M A I N   N E W S

World on edge as Kerry-Bush
final showdown begins
T.V. Parasuram

Washington, November 2
The US went to the polls today to elect its President in one of the tightest races in decades between incumbent Republican George W Bush and his Democratic rival John Kerry, with latest opinion polls showing both in a virtual dead heat.

Bush, accompanied by wife Laura, cast his ballot in Crawford, Texas, saying he was confident of securing a new four-year term, but added that the election result must be decided quickly.

“My hope, of course, is this election ends tonight... The world watches our great democracy function, and it would be nothing better for our system for the election to be conclusively over tonight,” he told reporters.

CNN, USA Today and Gallop Polls over the weekend indicated that the race was evenly split between the two candidates and was so close in some showdown states that an electoral verdict was impossible to predict. With the race so close, there are fears of a repeat of 2000’s disputed result and subsequent legal wrangling.

With this in mind, thousands of lawyers from both parties as well as international election observers have been drafted in the state of Florida, which has already reported loss of ballots, technological confusions and voter intimidation.

The nearly month-long campaign was dominated by the US war on terror, occupation of Iraq and foreign policy, with Bush declaring that safety and prosperity of America was at stake and his Democratic challenger saying, “the hopes of our country are on the line.”

In states that allow for early votes, millions have already cast ballots, and analysts predict the turnout could be the highest in 40 years.

Long lines were seen in a large number booths and by the end of the day some 100 million would have voted after the costliest and one of the most acrimonious election campaigns.

With the election officially opening in New Hampshire, voting began in the morning in 12 eastern states after the rivals campaigned on the final day, crossing paths in Milwaukee airport.

As per tradition, two hamlets in New Hampshire were the first to cast votes just after midnight (10.30 a.m. IST). One of the hamlets, ‘Hart’s Location, favoured Bush over Kerry by 16-14, with one voting for Independent Ralph Nader, while the other ‘Dixville Notch’ voted Bush for 19-7.

The polls will also choose a new 435-seat House of Representatives, and 34 new Senators.

The two candidates campaigned till early morning with Bush addressing a final rally in Dallas, Texas, with a message that a President must lead with clarity and take tough decisions and “not shift with the wind.” — PTI


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