The rest of the world is right to feel a twinge of alarm at the incredible twists the US presidential race is continuing to take. The US Supreme Court decision staying a Florida Supreme Court order to recount 43,000 votes in that state has raised fears of a deadlock which if taken to its logical conclusion would leave it to the incoming US Congress to vote in either Mr Bush or Mr Gore. Congress itself is as divided as the nation - the Senate is split 50-50 between the Democrats and the Republicans, while the Republicans enjoy a narrow majority in the House of Representatives. A weak president with an unclear mandate is bad news for the rest of the world. For better or worse, the person who rules the United States influences events far beyond the shores of his own country. Both the global economy and international politics will feel the effect of political instability in the US. The first impact will be on American financial markets, which will have a ripple effect on markets and growth across the world. A weakened US presidency will also be felt in global hotspots across the world. The Middle East, the conflict between India and Pakistan, peace on the Korean peninsula, and even the way relations between China and Taiwan play out, will be influenced by the authority the next US president brings to his job. There are those who would welcome a weakening of US global influence. Many Palestinians, for example, feel they would benefit from a less interventionist American policy in the Middle East. Even within the Western alliance, there are those who would probably see opportunities in a weakened US presidency. France, for example, might feel that a less assertive US might force the European Union to be more outward looking. But the dangers of having a weak, insecure US presidency outweigh any benefits that it might bring. US global economic and military power cannot be wished away. A president with a shaky mandate will still command great power and influence, only he will be constrained by his domestic weakness and less certain about how to use his authority. This brings with it the risks of miscalculation and the use of US power in a way that heightens conflict. There are very few conflicts in the world today which can be solved without US influence. The rest of the world needs the United States to use its power deftly and decisively. Unfortunately, as the election saga continues, it seems increasingly unlikely that the next US president will be in a position to do so.