As the world reckoned with another day of uncertainty over the result of the U.S. presidential election, President Trump’s premature victory claim, unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud and the threat of legal challenges continued to overshadow the drawn-out vote count. Even as the tally seemed to approach a climax, the lack of clarity was met with deep unease around the globe over what lies ahead for the U.S. political process — and more than a little glee from America’s traditional adversaries.
- “I think the whole world waits for the final outcome in the United States,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters on Thursday. “We have faith in the institutions in the United States and of course faith that those final votes will continue to be counted and there will be a final result declared.”
- “STOP THE COUNT!” Trump tweeted Thursday. “IT’S CALLED DEMOCRACY!” former Italian prime minister Enrico Letta wrote in response.
- Trump’s strong showing has left many foreign observers bewildered — and asking whether Trumpism is here to stay.
- Former Bolivian President Evo Morales mocked the United States by suggesting Trump take complaints about voter fraud to the Organization of American States, which issued a critical and much-criticized report about irregularities in Bolivia’s national elections.
Amid the slow count, America’s global image as a model for other democracies to emulate has taken yet another battering, especially among its allies.
In Canada, lawmakers have been relatively silent on the aftermath of the vote, but election coverage continued to dominate the country’s largest newspapers, to the point that they nearly resembled U.S. dailies.
The Toronto Star described a “nagging, palpable sense of dread” that no matter who prevails, Canada has never felt “so far apart” from its southern neighbor. An editorial in the Globe and Mail, meanwhile, commented on Trump’s litigiousness.
“Better an army of lawyers than an army of Proud Boys,” the paper wrote. “Americans suing Americans? Yawn. Have at it.”
After Trump falsely declared victory before the votes were counted on election night, he spent much of Wednesday and Thursday leveling allegations of electoral fraud without evidence. His campaign has since announced legal challenges to determine which votes will count.
In a statement Thursday evening at the White House, Trump again claimed without proof that he had been cheated and leveled unsubstantiated allegations of widespread vote-rigging — remarks that threatened to further undermine the credibility of American democratic practices.
Iran’s Press TV, a government-owned channel broadcasting in English and French, aired Trump’s remarks live, providing it more coverage than some U.S. outlets. The Mirror, a left-leaning U.K. newspaper, described Trump as “rambling from the White House podium with lies, untruths and misleading claims,” while The Australian, a conservative-leaning newspaper, accused Trump of "making unsubstantiated claims of corruption against the Democrats.” Like many other news outlets worldwide, The Mirror and Australian carry live updates of the U.S. election.
The U.S. push for global human rights and democracy — while the country’s political system is so affected by moneyed influence and apparent electoral problems, and its foreign policy record so marked by support for dictators and its own economic interests — has long carried more than a whiff of hypocrisy for many observers abroad. But the idea of U.S. democracy still has the power to inspire.
“America has represented optimism, looking forward and ideas,” said Tatsuhiko Yoshizaki, chief economist at the Sojitz Research Institute in Tokyo. “And yet, over the past four years, we have come to see the dark side in the United States.”
The same sentiment was echoed in Europe on Thursday, where Germany’s left-leaning Der Spiegel newsweekly compared Trump to a “late Roman emperor” who has “set a historic standard for voter contempt.” One of the paper’s conservative competitors, Die Welt, chose a similar comparison.
France, though, offered a hopeful assessment on Thursday. “I have faith in U.S. institutions validating the results of the election,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe 1 radio.
In Britain, some commentators responded with disgust — with the Daily Mirror on Thursday calling Trump “a liar and a cheat until the bitter end.” Other papers turned to humor, especially over the slow pace of the vote count. The front page of the Metro newspaper read: “Biden His Time."
Without weighing in directly, some world leaders appeared to react to Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s emerging lead in electoral votes. Irish Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar privately told lawmakers Wednesday that a Biden presidency would allow the European Union to secure a better trade agreement with Britain, “because the Democrats watched our backs on Brexit,” the Irish Times reported.
Mick Mulvaney, the U.S. special envoy for Northern Ireland and former White House chief of staff under Trump, tried to calm nerves when he appeared at an online panel run by the Dublin-based Institute of International and European Affairs. “American elections can be a sloppy, ugly thing,” he said, according to an Irish reporter watching the panel. “We describe it like making sausages, no one wants to see it happen but you enjoy the final product.”
