Riyadh Too Joins in the Party Mood as World Watches America Vote

RIYADH- With the US election fever gripping the world, Saudi Arabia was no different. The US Ambassador James Oberwetter held a party combining the elections with a Ramadan Suhoor party.

The invitees to the party at the ambassador’s residence included members of the Shoura Council, Saudi businessmen, senior diplomats and journalists.

“It’s really an opportunity to show how democracy works, said a US Embassy spokesman Andrew Mitchell. The event to watch the US election is definitely a festive occasion for us. Since the event falls during Ramadan the embassy has organized the election watch along with a Suhoor party.

Oberwetter was to speak to the guests on what the elections means to Americans and what democracy means to America.

Meanwhile, more than one million Americans across Asia were eagerly awaiting the climax of US presidential elections yesterday, preparing to break out bunting, balloons and beer for parties to watch the results roll in.

In sharp contrast it will be business as usual for tens of thousands of American soldiers stationed in the region, while others, notably Muslim US expats and aid workers, plan to spend the tense wait in quiet contemplation.

Hotels from Hanoi to Hong Kong were booked up for get-togethers, featuring events such as mock ballots, debates and guest speakers intended to promote democracy as events unfold on big screens.

The US Embassy and American Chamber of Commerce in China will host a party for about 1,000 mostly Chinese people at a Beijing hotel from 7:30 a.m. today, with similar bashes being held in cities across China.

In addition to free food, partygoers will be able to watch election day coverage, while computers will be set up for people to go online. Mock ballots will be available for Chinese guests to vote for the candidate of their choice.

Guests include Chinese Foreign Ministry officials, university scientists, military personnel including generals, deputy ministers and poets.

Expatriate Democrats and Republicans will make a rare display of unity in Hong Kong, giving speeches at a party organized by US trade, political and diplomatic institutions.

In Australia – home to well over 50,000 US expatriates, according to Australia’s immigration department – Republicans and Democrats will hold separate events for more partisan US voters.

In Afghanistan, where 16,000 US troops are based, the media were prevented from asking soldiers about the big day. “It is a non-story,” one coalition military official in the fledgling democratic nation said.

In Bangladesh, where the small US expatriate community is dominated by aid workers, a straw poll by AFP found stronger support for Kerry.

Also, the United States flag was flapping over Paris streets late yesterday as US expats and French protestors gathered to watch the results of the presidential election beamed into the capital of Washington’s most troublesome ally.

Outside Harry’s Bar, the favored watering hole of Americans in Paris since 1911, some 300 people keen to mix politics with a party atmosphere watched as 30 French anti-war protestors demonstrated in the street demanding a US withdrawal from Iraq.

On the Champs Elysees avenue, the Planet Hollywood restaurant was hosting a combined event: a dinner jointly organized by Democrat and Republic expat associations and alive TV studio put on by France’s state-owned TV5 network.

Those and other venues, including private apartment election parties put on by US citizens residing in Paris and a barge event on the Seine River, were infused with a festive spirit.

The US Embassy, in contrast, sat in squat silence on the Place de la Concorde in the center of the city.

French police patrolled out in front, shooing away pedestrians and vehicles from the concrete-lined perimeter of the building, while four buses holding riot squads were parked across the street.

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