Watching the U.S. race from afar

People are watching the elections in the Prague's pub, photo: CTK

Those who say all eyes are on the American election on are certainly right with respect to some parts of the Czech capital. Americans and even a few inquisitive Czechs stayed up to attend all-night parties around Prague with their eyes glued to television screens.

People are watching the elections in the Prague's pub,  photo: CTK
At around 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, early results from the U.S. presidential elections were coming in on televisions at a crowded pub called Jama, near downtown Prague's Wenceslas Square. Republican incumbent George Bush was winning in a few eastern states. At this party organized by Democrats Abroad, Americans here were eager to see Democratic challenger John Kerry turn the tide in what some said was the most important election of their lives.

Man: "I've never seen America as polarized as it is right now, and I think that where we go from right now in terms of foreign policy will dictate where we go from this point on in the future of America."

Man: "I feel bad because I haven't voted myself, and I really don't want Bush to win. And I think that lot of people don't really understand the impact that it could have around the world."

The US Presidential elections,  photo: CTK
Woman: "I think it's so important since, from being overseas, I think that the view of America as a whole, globally, has changed since Bush was in office. So I feel for America to be considered a powerhouse we need a big change."

At 2 a.m., people in another pub cheered as CNN announced that Kerry had taken the lead in the latest results. They were attending an election-night party organized by local English-language daily The Prague Post. Although it was clear that most people at the Zlata Hvezda sports bar were Democrats, a few Republicans were peppered throughout the bar.

Man: "When you're in the states you see life more as a domestic issue. When you're overseas you see the states from a farther perspective and you see the foreign affairs aspect a little stronger than the domestic side."

Man: "I feel that the United States is going to go down hill big time if Bush doesn't get elected. The other guy is too much of a flake. You can't believe anything he says. You can't look at his record. He doesn't have any kind of a record in the Senate. He flip-flops on everything. He brings up the Vietnam War, yet he protested with everybody else. You can't believe anything he says, and the things he's done are totally wrong."

Around sunrise, in the Mala Strana neighborhood, a politician from a small Moravian town had stayed up all night to watch the results. Horni Benesov Mayor Josef Klech had been watching the election closely because his town was once the home of Fritz Kohn, Sen. Kerry's grandfather.

Josef Klech,  the Mayor of Horni Benesov  (on the right),  photo: CTK
The town has offered the candidate honorary citizenship and is planning a democracy monument inspired by Kerry's successes so far - a plan Mr. Klech says will not be cancelled if Bush wins.

Although hours earlier he was calling Kerry the next U.S. president, at 6:30 a.m. Mr. Klech was not so sure.

"Hope dies at the last minute. My optimism is wilting, but it's no big tragedy. Life goes on. America made the decision. That's the way they wanted it, and the fact that I wanted it otherwise doesn't make any difference."