Some U.S. officials did not attempt to shy away from partisan efforts to project reassurance. “Pres Trump had done an awesome job,” U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter, a Trump appointee, wrote on Twitter. “The only ones to be shamed are those [who] break the law and cast illegal votes.”
JJ Omojuwa, a blogger in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, has been live-tweeting the election’s aftermath to his 1 million followers — and growing increasingly concerned. “It is just sad that dictators elsewhere will be emboldened by Trump’s antics,” he said, “and unlike the United States, there will be no strong institutions to check their antics.”
Mathias Hounkpe, a pro-democracy activist in Senegal who has helped monitor elections across West Africa over the years, said he had never seen anything like what Trump supporters were doing Wednesday night in Arizona. Some had come armed to a protest outside an election office in Maricopa County.
“We can’t believe that people are taking guns to where votes are being counted,” said Hounkpe, who is from Guinea. “Even in Africa we do not see that.”
Evo Morales, the former Bolivian president who fled the country last year amid deadly protests and allegations of electoral fraud, trolled the United States in an interview with Russia’s RT television station. He suggested that if Trump is concerned about voter fraud, he should take his complaint to the Organization of American States, which produced a much-criticized report stating that it had found irregularities in the Bolivian vote.
Governments across Asia have largely refrained from meaningful comment, in the absence of an outcome. But newspapers and analysts were not so circumspect.
Trump’s speech prematurely declaring victory as ballots were still being counted sparked alarm in India, the world’s most populous democracy.
The move marked a “distinctly authoritarian turn” that overshadowed a “relatively peaceful election exercise in the world’s oldest democracy,” the Hindu, a newspaper, wrote in an editorial.
To some in Asia, the U.S. divisions served as a warning. In Indonesia, social media was abuzz with Trump’s false declaration of early victory, a move reminiscent of an Indonesian presidential hopeful, Prabowo Subianto, who lost last year’s election but continued to claim victory and encouraged his supporters to protest. The retired army general is now the defense minister.
And in South Korea, a U.S. ally, the division on display in the United States held up a painful mirror to its own, extremely polarized democracy. “The chaos in the so-called advanced democracy of the United States sparks concerns that we are not much different,” the Seoul Shinmun newspaper wrote in an editorial.
Trump’s surprising strength is a sign that the United States is “splintering into two distorted, mirror images,” the website Newsroom added in an op-ed, written by a U.S. journalist based in the country.
New Zealand’s government recorded a surge in interest on how to move to the country this week, prompting Newsroom to warn that “fleeing Americans bound for disappointment at NZ border.”
In the event of a Biden victory, newly appointed Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga would likely travel to the United States after the inauguration next year, the Japan Times reported this week. But if Trump were to win, Suga might visit sooner, the paper reported. The pair have not met since Suga took over his role in September. He told lawmakers this week that he plans to forge a “firm” relationship with the White House regardless of who wins.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, speaking during a visit Thursday to Venezuela, highlighted what he saw as American decline and declared that the era of “Western hegemony” was over. “Today, the United States and its allies can’t control what’s happening in the world,” he said, according to Reuters.
In China, a number of publications used the election to point out what they said are shortcomings of the American system.
U.S.-style democracy is a “joke” with clear “double standards,” said an editorial in the Ta Kung Pao newspaper in Hong Kong, controlled by China’s liaison office in the city.
Still, China’s vice foreign minister, Le Yucheng, voiced hopes on Thursday about repairing bilateral relations after the election. “I hope the new U.S. administration will meet China halfway,” he said, according to CNBC.
Denyer reported from Tokyo, Noack from Berlin, Taylor and O’Grady from Washington, and Coletta from Toronto. Paul Schemm in Dubai, Akiko Kashiwagi in Tokyo, Min Joo Kim in Seoul, Shibani Mahtani in Hong Kong, Isabelle Khurshudyan in Moscow, Jennifer Hassan in London, Joanna Slater and Niha Masih in New Delhi, and Danielle Paquette in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.
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