In a year in which the world has seen a plethora of first-time events, one of its many surprises has been how the United States’ November 3 elections have played out so far.
As both candidates in the 2020 American elections pursue the 270 electoral college votes that will take them to the White House, in the case of President Trump a renewal of his tenancy, in January 2021, the UN has issued a warning to its personnel based in the United States of America about potential electoral violence.
The global organisation’s headquarters warned its personnel in New York last week about “the possibility of civil unrest” that may occur over the election, which could “spark both celebrations and spontaneous demonstrations.”
Washington is known for safeguarding the health of democracies in countries where democracy is less established, as well as funding programmes to promote peaceful elections and “democratic transitions.” But the ongoing election in the world’s oldest democracy is now increasingly looking like those of fragile democracies and autocratic countries.
The current state of American democracy today is largely a creation of the unorthodox political strategy of President Donald Trump who since assuming office has assumed a very brazen and divisive style.
He has mobilised his rightwing base to believe in conspiracies against them by unpatriotic elites and a corrupt media, showing a total lack of respect for the country’s democratic traditions. His populist style is reminiscent of third-world dictators.
But the latest show of Trumpism – an incumbent president prematurely proclaiming victory in elections, attacking the integrity of a time-hallowed voting system with allegations of fraud, and refusing to commit to a peaceful transition of power in the event that he loses – is now not only diminishing America’s global image but is also casting doubt over the integrity of its electoral institutions.
Washington faces a looming and possibly sustained legal battle over the results of the presidential election after Trump’s camp filed lawsuits Wednesday to stop ballot counting in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.
“Of course, this is an unprecedented situation, the U.S. behaving like a failed state,” former communications director for ex-UN Sec-Gen Kofi Annan, Edward Mortimer told PassBlue. The UN’s Security and Safety Service added that it was in talks with its law enforcement counterparts to monitor the situation where its personnel is located.
Prior to the UN warning, political analysts had expressed worries over the president’s conduct as the election approached. Trump’s tactics bear “the hallmarks of undemocratic countries” and it would be unsurprising if violence broke out in the aftermath of a close election, University College London professor Brian Klaas told CNBC.
“All the red flags that you see in other countries that have political violence are being raised in the United States right now, and you are getting extremely incendiary rhetoric from the president himself,” Klaas said.
Mail-in voting has long been a part of U.S. elections with high levels of integrity but Trump is “convincing his tens of millions of supporters that if he loses, it is because the election will be rigged, which is false. I worry that if there is a close and contested result, he will call on his supporters to take action,” the global politics professor added.
There was calm in New York in the days leading up to and on Election Day but storefronts have been boarded-up throughout the region as people worry about potential reactions to the election, according to PassBlue. However, The Washington Post reported a violent clash in the capital and flag-burning in Portland on Election Night while there were reports of protests and violent outbreaks in some cities Wednesday.
Vice President Joe Biden now has 264 electoral college votes, just 6 shy of the required number of votes to win the elections. He is more likely to become the next American President as Trump would need to win in Nevada, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Georgia to defeat him while the former Vice President needs to win in only one state to emerge victorious.
Biden would face a big task reuniting Americans after President Trump who has spent four years fabricating divisions between liberals and conservatives, socialists and real Americans, Muslims and Christians, liberal elites, and ordinary Americans.