The Global Risk of the US Election
Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UzDaily.com) -- In less than two months, the 59th presidential election will be held in the United States. Economically and militarily, America is still stronger than its two main competitors (Russia and China) combined, and therefore elections in this country are always of global importance. However, never before have they posed such an acute threat to the rest of the world.
There is no doubt that the re-election of President Donald Trump will endanger both the United States and the world. In addition, there is ample reason to fear that small differences in the number of votes cast for candidates could lead the United States into a deep, protracted constitutional crisis or even civil unrest.
If Donald Trump gets a victory in the electoral college, but loses in the total number of votes cast for him, then neither his rival, John Biden, nor the majority of countries that are opposed to him, most likely, will not reconcile with this result as readily as Hillary Clinton did. And if, in the end, the Supreme Court will again choose the winner (as it once chose George W. Bush, not Alexander Gore), then massive nationwide protests look almost guaranteed.
There is an alternative scenario: since J. Biden is constantly ahead of D. Trump in public opinion polls, D. Trump may try to use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to postpone elections or otherwise influence them. He has already spent a whole summer trying to challenge the validity of the ballots sent by mail, thereby delegitimizing early voting in the 3 November elections. Although his actions met with strong opposition, Donald Trump is laying the foundation for mobilizing his supporters and in order to stay in the White House regardless of the election results.
This version of America, where internal political differences are increasingly affecting the country's foreign policy, is probably the biggest threat to the rest of the world today.
In a period of growing global risks (from pandemics and climate change to nuclear proliferation, as well as Chinese and Russian influence), the American political collapse will become a powerful multiplier of all these threats. America is too important economically, politically and militarily to simply take a break or (even worse) turn into an unpredictable spoiler in global conflicts due to the country's government being forced to play along with a narrow group of voters.
One can only hope that the outcome of the elections will be a convincing victory for one of the candidates both in the electoral college and in the total number of votes received. However, even in this case, the calculation of the final results may take some time, since a serious increase in the number of voters by mail is expected. Each postmarked ballot dated 2 or 3 November (depending on the state) will be considered valid, which means that the final results will not be known until some time after election day. During this period of uncertainty, one or both candidates may attempt to declare victory based on the current vote count.
In any case, there is no chance that D. Trump will dutifully wait for several days or weeks in his Oval Office for the final data. In interviews, he makes vague statements from which it follows that he is not going to leave the White House, even if he loses. Moreover, he seems to be actively preparing for just such a scenario. If he really does so, then the United States will plunge into a protracted - and, apparently, extremely difficult - constitutional crisis.
The old Western alliance of democratic, industrialized countries has made many mistakes in recent years, and this has undermined its international reputation. But no institution is as fundamental to the West's broad appeal as free and fair elections. If the former de facto leader of the West can no longer adhere to even this principle, then the rest of the world may well prefer other political systems.
The author is Sigmar Gabriel, German politician, member of the SPD.
Former Vice-Chancellor (2013-2018) and Former Foreign Minister of Germany (2017-2018).
Project Syndicate (USA)