US election: How risky will a close result be?

The US is nervously anticipating the outcome of the presidential election. It is already clear that turnout will be high. A close result, a challenge by Trump, outbreaks of violence: observers believe a period of uncertainty and chaos could be looming, and voice doubts about the effectiveness of the US electoral system.

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De Telegraaf (NL) /

A country in turmoil

De Telegraaf is worried about unrest:

“The festival of democracy could be disrupted by violence. Rarely has the country been so divided. There is talk of election fraud, attacks on polling stations and voter intimidation. And President Trump is already considering simply not accepting the result and is preparing legal action against the postal vote, which in his view can be fraudulent. Any developing country would have fewer problems with an election like this. ... The only glimmer of hope is that more voters than ever have decided to make their voices heard. A quick clear result could potentially put out the fire. The bad news: no one is expecting that outcome.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

The EU must keep calm

In a guest commentary for Wiener Zeitung, Joseph Waldstein, former EU Commission spokesman, ponders how the EU should respond if the results of the election remain unclear for an extended period:

“Do we acknowledge Trump as the legitimate President if he declares himself to be the winner as early as election night? What do we do if violence erupts, bringing about human rights violations? ... The EU should not act in haste and should acknowledge a winner only once all the votes have been counted and one of the two candidates concedes defeat. If there is a challenge before the Supreme Court, the EU must wait for its decision and then recognise it. The EU must condemn potential violence using clear words. If no solution is found for months, it should at least offer to serve as a mediator.”

Dnevnik (BG) /

The danger of another undemocratic outcome

If Trump wins the US presidential election, it will once again be because of the Electoral College system and not by the will of the majority, Dnevnik comments:

“Even if Trump wins, it is fairly certain that he will not get the majority of votes. That was the case in 2016, when Hillary Clinton was ahead by three million votes, but didn't win enough states and therefore had fewer Electoral College votes. The same happened in the 2000 elections when Al Gore got the most votes, but wasn't elected. ... In light of these paradoxes, many observers, especially in Europe, question the democratic nature of the US political system. If the will of the majority can be disregarded, to what extent is it justified to claim that America is a democracy at all?”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

The system is old-fashioned, but fair

The Süddeutsche Zeitung doubts that a direct election system would be better:

“If the race for the presidency were solely about the candidates gathering the majority of Americans behind them, the citizens of Montana and two dozen other sparsely populated states might just as well stay at home, because their votes simply would not carry any weight. Two-thirds of US territory would be excluded in this way. ... . There would be a massive loss of political content because the presidential candidates would to a certain extent be forced to deal only with urban issues - from rents to crime to gender-sensitive language. There would be no more room for the worries of the rural population, who often have the feeling of being neglected anyway and don't understand the world of the city dwellers. This would further deepen the division of society.”

T24 (TR) /

Hoping for a domino effect

The US election will also influence the future of authoritarian regimes, believes T24:

“Around the world there are waves of democratisation as well as authoritarianism. It can be said that both trends are contagious. ... People around the globe who welcome diversity and are oppressed in authoritarian countries expect that Trump's defeat will amount to the toppling of a domino that symbolises the authoritarian zeitgeist. If Trump, whose discourses and actions have rendered us speechless for four years, is re-elected, that would trigger a sense of hopelessness likely to be felt globally. Especially in light of the difficulties of the pandemic, nobody wants to watch the film where the evil side wins again.”