‘Not exactly good news’: World hedges its bets as America keeps counting its votes

LONDON — Millions around the world had their eyes glued to the white-knuckle election drama playing out in America on Wednesday, with allies stressing that no matter the winner, their relationships with the U.S. remained strong.

The election made headlines in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, with commentators weighing in on what a victory by President Donald Trump or Democratic challenger Joe Biden would mean for the world.

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab struck a neutral if upbeat tone, telling Sky News that the U.K.-U.S. relationship was in “great shape and we’re confident that it will go from strength to strength whichever candidate wins the election.”

In Britain, one of America’s closest allies where the so-called special relationship is has long been cherished by leaders, the vote garnered almost as much excitement and media coverage as some of the country’s own elections have. Billboards on highways touted one radio station’s live coverage of the results and many commentators stayed up all night discussing the vote counts in individual states.

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Trump is not widely popular in the U.K. and not everybody was diplomatic, with Trump’s false and misleading claims about the election and vote-counting processes prompting alarm in some quarters.

“American democracy is broken beyond repair unless every vote is counted,” Alastair Campbell, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spokesman and a prominent commentator, told NBC News by email.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who wished the U.S. good luck on Tuesday evening, tweeted that there were “crucial hours and days ahead for the integrity of U.S. democracy.”

The election has also drawn significant interest in Japan, another close American ally, with a former ambassador to the U.S. telling NBC News that Tokyo’s close relationship with Washington wasn’t dependent on its leader.

“If Mr. Biden comes in or Mr. Trump is re-elected, we’re ready to dance with the new president,” said Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki.

In Germany, Wolfgang Ischinger, another former ambassador to the U.S., told NBC News he would have preferred a clearer outcome.

“I’m afraid we will be looking at continued polarization in American politics,” Ischinger said. “That for us in Europe is not exactly good news.”

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Trump, who has openly criticized German leader Angela Merkel, is deeply unpopular in that country. A September Pew poll showed that only 10 percent of people in Germany had confidence in President Trump to do the right thing regarding world affairs.

Officials in China, which has been locked in a trade war with the U.S. and faced criticism from the White House about its handling of the coronavirus, have stuck to the traditional line that a foreign election is an internal matter.

Asked at a press briefing whether he preferred Trump or Biden to win, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said China “does not hold a position on this issue.”

But on Chinese social media platform Weibo, many, if not most, comments said Trump would likely win. Meanwhile, editorials in China’s papers were more critical of the U.S., with the state-run China Daily saying that “the U.S. political system is failing.”

The possibility of a Trump victory was cheered by some — mainly on the right.

“It’s pretty clear” that American people have elected Trump for four more years, Janez Jansa, Slovenia’s right wing prime minister wrote in a tweet.

Twitter has since added a warning to his message saying, “official sources may not have called the race when this was tweeted.”

First lady Melania Trump was born was born in Slovenia.

In the Middle East, one of Israel’s main daily papers led on its front page with the election, showing a split cover with photos of both candidates and the words “Mr. President” next to each of them.

There are few places around the world where Trump is more popular than in Israel, where a poll released on Tuesday showed that 70 percent of Jewish Israelis favor the president.

Rachel Elbaum, Adela Suliman and Yuliya Talmazan reported from London; Andy Eckardt reported from Germany, Paul Goldman from Tel Aviv.

Andy Eckardt and Paul Goldman contributed.

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