Fu­ture at stake as Amer­ica votes

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Amer­ica’s fu­ture hung in the bal­ance yes­ter­day as mil­lions of ea­ger vot­ers cast bal­lots to elect Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton as their first woman pres­i­dent, or hand power to the bil­lion­aire pop­ulist Don­ald Trump. As the world held its col­lec­tive breath, Amer­i­cans were called to make a his­toric choice be­tween two rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent vi­sions for the most pow­er­ful na­tion on Earth. While Clin­ton has a slim lead in polls, no one was rul­ing out a vic­tory by her Repub­li­can ri­val Trump - with the win­ner’s name not ex­pected to be known be­fore early to­day. Vot­ing was un­der­way in all 50 states and the cap­i­tal Wash­ing­ton. In Vir­ginia horse coun­try, balmy south Florida, and busy Man­hat­tan long lines snaked into the streets out­side polling sta­tions. “I’m ex­cited. I can’t be­lieve I fi­nally get to vote,” said Jose Maria Molleda, 63, a new US cit­i­zen cast­ing his bal­lot at a Pres­by­te­rian church in Clifton, Vir­ginia, where a crowd of 150 gath­ered be­fore dawn for the open­ing of polls in the swing state.

Katie Kope, an­other first-time voter in Staten Is­land, New York, was ju­bi­lant af­ter cast­ing her bal­lot for Trump and his prom­ise to re­claim power from a cor­rupt Wash­ing­ton elite. “I was kind of torn be­tween the two but I don’t trust Hil­lary, so that’s what it came down to,” said the 19-year-old. An hour’s drive north, a crowd of ad­mir­ers chanted “Madam Pres­i­dent” as Clin­ton and hus­band Bill voted near their home in Chap­paqua. “I’m so happy, I’m just in­cred­i­bly happy,” a beam­ing Clin­ton said as she emerged, shak­ing hands, min­gling and chat­ting with the crowd. “I know how much re­spon­si­bil­ity goes with this,” said the 69-year-old former sec­re­tary of state. “So many peo­ple are count­ing on the out­come of this elec­tion, what it means for our coun­try, and I’ll do the very best I can if I’m for­tu­nate enough to win to­day.”

A few hours later it was Trump who rolled up to his vot­ing sta­tion in Man­hat­tan, cast­ing his bal­lot along­side wife Me­la­nia in a school gym­na­sium. “Right now it’s look­ing very good,” he told re­porters - pay­ing no heed to the crowd of pro­test­ers who wel­comed him with chants of “New York hates you!” A polling av­er­age by tracker site RealClearPol­i­tics gave Clin­ton a 3.3-per­cent­age point na­tional lead, but Trump is closer or even has the ad­van­tage in sev­eral of the swing states that he must con­quer to pull off an up­set. In must-win Florida, Clin­ton was al­ready as­sured of the vote of 74-year-old Leonor Perez, who cast her bal­lot in the Cuban en­clave of Hialeah near Mi­ami. “I voted for Hil­lary be­cause it’s time for a woman to wear the pants in this coun­try,” Perez said. Clin­ton urged the coun­try Mon­day to unite and vote for “a hope­ful, in­clu­sive, big-hearted Amer­ica”.

Trump pressed his mes­sage with vot­ers who feel left be­hind by glob­al­iza­tion and so­cial change, wrap­ping up with a flour­ish on his pro­tec­tion­ist “Amer­ica first” plat­form. “Just imag­ine what our coun­try could ac­com­plish if we started work­ing to­gether as one peo­ple, un­der one God, salut­ing one Amer­i­can flag,” the former real­ity tele­vi­sion star, 70, told cheer­ing sup­port­ers in Michi­gan. In a kick-off mid­night vote, the res­i­dents of tiny Dixville Notch, New Hamp­shire cast their tra­di­tional first-in-na­tion bal­lots with a to­tal of eight votes - Clin­ton get­ting four, Trump two, and two votes go­ing to oth­ers. No full re­sults or exit polls will be avail­able be­fore polling sta­tions be­gin to close on the US East Coast from 7 pm (0000 GMT to­day), and it may be three or more hours af­ter that be­fore the direc­tion of the race be­comes clear.

Even then, ques­tions re­main. Trump has re­peat­edly claimed Democrats and the me­dia are seek­ing to rig the race and said last month that he may not con­cede de­feat if he thinks vot­ing is un­fair. Asked at his vot­ing lo­ca­tion whether he would con­cede if net­works call the elec­tion for Clin­ton, Trump said: “We’ll see what hap­pens.” Clin­ton has pushed a more op­ti­mistic vi­sion, de­spite a wob­ble in re­cent weeks when the FBI re­opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether she had put US se­crets at risk by us­ing a pri­vate email server - only to close the probe again on Sun­day.

In a ra­dio in­ter­view on the last night of the cam­paign, she said the mat­ter was be­hind her, and she courted vot­ers at her fi­nal ral­lies in Philadel­phia with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and rocker Bruce Spring­steen, and in North Carolina with pop diva Lady Gaga. “To­mor­row, we face the test of our time,” she de­clared in front of 40,000 peo­ple in Philadel­phia.

“There is a clear choice in this elec­tion. A choice be­tween di­vi­sion or unity, an econ­omy that works for ev­ery­one, or only for those at the top; be­tween strong, steady lead­er­ship, or a loose can­non who could put ev­ery­thing at risk.”

Trump mean­while con­cluded a last-gasp tour of swing states by paint­ing his ri­val as a cor­rupt crea­ture of a dis­cred­ited elite. Promis­ing to end “years of be­trayal,” tear up free-trade deals, seal the border and sub­ject Syr­ian refugees to “ex­treme vet­ting”, Trump told sup­port­ers in New Hamp­shire: “I am with you and I will fight for you and we will win.” Vot­ers are also elect­ing the en­tire 435-mem­ber House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and can­di­dates for 34 seats in the 100-mem­ber Sen­ate, where Democrats are seek­ing to snatch con­trol back from Re­pub­li­cans.

Trump’s cam­paign spooked world mar­kets seek­ing sta­bil­ity af­ter the re­cent global slow­down. Early yes­ter­day af­ter­noon the Dow Jones In­dus­trial Av­er­age and the S&P 500 were each up about 0.6 per­cent.

Andy McLevey of Lon­don stock­bro­ker In­ter­ac­tive In­vestor said in­vestors were still tread­ing with cau­tion. “De­spite polls sig­nalling a Hil­lary Clin­ton vic­tory seems likely, it is still too close to call and we may see some jit­ters as the day pro­gresses,” he said.

— AFP

BURKE, Vir­ginia: A woman smiles af­ter vot­ing at a polling place at a high school dur­ing the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion yes­ter­day.

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