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Opinion: The Divided States of America

The US presidential election is still too close to call and the decision may come down to one battleground state. Sounds familiar? With teams of lawyers waiting in the wings, is election 2004 going the same way as 2000?

If the election goes to the wire, lawyers may be called to investigate

Many hours after the polling booths were closed, the United States still does not have an equivocal winner in its presidential election. Once again, it has become a neck-and-neck race which is expected to go to the wire. While predictions change by the hour, one thing is almost certain: this election points to a sharp spilt through the middle of the United States.

America is a deeply divided country with an antiquated electoral system that is unworthy of a modern democracy. These are the reasons why election night 2004 looks like history repeating itself.

Just like in 2000, as the world waited for six weeks for the judges of the Supreme Court to name the winner, the name of the next US president, the most powerful politician in the world, is yet to be declared. Worse still, a room full of lawyers may once again be needed to decide it.

Last time Florida, this time Ohio?

Early voters wait on line for the polls to open in Columbus, Ohio.

President Bush appears confident that the projections will be turned into actual votes and that he will be named the winner. However, as in the previous election, nothing is certain and everything hangs on the result in one battleground state. Last time it was Florida, this time it appears to be Ohio. And once more, it looks like teams of lawyers representing both sides will flock to a contentious state and challenge the results.

With the election so closely poised, every effort must be made to ensure the votes are counted within the boundaries of the law. However, it seems unlikely that even an extended period of investigation or a recount will hand victory to John Kerry.

If Ohio is too close to call, the decision would be put before the US Congress, where the Republicans have the majority; a similar situation to that in the Senate. The Republicans' control of both houses is an indication that the US has clearly moved to the right in recent years.

Right swing weights election in Bush's favor

The 9/11 attacks have been described as the defining moment of Bush's first term.

Anyone looking for an explanation as to why, need only look as far as Sept. 11, 2001. The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington were the determining moments of President Bush's first term of office. Bush's stance of resilience was adopted by many Americans.

But his subsequent global campaign against terror has not made the United States more secure. Even so, Bush is perceived by many as a president of action, and his credo that the American people should be defended at any cost has prompted many undecided voters to lean his way. Even the fiasco of Iraq has failed to change that.

Additionally, Bush skillfully exploited conservative mentalities in the American hinterlands, where his drive against homosexual marriages and the liberal notion of choice in abortion issues succeeded in mobilizing religious Christians, above all.

Deeper divisions and damaged democracy

President Bush and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry contest the Divided States of America.

So while there is no official decision, what is the result of this election? The result is that a deep division across the country becomes deeper. Should Bush be confirmed as the re-elected president, he will have to work hard to heal the wounds.

The damage may stretch further than just the United States. In the next hours and days, global opinion on the US will develop depending on the result. Regardless of who wins, however, America has shown for the second time that as a model of a modern, functioning democracy, it is not a good example.

DW.DE