Switzerland hopeful of good relations with Bush administration

Bush/Swiss victory graphic: Dec 2000

The government has congratulated George W Bush, after he finally claimed victory in the United States presidential election. Bern said it hoped relations would flourish under a Bush administration.

This content was published on December 14, 2000 minutes

In its message of congratulations, sent by telegram, the government said it hoped the new administration would continue to work towards strengthening Swiss-US ties.

The message comes after the vice-president, Al Gore, conceded the presidential race to his Republican opponent late on Wednesday, following five weeks of bitter legal wrangling.

A government spokesman, Ruedi Christen, said he expected the Bush administration to build on ties established between the US and Switzerland at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos last January.

He added that diplomatic tensions over Switzerland's wartime past had now been resolved and that he saw "no reason why that should change".

He also said the Swiss government hoped that Washington would continue its policy of engagement abroad, and that it would "continue to advance the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians".

Swiss political commentators were less enthusiastic. Writing before Gore conceded, the press was critical of the Supreme Court's decision on Wednesday, which effectively handed Bush his victory.

"Der Bund" summed up its view with a statement by one of the court judges: "National confidence in the judges as unpartisan upholders of the law has been lost."

The tabloid "Blick" pointed to hard times ahead for Bush. "First and foremost, he will have to re-unite a badly divided nation. Many Americans, having witnessed the antics of the past five weeks, have lost their faith in democracy."

One upbeat note came from the Geneva-based daily "Le Temps", which wrote that the dust would soon settle. "There will be minor adjustments to voting and count procedures... but in little more than a month, Bush will start to be judged by his actions."

The "Neue Zürcher Zeitung" highlighted the heavy workload facing the Bush transition team. The immediate task, it wrote, is the appointment of a 5,000-6,000 people for key positions, most of whom will need to be ratified by the Senate. "It is a process which could take months".

In his first speech as president-elect, Bush emphasised the need for the US to put the past weeks behind it. He called for national reconciliation, urging Americans to "unite in a spirit of common sense, common courtesy and common goals".

"After a difficult election, we must put politics behind us and work together to make the promise of America available for every one of our citizens" he said.

Bush announced he would meet Gore in Washington next Tuesday. He is expected to start naming new members of his administration shortly in preparation for his inauguration on January 20.


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