US election closely watched abroad

Being an American in London, you are greeted this week, not with "Hello, how are you today?" but rather, "Who do you think is going to win?"

The U.S. elections are big news abroad, for very obvious reasons.

While there isn't the same buzz as there was in 2008 as the world watched America elect its first African-American president, interest is high, though international papers are projecting a mixed view of American politics.

France's Le Figaro pointed to a certain perceived paralysis in the American political system, in an editorial which reads: "There is perfect equality between the Republicans and the Democrats. Romney against Obama. It reveals the blockage of that political system. This famous 'gridlock' has increased the historical mistrust of the country to the government and the state. Obama did not succeed to get out of this trap."

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When asked about how Europeans view the candidates, Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Affairs at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London Dana Allin claimed that many Europeans would prefer to see Obama re-elected, even if the sky-high expectations for him were not fulfilled.

"As for Romney," Allin said, "those Europeans who paid attention may have noticed that one of his standard campaign lines has been to accuse Obama of trying to turn America into Europe, of which he has a highly distorted view of some kind of socialist dystopia.  Europe does have its problems, mostly tied to a banking and currency crisis, and misguided attempts to escape the crisis through counter-productive austerity. In any event, repeated Europe-bashing was unlikely to endear Romney to the majority of Europeans."

For now, most foreign government officials are keeping mum on America's vote. However, a senior Conservative Party official in Britain, Ian Duncan Smith, spoke out Monday on what he called the British media's "demonization" of Romney, saying that the U.S. election had been "appallingly reported" in Britain.

In Israel, the stakes in this election feel very high.  A source well-versed in the politics and the press of that country said that Israel never gets involved in U.S. elections. But this time it has, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu widely seen to be supporting Romney -- though not officially. Israelis in general are more supportive of Romney, even though Israel's defense establishment has praised Obama's security cooperation with Israel.

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Orlando Radice of the Jewish Chronicle said, "the majority of Israelis said in a poll that they would support a Romney win."  Radice went on, "Romney's harder stance on Iran plays well in Israel. The issue of Iran is a priority for most people in Israel. It is the issue of the day." Meanwhile, 80,000 Americans living in Israel have already voted -- it's the largest number of Americans voting outside of the United States. Studies show 80 percent of them have voted for Romney.

When it comes to the Arab world, analysts say the Gulf states generally prefer Republican presidents, while many of the other parts of the Arab world see a closer ally in Obama.  But not everyone.

Zaki Chehab, of "Arabs Today," told Fox News, for him, it's all the same.

"I am someone who has followed all the elections in the United States for the past 25 years.  This time, I have no interest," Chehab said, adding: "People had high hopes for Barack Obama when he was elected, but he was no different from George W Bush. People thought he would be different from the others but he is the same when it comes to Israel. We don't expect a U.S. president to stand next to us, or to be pro-Arab, but we just want fairness."

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An Iranian professor who spoke to Fox News from Tehran had a similar take. Seyed Mohammad Marandi said, "For many Iranians they don't feel much difference between the two candidates. Both Romney and Obama have policies aimed at ordinary Iranians by trying to shut down Iran's Central Bank and making it difficult for Iranians to import some food and medicine. Both candidates are looked upon negatively."

Meantime, Russia's Electoral Commission, having come under its own scrutiny in the last parliamentary and presidential elections, has issued a report calling the American election system unfair, with the Voice of Russia saying that "while the U.S. goes out of its way to impose its democracy model on other countries, its domestic electoral practices are nowhere near international norms."

The view of the candidates themselves, from Moscow, according to Masha Lipman at the Carnegie Moscow Center, is that behind the scenes, most Russian politicians actually prefer a Republican president because they find Republicans easier to do business with.

Still, President Vladimir Putin has a strong anti-American stance.

Obama put a lot of energy into his policy of "resetting" relations with Moscow at the beginning of his term.  Lipman said there have been many accomplishments linked to the "reset," but, "it has not overcome the foundation of U.S.-Russia relations which has a strong element of distrust that Russia feels for America. You may have had achievements, but once you put them past you, the agenda becomes exhausted and differences come to the fore."

Whoever wins may face a new world order in the Middle East, but will have to overcome a situation that in some ways is a throwback to the Cold War in Russia.