Long election night for Americans in Prague

Photo: CTK

The whole world was watching on Tuesday night as American voters cast their ballots in one of the most heated US presidential campaigns – including Prague’s American expat community. Several election night parties were held around the city where supporters of both camps stayed up all night, awaiting the results.

Photo: CTK
Just before ten o’clock at night when at the residence of the American ambassador in Prague, the first of several events held around the Czech capital, was coming to end. Most of the guests supported Barack Obama, and believed that in the end he would become the next president of the United States. But Ambassador Richard Graber, formerly an important Republican politician in his home state of Wisconsin, believed the election’s momentum might still change in John McCain’s favour.

“All of the polls seem to indicate that Senator Obama is the likely winner here but that’s why the American people go to the polls; that’s why people vote. This has been a very unpredictable year in lost of ways, and I think it’s been the most unique campaign in American history, and I think we’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the next few hours.”

Are you going to stay up for the results to come?

“Well, the polls close on the East coast at one in the morning here, and of course in the West coast, it’ll be five hours later than that. So I think I’ll probably get some sleep and go online in the morning to figure things out.”

Photo: CTK
Two hours later another election night party was in full swing in a café on Prague’s Kampa Island organized by Czech supporters of the planned US radar base in the Czech Republic. This group believe John McCain to be the better option from the Czech point of view, which was probably the reason why so few Americans showed up. David Gajduska, one of the organizers, explains why the election is so important.

“It has a big influence on US foreign policy, and it will affect the topics closely related to us – for instance, Mr McCain, supported the idea of the US radar base in the Czech Republic in the beginning of the campaign; Mr Obama waited a little but then he supported it as well.”

So who are you hoping will be the next American president?

“I’m sure that my American friends may have different opinions, but I was hoping for John McCain because I think he is stronger in international politics, and for negotiating with Russia and the Middle East. I think this is important.”

For many American expats the main headquarters on election night was the Golden Star bar just off Wenceslas Square. Here Barack Obama enjoyed literally unanimous support from the crowd. His fans barely took their eyes off the tv screen and when the first results started coming in at 1 am, indicating John McCain’s lead, they grew visibly nervous but were still hoping for the best.

“I think that what they are showing so far is a really small percentage of the voting that’s been done, and I don’t think that there is any chance that McCain is going to be the President.”

“I hope the best man will win, I hope it will be Barack Obama.”

“I’m kind of thinking the worst, but hoping for the best. Based on prior experience, I think the worst could happen, which would be McCain winning and I want Obama to win.”

Just after five am the election results from California arrived, sealing Barack Obama’s victory and the crowd burst into cheers. The long election night was over.