "It's our system so we should be the only ones who get to bitch about it". Would all Americans everywhere please take note before meddling in the internal issues of other countries?
    Mike, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    The system they have in UK, Australia, India etc. are better which selects the leader of the country and the parliament members in one go, it saves time, energy and tax payers' money. Why spend time and money to just select one person even though it selects the leader of the country!
    Mark, Australia

    There is a monopoly of power in the US. No independent candidate or new party can gain power. American people do not have much choice in the election, because they don't know about candidates other than Republicans and Democrats due to lack of media coverage.
    Delf, Tashkent, Uzbekistan


    TV "news" is more concerned with getting it first rather than getting it right

    Mike, Chicago, USA
    I'm an American journalist and media complaints are nothing new. Nearly every four years it's the same thing. The public complains about the media treating the election like a horse race, with too much reliance on polls, but nothing really changes. TV "news" is more concerned with getting it first rather than getting it right. I think it's wrong for any projections to be announced while polling places on the West Coast are still open. Haven't we learned this lesson before? When Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan many voters in the West gave up on voting that day because of the news. However, you still can't call our democracy a farce - in almost any other natition there would be tanks in the streets by now.
    Mike, Chicago, USA


    The Electoral College is functioning as intended

    Carl Osborne, Taylorstown, USA
    The Electoral College is functioning as intended. It is protecting the interests of the small states against the tyranny of the large, powerful ones. This "deadlock" is a tribute to the genius of the framers of the American Constitution who understood the danger of allowing power to accumulate in any one state or region. In the end, the system will force any winner to consider how tenuous his hold on power is and act accordingly.
    Carl Osborne, Taylorstown, USA

    A US voter said, 'I couldn't figure the ballot paper out and I have a doctorate'. What a chump! The ballot paper has an odd layout but it's very clear where to punch your hole, by the look of the web image. People who can't pass that simple test shouldn't be voting anyway.
    NE Smith, London, UK

    It sometimes makes me ask myself if I live in a democracy when our entire upper house of Parliament isn't even elected by the people.
    Aris, UK

    The writers of the US Constitution designed a republic and not a populist democracy, thank God. We elect our Government representatives and we expect them to run the Government. If they don't do a good job in our criteria, we vote them out of office at the next election. In a Democracy like in ancient Greece, all laws were approved by the direct vote of the citizens. That worked in Greece because there were a few thousand citizens and fewer laws, but there are 270 million Americans and we would need a 50-wagon train to carry all the federal laws on the books.
    Joe, Miami, USA


    My worry is the large percentage of Americans who didn't vote

    Clive Mitchell, UK
    My worry is the large percentage of Americans who didn't vote - more than those who supported either candidate. Was it too much trouble? Did no candidate inspire them? Worst of all, did they believe their votes would make no difference? It appears that the system opposes the democratic principal that everyone counts.
    Clive Mitchell, UK

    The United States is a republic not a democracy. Democracy in its purest form is MOB RULE. The American people and the rest of the world have been lied to for so long they actually believe the United States is a democracy. Each state is a democracy and the group of states as a whole is a Republic. The Electoral College voting system was/ is designed to give each state some power regardless of population. If it were not for the Electoral College only a few states would have power over the remaining ones. It is another "states rights" issue. Do we in the United States want a strong imperial Federal Government or do we want strong State Governments and a weaker Federal Government? This is the bottom line.
    Keith Miller, Arlington, Texas, USA

    I'm disappointed with this election and the American system in general. Leave alone the antiquated Electoral College - that can be reformed by legal means. But the voting irregularities! As I read the news, what do I see? Two boxes with ballots that weren't sent to Florida's electoral commission uncovered; 400 more votes for Gore found. Maybe Americans became so confident in their system, they didn't notice it rot from the bottom up? Anyway, I lost my best example of a democratic country for arguments with Communists over here.
    Andrej, Russia

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