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The world watches as US votes today

It is Election Day today in the United States. Because of the time difference, voting in the US east coast starts only tonight, our time. The polls close there in the afternoon, which will be Tuesday morning in the Philippines.

Because of their time-tested reporting systems, initial returns will begin to mount just hours after the polls close.

This election has been described as rather unusual for the reason that the issues that normally divide American voters have been overshadowed by more personal issues related to the character of the two presidential candidates – Hillary Clinton of the Democratic Party and Donald Trump of the Republican Party.

Clinton who has served as senator representing New York State and as secretary of state in President Obama’s cabinet, has a solid record of government service and has widespread support among women voters, the youth, and minorities. But a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe on the emails of the estranged husband of a Clinton aide has somehow caused her survey numbers to fall.

Trump, a billionaire businessmen, has won great support especially among white voters with his promise to bring back jobs that he said have gone to other countries because of the government’s free trade policies. He has, however, been severely criticized for his coarse language against minorities, against women, against immigrants, particularly Muslims, and his claim that the elections are rigged.

Most forecasts continue to put Clinton ahead, but the ABC News/Washington Post survey gave Trump an ultra-thin edge of 46% versus 45% for Clinton. The New York Times said she had an 88% chance of winning the Electoral College vote, which is what matters in American elections, not the popular vote. For us in the Philippines, it is interesting to note that Fil-American voters are said to be for Clinton over Trump, 54% to 25%.

All these contradictory survey findings and predictions, the continued bitter attacks on the campaign trail, and a fear of violence on election day have served to stir concern around the world. For most of the world’s leaders, the hope is that this unusually divisive election will not lead to any international complications or problems, as whoever is elected will be in control of that country’s massive nuclear capability.

Here in the Philippines, our own officials led by President Duterte are more concerned with how the new US administration, whether Clinton or Trump, will respond to his anti-US rhetoric and his moves for a foreign policy that is less dependent on the US. Democrat Clinton is likely to carry on much like President Obama, but Republican Trump, who cannot get along even with his own party leaders, appears to be one big question mark.

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