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Observers warn Trump’s election lies’ flashed smiles’ on dictators’ faces

LONDON – Allegations of ballot fraud, rallies at counting centers and false claims of victory from a drawn incumbent. Experts warned President Donald Trump’s unfounded statements following the election were a gift to dictators around the world and undermine US efforts to call for anti-democratic behavior in the country. foreign.

Since the election, Trump has launched an eloquent attack on the fundamentals of American democracy. He urged officials to stop counting votes when his leading position in some battlefield states began to shrink; he accused common voter fraud without evidence and mislabeling mailed ballots as illegal; and he repeatedly accused Democrats of trying to “steal”

; the election.

Even after the first term in which the president has repeatedly undermined democratic values, his comments this week have caused a whole new level of alarm. This only increased when his supporters, some of them armed, began to gather voting centers during the vote tally in Arizona and Michigan.

But independent observers have also warned of disastrous consequences abroad, where the United States has spent decades – and millions of dollars – on democracy-building efforts.

“He crossed the line by saying that votes should stop being counted,” said Michael Link, chief of the US election mission for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. “To put it in a sports analogy, when you’re in the middle of the game and you’re leading with 40 minutes left, you can’t stop the game just because you want to win.”

The OSCE, a large international organization that monitors elections around the world, found in Wednesday’s preliminary report that the US vote was largely “competitive and well managed. ” But it said they were “tarnished” by Trump’s “unfounded allegations” and warned that his comments would “damage public confidence in democratic institutions”. Global.

Tracking from Malawi, authoritarianism expert Nic Cheeseman said he saw with his own eyes the actual damage caused by Trump’s remarks.

“This undermines the moral authority of the United States to speak up about the UK election,” said Cheeseman, who temporarily lives in East Africa but is professor of democracy and international development at the University of England other countries and that will encourage dictators around the world. by Birmingham.

Anyone who wants to overthrow democracy in their own country, he said, will now be able to “take advantage of the fact that the United States has a weaker say in these matters”.

The past four years have seen strong guys – from Syria to Turkey, and Hungary to Thailand – apply Trump’s “fake news” mantra to get rid of the actual press they don’t like. The fear now is that autocrats will be able to directly invoke Trump’s anti-democratic rhetoric to justify their own actions. Or they may just feel that the United States is more likely to let them out of the situation, Cheeseman said.

“The United States is the leading democracy in the world,” former British Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt told the BBC on Wednesday.

“If we had people talking about stolen elections between the right wing and center, then we would just have smiles on the faces of people like President Putin, President Xi,” Hunt said. of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, “who will look at their people and say: Are you not satisfied because you haven’t had any of this mess?”

Trump spoke in the East Room of the White House earlier on Wednesday.Evan Vucci / AP

Even after a presidency where Trump rocked the world with his standard style, for many domestic and foreign observers, his remarks found a new point.

“People here are looking at America with skepticism,” Cheeseman said. “America is becoming the laughing stock of the worldwide election, and the lasting damage to America’s democratic reputation will be deep and lasting beyond Trump.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden predicted victory, and called for solidarity as the vote finally counted. According to NBC News, he received 253 Electoral College votes, compared with 214 for Trump. His election lawyer, Bob Bauer, has received some criticism for saying “we won the election and we will defend that election” in response to Trump’s comments.

For decades, the US has been at the forefront of efforts to build international democracy, quickly calling on a number of foreign governments as they challenge democratic norms.

In 2018, the United States Agency for International Development spent $ 92 million on the Transition Initiative, designed to help countries step up their efforts towards “sustainable, peaceful, good governance and democracy. “

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Ahead of a series of elections across Africa, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month warned that the US would “closely monitor the actions of individuals interfering in the democratic process and would not hesitate to consider the consequences. . “

And on Wednesday morning after the US election, the US Embassy in Côte d’Ivoire urged the country’s leaders to demonstrate a “commitment to the democratic process” after the election of it is disputed.

“After what Trump said, that exact language could very easily return to the United States because it applies here too,” said Brian Klaas, associate professor of global policy at University College London.

Of course, the US has also been accused of soft criticism when it comes to friends and strategic partners. Washington considers its allies to have theocracy that violates Saudi Arabia’s human rights. And it provided $ 1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt, where watchdogs say President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi bolstered his authoritarian rule.

During his time in office, Trump became close to the dictators, especially saying he “fell in love” with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, widely regarded as one of the worst human rights abusers. gender.

A protester tries to interrupt a press conference about counting votes in Clark County, Nevada, on Wednesday.Ethan Miller / Getty Images

In this sense, many experts consider the presidential post-election comments to be the most shameless example of a long-term trend, rather than an entirely new development.

In his previous job as an electoral observer traveling the world, Klaas said he had encountered stumbling blocks after the 2000 US presidential race, in which George W. Bush defeated Al Gore despite losing the popular vote and only after a bad legal battle in Florida. Supreme Court.

“People will say to me,” How can you convince us that you don’t even give the presidency to the person who gets the most votes? “” He said. “This election is like the Bush v Gore on steroids.”

There were a number of senior Republicans who split rankings with Trump, condemning comments and requiring all votes to be counted.

“There are no excuses for tonight’s presidential comments undermining our Democracy process,” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said in a tweet. “America is counting the votes, and we must respect the results as we always have. There is no election or people more important than our democracy.”

However, these nuances tend to get very little outside the US, and “are probably getting lost in the noisy wall when it comes to international awareness,” says Cheeseman.

And Trump’s anti-democratic message is one that resonates louder than any other message.

In Bangkok, Thailand, where protesters risk prison for democratic reforms, 19-year-old student Pan Siripark says they are “no one would expect from America”.

It “reminiscent of third world countries”, he added, “where you have allegations of vote fraud … it seems unbelievable.”

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