An international audience waited anxiously along with Americans on Wednesday as the U.S. presidential poll results trickled in with no clear victor.
While populist politicians in Europe rallied around incumbent President Donald Trump, those favoring a return to a more alliance-led globalist order decrying Trump’s false claim of victory and his rejection of as-yet-uncounted ballots.
Votes are still being counted in several crucial battleground states in the U.S. election, making it unclear whether it will be Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden leading the world’s most powerful nation until 2024.
At a campaign event in the early hours of the morning in Delaware, Democratic nominee Biden urged Americans to be patient while the counting continued. In the East Room of the White House, President Trump gave a 2AM Eastern Time speech in which he demanded vote counting be stopped, and threatened to go to the Supreme Court, baselessly calling the continued counting of absentee and mailed-in ballots “a fraud on the American public.”
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe also criticized Trump on Wednesday. Michael Georg Link, special coordinator for the OSCE mission observing the U.S. election told reporters in Washington that Trump had risked harming “public trust in democratic institutions” by making “baseless allegations of systemic deficiencies … on election night.” Polish Amb. Ursula Gacek, who led the mission, decried “deliberate attempts by the incumbent to weaken confidence in the election process” and said the observers had found no evidence of “systemic wrongdoing” despite Trump’s claims of alleged fraud by the use of mail-in absentee ballots.
A Europe-based election monitor with two decades of experience in more than 30 countries called Trump’s pre-emptive claim of victory unprecedented. “Trump is not abiding by the rules of the game, and he’s an incumbent on top of that. I haven’t seen that anywhere else that I can remember … for an incumbent to claim fraud when the votes have not even been counted.” The source spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the poll publicly.
Here’s how the world is reacting:
As of Wednesday morning, the Russian government had not commented publicly on the results—though Konstantin Kosachev, a Putin ally who chairs a foreign affairs committee, suggested the Kremlin would like to avoid being further accused of interference in the 2020 election, as it was in 2016.
“It’s better for Russia if there is a decisive result, so that the loser will not resort to claims of foreign interference,” Kosachev said. “It’s time for America to return to the politics of sanity.”
Russia’s main opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who was poisoned earlier this year in what he said was an assassination attempt by the Kremlin, suggested the U.S. election was a good example of the democratic process, perhaps alluding to Russian elections he and his supporters say are rigged. “I woke up and went on Twitter to find out who won. Nothing is clear yet,” he said on Twitter. “So, this is a real election.”
U.S.-China relations have been fraught under the Trump Administration, hallmarked by clashes over trade, tech and international diplomacy. When asked Wednesday whether he had a preference for either Biden or Trump, spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Wang Wenbin said that the U.S. election is America’s internal affairs and China doesn’t have a stance on the issue.
Hu Xijin, editor in chief of Chinese state media outlet Global Times, commented ahead of the election that the “U.S. is in degradation” and that “U.S. opinion polls are now ridiculed by Chinese netizens.”
U.S. officials stationed in China have pushed back. “Chinese officials are complaining to me that we won’t have a result by lunchtime,” a top U.S. diplomat told TIME. “I said, this is democracy, it takes a while, it’s not just hundreds of people raising their hands in the Great Hall of the People.”
Washington’s relations with Iran have long been tense, and deteriorated further after the assassination of Iran’s top military commander in a U.S. air strike in January. On Tuesday, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei said in a tweet that the outcome of the U.S. election “won’t affect our policy towards the U.S.”
But Khamenei also used the opportunity to attack the U.S., adding in a speech Tuesday that “the current situation attests to a severe civil, political and moral decline in the US—something that has been acknowledged by thinkers in the United States.” Overnight, Khamenei also shared the cover image of journalist Bob Woodward’s book Fear: Trump in the White House, citing it as evidence of a U.S. political system in decline.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has a close relationship with President Trump, refused to comment on the election results on Wednesday morning. “We don’t comment as a U.K. government on the democratic processes of our friends and allies,” he said, when pressed by the opposition leader to condemn Trump’s comments.
In an interview after Donald Trump falsely claimed a victory from the White House early Wednesday, Johnson’s Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, also declined to comment on the President’s language. “Whatever the election night comments on either side of the campaign,” he said, “I’m confident and have full faith in the U.S. institutions, checks and balances in the U.S. system, that will produce a definitive result.”
Pressed by the BBC interviewer, who referred to Trump’s comments as “the President of the United States subverting democracy,” Raab again declined to condemn them. “I think that you’re now engaging in the campaign rather than just reporting on it,” Raab said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Tuesday that the country “is well-positioned and ready to continue to work with the American people and the American government, regardless of the outcomes” of the election.
However, not all Canadian politicians agree. “Trump makes the world a more dangerous place for all of us,” Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party said Tuesday, adding that Trump has “put people in the United States at risk, and has put frankly, the world at risk.”
In Germany, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the defense minister, called the uncertainty in the U.S. “a very explosive situation” in an interview shortly after President Trump’s White House address. “The battle for the legitimacy of the result, whatever the outcome, has begun,” she told German television channel ZDF. “This is a very explosive situation, a situation of which the experts rightly say it could lead to a constitutional crisis in the United States. And that is something that must certainly be of great concern to us overall.”
The leadership of the European Union urged patience. “We are awaiting that the authorities in charge of the vote count announce the results,” a European Commission spokesperson said Wednesday. “We will abide by whatever announcement is forthcoming officially by the relevant U.S. authorities, and we think that everybody should do likewise.”
Others in Brussels pointed to the state of the race as a whole. “The deep polarization of America should be a warning for Europe,” said Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People’s Party, the largest transnational party grouping in the European Parliament, in a tweet. “We are successful because we bridge differences between countries and peoples, so we benefit together. If we lose the ability to compromise, our democracies are in danger.”
European far right leaders
Prominent figures on the European far-right voiced support for Trump on Wednesday morning, expressing scorn on mainstream media outlets and amplifying Trump’s premature claim to victory.
“A great victory for Biden was promised in all the newspapers,” wrote Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far right League Party who is currently in opposition. “As usual they didn’t get it right. [Trump] has an advantage,” he said, adding that the election was a “great demonstration of democratic participation.”
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far right National Rally (formerly known as the National Front), said a Trump victory would be best for France. “It’s interesting to see the election is so close,” she said on French television. “After four years, now that he has a track record, many Americans, still support him, and some support him even more.” She continued: “I think the reelection of Donald Trump is what’s best for France. Because Donald Trump is the return of the nation. He’s the end of this wild globalization, this deregulation, this disappearance of borders that I think has really hurt the nation.”
And the rightwing Prime Minister of Slovenia, Janez Janša, publicly stated that Trump had won, criticizing what he called “delays and fact denying” by the “MSM,” or mainstream media. “It’s pretty clear that American people have elected [Trump and Pence] for #4moreyears,” he tweeted. “[The] more delays and fact denying from #MSM, bigger the final triumph for [Trump].” First Lady Melania Trump is Slovenian.
Though rightwing Philippine President Rodrigo Durterte has a friendly relationship with Donald Trump, and encouraged Filipino Americans to vote for the incumbent Republican candidate in March, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Nov. 4 said the Filipino government expects no major change in the Philippines’ relationship with the U.S., regardless of who wins the election.
“The President [Duterte] can establish equally warm personal relations with whoever wins this election even if it’s not President Trump,” Roque told CNN Philippines.
— With reporting by Laignee Barron, Charlie Campbell, Aria Chen, Joseph Hincks, Ciara Nugent, Aryn Baker and Madeline Roache
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