Denying defeat, Trump offers fodder for world's strongmen
This combination of files pictures created on November 4, 2020, shows Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden after speaking during election night at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware; and US President Donald Trump on election night in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, early on November 4, 2020. Twitter confirmed on November 21, 2020, it will hand control of the presidential @POTUS account to Joe Biden when he is sworn in on inauguration day, even if President Donald Trump has not conceded his election loss.
AFP/MANDEL NGAN, ANGELA WEISS
Denying defeat, Trump offers fodder for world's strongmen
Shaun Tandon (Agence France-Presse) - November 22, 2020 - 11:30am

WASHINGTON, United States — The United States has long championed democracy around the world, pushing persistently, if not always consistently, for leaders to give up power when they lose.

President Donald Trump is now establishing a new American model — refusing to concede, making unsubstantiated claims of fraud and seeking the intervention of courts and political allies in hopes of reversing his defeat to Joe Biden.

Political figures and experts interviewed in several countries fear that Trump's blueprint will be eagerly embraced in fragile democracies, especially in Africa, letting strongmen point to the world's most powerful nation in justifying their attempts to cling to office.

"Donald Trump's refusal to concede reinforces the view of our leaders in Africa that elections should be done in a way so that they don't lose," said Mahamat Ahmat Alhabo, secretary general of the opposition Party for Freedoms and Development in Chad.

Eldred Masunungure, a political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe, said that Trump was singing "sweet music to autocratic rulers."

"It's tragic. We are used to that in Africa but when it happens in the US we get shocked because it's happening in a centuries-old democracy," Masunungure said.

"It's a dirty lesson our leaders will take advantage of and cite even in the long-term future when they lose and don't want to concede defeat."

Garry Kasparov, the Russian chess legend and outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, said that Trump's assault on the democratic process will result in "many similar attacks in future elections, in the US and elsewhere."

"Democracy discredited, Putin's dream," he wrote on Twitter.

Changing discourse on elections

Thomas Carothers, an expert on democracy promotion, noted that nations such as Russia, China and Egypt hardly needed tips from Trump on how to oppose competitive elections.

But he said the effect could be more palpable in problematic democracies as leaders see how Trump can brazenly claim victory and find some support, despite Biden winning nearly six million more votes and edging Trump out 306-232 in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines US elections.

"They see the power of that approach, that even a society as educated and sophisticated in certain ways as the United States can fall victim to that kind of big lie," said Carothers, senior vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Studies in Washington.

He drew a parallel to Trump's denunciations of "fake news," a term now cited around the world by governments that want to muzzle the media.

Carothers said nations where Trump's election challenges could provide a model include India, the world's largest democracy which has long had robust votes but where right-wing Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been taking aim at civil society.

Carothers said there could similarly be an effect in Mexico, where President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a leftist populist, claimed fraud in two previous losing bids for office and remains one of the few world leaders, along with Putin, who has not congratulated Biden.

More indirectly, right-wing leaders in European nations such as Hungary and Poland could lose a source of inspiration in the White House.

Since the US vote, the State Department has congratulated winners of several elections elsewhere including Moldova, whose Russian-backed president quickly conceded.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asked at a combative news conference if Trump was hindering democracy efforts, called the question "ridiculous" and said that the United States takes time in examining all elections to see if they "reflected the will of the people."

Or is the system working?

US elections have often been messy, most notoriously in 2000 when the Supreme Court let stand that George W. Bush won Florida by 537 votes, handing him the White House over Al Gore.

In 1960, Republicans alleged irregularities in John F. Kennedy's victory but candidate Richard Nixon did not advocate a recount, later writing that he could "think of no worse example for nations abroad" than suggestions that the White House "could be stolen by thievery at the ballot box."

Piers Pigou, an expert on Southern Africa at the International Crisis Group, said that US democracy "has not been held up as an example of best practice" but said Trump could have a ripple effect in a region where many countries do not have clear procedures for transitions of power.

But several observers said that Trump's challenge could send an opposite message — that, despite all the power at his disposal, he is still expected to leave office on January 20.

"Democracies' strength is their institutions," said Jean Gaspard Ntoutoume Ayi, a member of the National Union opposition party in Gabon, where one family has run the presidency for a half-century.

"Unlike in African countries, American institutions will know how to impose the will of the American people on Trump's craziness."

2020 US PRESIDENTIAL RACE DONALD TRUMP JOE BIDEN
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: November 10, 2020 - 10:22am

Monitor updates on the 2020 presidential race in the United States.

November 10, 2020 - 10:22am

President Donald Trump, who is refusing to concede election defeat, injected new volatility Monday by firing his defense secretary, while President-elect Joe Biden made good on a promise to focus on leading the country out of the COVID-19 crisis.

With construction already starting in central Washington for the January 20 inauguration ceremony, an awkward and potentially chaotic transition period is underway.

Trump, in a move unprecedented for a US president, insists that the November 3 election was stolen from him. — AFP

November 9, 2020 - 5:39pm

Russian President Vladimir Putin is waiting for official results from the US presidential election before congratulating a winner, the Kremlin said on Monday.

"We consider it correct to wait for the official results to be finalised. I want to remind you that President Putin repeatedly said he will respect the choice of the American people," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Many world leaders congratulated President-elect Joe Biden after he took an insurmountable lead over Donald Trump in the vote count. — AFP

November 8, 2020 - 1:38pm

Israel Prime Minister and close Donald Trump ally Benjamin Netanyahu congratulates Joe Biden on his election victory early Sunday, calling the United States president-elect "a great friend of Israel".

"I look forward to working with both of you to further strengthen the special alliance between the US and Israel," Netanyahu writes on Twitter, referring to Biden and running mate Kamala Harris. — AFP

November 8, 2020 - 10:37am

US President-elect Joe Biden vows to name a group top scientists to his coronavirus task force as early as Monday.

"On Monday I will name a group of leading scientists and experts as transition advisors to help take the Biden-Harris plan and convert it into an actual blueprint that will start on January 20, 2021," he tells supporters.

The pledge came in Biden's first speech since being projected as the winner of the presidential election, signaling that he plans to prioritize the pandemic from the outset. — AFP

November 8, 2020 - 10:06am

US President-elect Joe Biden says that voters had given him a "convincing" victory after he was projected to have defeated Donald Trump.

"Folks, the people of this nation have spoken. They've delivered us a clear victory, a convincing victory," an ebullient Biden tells a victory rally in his home state of Delaware. — AFP

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