The United States presidential election on November 3 was always set to be a nail-biting event and it certainly did not disappoint.
For those in the EU who remained awake and tuned in to news outlets during the night, there was a sense of déjà vu as the Joe Biden “blue wave” that many had hoped for failed to materialise – something that would have reduced any doubt over the legitimacy of the results.
The morning after, there is still no clear result of the winner and the presidency appears to be anyone’s game. With several key battleground states still up for grabs, victory could swing either way.
The waiting game is longer than usual this election as three key states – Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania – did not begin counting mail-in ballots until election day itself or just before.
The unprecedented influx of mail-in ballots - due to the Coronavirus crisis - has made this a particularly daunting task for election officials to process, especially with the eyes of the world now focussing on these three northern swing states - the so-called “rust belt.”
Other battleground states have been tentatively called, with Arizona, Minnesota and New Hampshire expected to swing in Biden’s favour, and Trump predicted to take Florida, Texas, Iowa and Ohio.
At the time of writing this article, Georgia, Nevada and North Carolina are still unknown.
“This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election. We did win this election” Donald Trump, US President
Despite the fact that the election result is still very much in the air, this did not prevent incumbent Donald Trump from declaring himself the winner. In a televised speech from the White House, he called the election “a record; there’s never been anything like it to support our incredible movement.”
“We won states that we weren’t expected to win. Florida, we didn’t win it. We won it by a lot. We won the great State of Ohio. We won Texas, we won Texas. We won Texas. We won Texas by 700,000 votes and they don’t even include it in the tabulations. It’s also clear that we have won Georgia.”
Trump then paused dramatically and said, “And all of a sudden everything just stopped. This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election. We did win this election.”
He said that the goal was now to “ensure the integrity for the good of this nation.”
“This is a very big moment. This is a major fraud in our nation. We want the law to be used in a proper manner. So we’ll be going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at four o’clock in the morning and add them to the list … To me this is a very sad moment and we will win this. And as far as I’m concerned, we already have won it.”
“What many feared has happened: Trump declares himself the winner ahead of time, before all votes of the American voters have been counted. This is the action of an autocrat who has no respect for democracy” Martin Schirdewan, GUE/NGL co-president
Joe Biden, for his part, simply tweeted, “It’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare the winner of this election. It’s the voters’ place.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, US Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district, called Trump’s premature claims of victory “illegitimate, dangerous, and authoritarian,” adding, “Count the votes. Respect the results.”
A PHILOSOPHICAL EU
On the other side of the Atlantic, EU policymakers appeared rather philosophical, focusing on the wider repercussions of the election.
EPP chairman Manfred Weber said, “The deep polarisation of America should be a warning for Europe. 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.”
German Greens/EFA member Sven Giegold commented, “The US 2020 elections not only teach us that Europe must become more capable of acting; they also show us the bitter fact that in Western democracies, radical movements against democratic institutions and values can become entrenched.”
Fellow Greens deputy Terry Reintke echoed this, saying, “No matter how this is going to end, one thing is clear: The European Union is needed more than ever in this world to uphold rule of law, human rights and democracy. We have to live up to this expectation - first and foremost by being better ourselves.”
GUE/NGL Group co-president Martin Schirdewan said, “now, what many feared has happened: Trump declares himself the winner ahead of time, before all votes of the American voters have been counted. This is the action of an autocrat who has no respect for democracy.”
Czech ECR member Jan Zahradil pointed out shortfalls in polling systems, which had anticipated a Joe Biden victory by a wide margin. Few expected a re-run of 2016 when polls fell disastrously short of the mark.
Zahradil said, “We don't know the final result of the US election yet (and we probably won't for a long time), but one result is already known: the media/political analysts/polls have got it wrong again. It's proof of a deeper problem - this bubble has apparently lost the ability to read the moods of the public and draw deeper conclusions.”
“The US 2020 elections not only teach us that Europe must become more capable of acting; they also show us the bitter fact that in Western democracies, radical movements against democratic institutions and values can become entrenched” Sven Giegold, Greens/EFA
In an unexpected move, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša congratulated Donald Trump on Twitter on Wednesday morning, saying, “It’s pretty clear that the American people have elected Donald Trump and Mike Pence for four more years. More delays and facts-denying from MSM [mainstream media], bigger the final triumph for POTUS.”
Slovak Renew Europe vice-chair Michal Šimečka replied to this saying, “Misinformation and populism have no borders.”
S&D leader Iratxe García Pérez said simply, “We must wait for the final results of the election to fully respect the electoral process. Trump's latest statements deteriorate American democracy. We hope that Joe Biden brings hope to American citizens and to the world.”