MADRID, Spain – The shift that midterm elections brought to Washington's political landscape was welcomed Wednesday by many across the world who oppose the war in Iraq and methods used by the U.S. in the fight against terrorism.
From Pakistan to Paris, politicians, analysts and ordinary citizens expressed hope that the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives and strong showing in Senate and gubernatorial races would force President Bush to adopt a more conciliatory approach to global issues.
But some also expressed fears that a lame-duck president under a split Congress might weaken much-needed American influence and stall global trade talks.
On Iraq, some feared that Democrats will force a too-rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces, leaving that country and the region in chaos. Others said they doubted the turnover in congressional power would have a significant impact on Iraq policy any time soon, largely because the Democrats did not possess a clear course they want to take.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said American policy would not dramatically change, despite the Democratic election success.
"The president is the architect of U.S. foreign policy," the ambassador said in a videotape distributed by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. "He is the commander in chief of our armed forces. He understands what is at stake in Iraq."
U.S. foreign policy aside, the fact that Bush was handed a political black eye was also in focus.
"Of course, the citizens of the United States are humans with a conscience. It's a reprisal vote against the war in Iraq, against the corruption" within the Bush administration, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said. "All this fills us with optimism."
In an extraordinary joint statement, more than 200 Socialist members of the European Parliament hailed the American election results as "the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world" and gloated that they left the Bush administration "seriously weakened."
In Paris, expatriates and French citizens alike packed the city's main American haunts to watch results, with some standing to cheer or boo as vote tabulations came in.
One Frenchman, teacher Jean-Pierre Charpemtrat, 53, said it was about time U.S. voters figured out what much of the rest of the world already knew.
"Americans are realizing that you can't found the politics of a country on patriotic passion and reflexes," he said. "You can't fool everybody all the time — and I think that's what Bush and his administration are learning today."
Democrats swept to power in the House and were threatening to take control of the Senate amid exit polls that showed widespread American discontent over Iraq, nationwide disgust at corruption in politics, and low approval ratings for Bush.
Bush is deeply unpopular in many countries around the globe, with particularly intense opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the U.S. terror detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and allegations of Washington sanctioned interrogation methods that some equate with torture.
People across the Mideast also reacted swiftly, saying it appeared the U.S. president had paid the price for what many view as failed policy in Iraq.
Most governments across the region had no official comment, but some citizens voiced hope for change. "We hope American foreign policy will change and that living conditions in Iraq will improve," said 48-year-old engineer Suheil Jabar, a Shiite Muslim in Baghdad.
In Copenhagen, Denmark, 35-year-old Jens Langfeldt said he did not know much about the midterm elections but was opposed to some of Bush's policies. He referred to the president as "that cowboy."
In Sri Lanka, some said they hoped the rebuke would force Bush to abandon a unilateral approach to global issues.
The Democratic win means "there will be more control and restraint" over U.S. foreign policy. said Jehan Perera, a political analyst.
Passions were even higher in Pakistan, where Bush is deeply unpopular despite billions in aid and support for President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
One opposition lawmaker, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, said he welcomed the election result but hoped for more. Bush "deserves to be removed," he said.
But while the result produced jubilation, there were also deep concerns.
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told broadcaster TV2 he hoped that the president and the new Congress would find "common ground on questions about Iraq and Afghanistan."
"The world needs a vigorous U.S.A.," Fogh Rasmussen said.
Some also worried that Democrats, who have a reputation for being more protective of U.S. jobs going overseas, will make it harder to achieve a global free trade accord.
The accord, said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, "is very important for the future of trans-Atlantic relations."
And in China, some feared the resurgence of the Democrats would increase tension over human rights and trade and labor issues. China's surging economy has a massive trade surplus with the United States.
"The Democratic Party ... will protect the interests of small and medium American enterprises and labor and that could produce an impact on China-U.S. trade relations," Zhang Guoqing of the state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said in a report on Sina.com, a popular Chinese Internet portal.
The prospect of a sudden change in American foreign policy could be troubling to U.S. allies such as Britain, Japan and Australia, which have thrown their support behind the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Democrats campaigned on a platform that demanded a change of direction in Iraq, and the war has lost the support of the majority of American voters.
"The problem for Arabs now is, an American withdrawal (from Iraq) could be a security disaster for the entire region," said Mustafa Alani, an Iraqi analyst for the Gulf Research Center in Dubai.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.