Kerry is winner of time-tested pollat Paris Harry's

3rd November 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 3 (AFP) - With the US elections proving nail-bitingly close, Americans in Paris were monitoring results via television and Internet Wednesday after all-night poll-watching with no clear idea who their next president would be.

PARIS, Nov 3 (AFP) - With the US elections proving nail-bitingly close, Americans in Paris were monitoring results via television and Internet Wednesday after all-night poll-watching with no clear idea who their next president would be.

The suspense left many of them clutching at straws - or, more specifically, the straw vote at Harry's New York Bar, the 93-year-old cocktail saloon that is a favourite for US expats in the French capital.

As per its tradition, the bar late Tuesday asked US passport-carrying patrons to cast a mock ballot for a poll which, since 1924, has been uncannily prescient in picking US presidents. It has been right every election, save in 1976 when Gerald Ford was chosen over Jimmy Carter.

This time, it was Democrat challenger John Kerry who carried the unscientific vote, by 419 votes to 242 votes for incumbent Republican President George W. Bush.

Unfortunately for those wanting such a clear-cut victory - and it was obvious that Kerry supporters easily dominated the crowd in the bar and in other similar venues - the live CNN television broadcasts coming in from the United States painted a fuzzier picture.

"I think it's awful," Kieran Clemow, a 26-year-old American living in London who was in Paris for the election party said as preliminary figures were flashed up giving Bush an early lead.

In the Planet Hollywood restaurant on the Champs-Elysees, the close contest earned mixed reactions from 800 guests who had paid EUR 75 (USD 100) for an election night party complete with buffet, booze and bands.

Most of the room groaned at every state victory given to Bush and cheered loudly at any Kerry advance, but a small knot of around 20 expat Republicans could be seen making opposite signs each time.

"I'm prudent," Robert Pingeon, the European regional chairman of Republicans Abroad, told AFP.

"My gut instinct is that this is going to be a very close election."

Despite the partisan mixing in the restaurant, the atmosphere was festive, with a few of the middle-aged guests showing their stuff on the dance floor and many of them heartily knocking back the champagne.

"Whoever is elected will be our commander-in-chief, and let's just show the world we're Americans," one of the organisers urged the ticket-holders.

One man wearing a Bush-Cheney t-shirt and baseball cap, but who refused to give his name, smiled as he headed again to the bar and said optimistically: "I like a little beer with my good news."

French journalists and the curious mingled with the Americans at some of the parties, but for the most part found few willing to contradict their own antagonism towards Bush.

Debbie Lazo, a 25-year-old teaching assistant from Los Angeles, said she was hoping Kerry would win so that US relations with countries such as France could warm up, but she added that the "ignorant" French attitude of blaming her for Bush's policy decisions was annoying.

As Americans partied on to the rhythm of the televised results, the US embassy in the middle of Paris stood in imposing contrast. French police shooed pedestrians and vehicles away from its concrete-lined perimeter while riot squads sat in four buses across the street.

US ambassador Howard Leach, a businessman appointed to the post by Bush in 2001, hosted a breakfast Wednesday morning, but gave little away of what direction he thought the election results were going.

"I will not give my personal views on the election or on the results. And anything that you can read on my face I of course will deny," he said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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