Here are the latest developments:
- European newspapers compared Trump to a “late Roman Emperor,” as America’s global image as a model for other democracies to follow took another battering.
- Trump’s surprisingly strong showing, despite mishandling the coronavirus pandemic, has left many foreign observers bewildered and asking whether Trumpism is here to stay.
- Deepening divisions worry U.S. allies and friends, but France’s foreign minister said he has “faith in U.S. institutions validating the results of the election.”
- Asian and European markets shrugged off the uncertainty to record decent gains, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 reaching a nine-month high and indexes across Europe rising.
Asian and European stock markets disregarded the prospect of a contentious and contested U.S. election result to record further gains on Thursday, but America’s global image as a model for other democracies to emulate has taken yet another battering, especially among its allies around the globe. One German newspaper likened the U.S. president to a Roman emperor contemptuous of his citizens.
In Japan, America’s closest ally in Asia and a country whose postwar constitution was largely written by Americans, the slow vote count dominated television news and made for painful watching for many. The Mainichi newspaper said the events even called into question “the intrinsic value of democracy,” adding that “responsibility for fanning the divide and amplifying the confusion lies with Mr. Trump.”
The National, one of the United Arab Emirates’ state-owned English-language dailies, lamented the divisions in the United States amid the pandemic, economic crisis and now the elections. “At a time when the nation should be pulling together with what the British would call Blitz spirit, the streets of many cities have been the setting for what appear to be the beginnings of civil strife,” it wrote in an editorial.
Another UAE paper, the Gulf News, carried a political cartoon showing a figure representing America headed into a dark tunnel labeled “constitutional crisis.”
After Trump falsely declared victory before the votes were counted on election night, he spent much of Wednesday leveling allegations of electoral fraud without evidence. His campaign has since announced legal challenges to determine which votes will count. Days of court battles and political uncertainty lie ahead. Many fear violence.
Role model no more?
U.S. leaders’ preaching about global human rights and democracy — when the country’s political system is so affected by money and divisiveness, and its foreign policy record so marked by support for dictators and its own economic interests — has always carried more than a whiff of hypocrisy for many observers.
The idea of American democracy, albeit an imperfect one, was still something that could 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, saying the United States’ strong democratic values would ensure the correct results. “I have faith in U.S. institutions validating the results of the election,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe 1 radio.
Governments across Asia have largely refrained from meaningful comment, preferring to wait until one candidate has conceded defeat.
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,” wrote the Hindu newspaper in an editorial. Trump’s statement amounted to a demand that legally cast ballots not be counted, which would imply an “unprecedented attempt at mass voter suppression,” it wrote.
Anand Mahindra, a prominent industrialist in India, remarked Thursday that while the electoral process “has been a unifying force” in his country, the U.S. electoral system has had the opposite impact in America and is “deepening” polarization.
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 democracy, which has also become extremely polarized.
“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, calling on South Koreans to keep their own leaders accountable.
U.S. adversaries sense an opportunity
In China, a number of publications used the election to crow about the shortcomings of the American system.
American-style democracy is now 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.
“One can feel the anxiety for potential chaos seeing metal fences and security being hastily installed around the White House,” the editorial said. “The American election has became a global joke.”
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,” Le said, according to CNBC, despite the “disagreements between China and the U.S.”
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to hold “an international telephone conversation” on Thursday evening, the Tass news agency cited Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying. It was unclear with whom Putin would speak, but the announcement was seen as unusual by Kremlin observers.
Markets stay strong
World concerns over any negative economic ripple effects of the election, however, were not reflected on world markets on Thursday.
Indeed, the sense that a win for Joe Biden — which looked more possible after he clinched Wisconsin and Michigan — might offer a respite in the bitter contest between Beijing and Washington did help to push up share markets in China. The Shanghai Composite Index rose around 1.3 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index gained more than 3.2 percent.
Elsewhere in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index breached 24,000 for the first time in nine months, closing around 1.7 percent higher. Seoul’s Kospi index rose around 2.4 percent, buoyed by the idea that political gridlock in Washington, potentially with a Democrat in the White House and Republicans still controlling the Senate, reduced the chances of regulations that would weigh down the IT sector. In Europe, the FTSE 100 index and the STOXX 600 were also up after markets opened.
“All this talk of a contested election was supposed to cause a massive pickup in volatility,” said Chris Weston, head of research at Pepperstone Group in Melbourne. “We haven’t seen that at all. The market’s seeing this as a smooth resolution.”
Denyer reported from Tokyo and Noack reported from Berlin. Paul Schemm in Dubai, Akiko Kashiwagi in Tokyo, Min Joo Kim in Seoul, Shibani Mahtani in Hong Kong, Isabelle Khurshudyan in Moscow and Joanna Slater and Niha Masih in New Delhi contributed to this report.