US midterms: what's at stake?

The race for seats in the US Congress is closer than expected. Polling stations have closed and many of the votes nave been counted, but it remains unclear whether the Democrats or the Republicans have secured a majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Commentators examine what the outcome of the election means for US domestic and foreign policy.

Open/close all quotes (HR) /

Oldest democracy on the brink of the abyss

Can the Republicans accept defeat at all, asks Telegram:

“Under Donald Trump's leadership the GOP ceased to be a democratic Party and now only recognises election results if the Republicans win. ... What will happen if the election results are not made known quickly enough and MAGA [Make-America-Great-Again] Republicans declare victory? Will attacks on polling stations and the employees there ensue? Will armed militias try to take power by force? One might expect such questions to be asked in connection with elections in South Sudan, but unfortunately they are now justified in the world's oldest democracy.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Trump comeback would be dangerous for Poland

Rzeczpospolita warns:

“Trump will now spend a few days analysing the results of Tuesday's elections before officially announcing in a week's time that he is running for president again. And he will start a bitter war against Joe Biden, a culture war, a confrontation over alleged manipulation two years ago. ... If the Republicans win the majority in the House of Representatives, they will block all of President Biden's initiatives. ... Considering the fact that the US has become the most important guarantor of our security today, and that without its support Ukraine would have been overrun by Russian tanks long ago, this could be a very risky time for Poland.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Biden still has the international stage

There have been cases of a president focusing on foreign policy even after a defeat in the mid-terms, notes Die Presse:

“As commander-in-chief, that is still the US president's domain. The schedule plays into Biden's hands. What may seem like him taking the bull by the horns, however, follows the choreography of international diplomacy. ... Climate policy, the duel with China as the US's main geopolitical adversary and the - unplanned - leading role in the anti-Russia alliance have shaped his term in office to date, along with the fiasco of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. ... But in foreign policy Biden won't have an easier time either - especially since the gaffes which are so typical for him can have serious consequences.”

Portal Plus (SI) /

Policy of war will be punished

Economist Jeffrey Sachs explains on Portal Plus why the cards are stacked against the Democrats in the midterms :

“US President Joe Biden and the Democrats could suffer a heavy defeat in the midterms. That would not come as a big surprise, since the Democrats are the main ones pushing for the continuation of the war in Ukraine. The last thing the US and Europe need is a long war with Russia. ... We need a change of foreign policy. After the elections, there will be an important time for reassessment. Americans and the world need economic recovery, diplomacy, and peace.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

If only we had these problems

Radio Kommersant says the supposed international significance of the elections is being exaggerated:

“In Europe, people are wondering how the opinion of voters across the Atlantic will affect military action in the east of the continent. Overall, not in the slightest. Foreign and defence policy is the prerogative of the Administration and the White House, so the high hopes and fears should be saved for November 2024. The world is interested in the foreign policy aspects of the US elections. But in the US people are worried about abortion, the right to bear arms, the environment and, above all, galloping inflation. If only the Russians were more concerned about these problems too. Then we would have a different world and we wouldn't care about foreign elections.”

Expresso (PT) /

The old lie about election fraud re-emerges

Security expert Miguel Monjardino warns in Expresso:

“I find what is happening at the local level worrying. The Republican candidates for governor of Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and Pennsylvania are denying the facts and arguing that Trump won the 2020 election, and that Biden is an illegitimate president. And some Republican congressional candidates have argued along similar lines. In their view, the republic of the Democrats is corrupt and decadent. If they are elected, their targeted attacks on institutions and the credibility of the electoral process will change the US political fabric and unleash new destructive anti-democratic forces at the state and federal levels.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Extreme positions not convincing in the long run

A Republican victory does not mean approval for the extreme positions of many of the party's candidates, political scientist Stephen Ansolabehere counters in Le Monde:

“Across the US, Republicans who support the extreme faction of the party do worse in the polls than the party's other candidates. ... Many of these populists will emerge victorious in the election because it is a favourable year for the party, but undecided voters will hesitate to vote for these candidates. ... They will only vote for them reluctantly, to punish the Democrats for their bad economic policies. ... Once inflation subsides and incomes rise again, the wind will change.”

NZZ am Sonntag (CH) /

Tailwind from across the Atlantic could subside

If the Republicans win the election, the US's stance in the Ukraine war could well change, the NZZ am Sonntag writes:

“Until now, the massive financial and military support for Ukraine has been backed by both parties. However, the man who could well become the new majority leader in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, has announced that he will no longer write blank cheques for the Ukrainians if he wins. What that means is unclear. ... If the US were to reduce its commitment, it would immediately benefit the Russians on the front lines. So the EU, and above all countries like Germany, should step up their commitment to Ukraine and quickly honour the promises they have made. Nothing is certain in these times. Especially not who will become US president come 2024.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Election will be decisive for Ukraine

Jutarnji list also fears US support for Kyiv could be undermined:

“The US will vote tomorrow in midterm elections that, as is often the case with what is still the most important country in the world, will also determine the fate of a distant country - Ukraine. The stakes are so high that the results will be watched with equal interest in Washington and Kyiv. ... And above all in the Kremlin, for which a Republican victory would be a godsend. ... Joe Biden is unlikely to go down in history as a great US president, but he does have a chance to become immortal as the saviour of Ukraine. ... For this to happen the Republicans must not win tomorrow.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Help from an unexpected quarter

Paradoxically, it could be the US defence industry, which has close ties to the Republicans, which ensures that the US's aid for Ukraine does not dwindle, Dagens Nyheter notes:

“The US arms industry pays a lot of money to Republican politicians. And for completely selfish reasons it is fully in favour of America's billions in aid to Kyiv. After all, someone has to make the advanced weapons Ukraine needs. As a result, the very thing that could save us from a Russian victory and the threat this poses for the entire democratic world could be the lobbying of the US military-industrial complex. Sometimes politics is even stranger than usual.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Trump's America gaining ground

The Republicans will emerge victorious from the midterm elections, Večernji list is sure:

“The congressional elections take place in the middle of the presidential mandate, and are also a way to punish the current occupant of the White House and his party. So these elections are also a vote on Biden. ... Whereas liberal America triumphed in the elections two years ago and sent a president with one of the most liberal programmes in modern history to the White House, we must expect the conservative, fundamentalist and nationalist America - in other words, Trump's America - to triumph in this year's midterms.”

Yeni Şafak (TR) /

Aid for Ukraine could be cut

A Republican election victory could have a considerable impact on US foreign policy, Yeni Şafak points out:

“Trumpist Republicans argue that US military and economic support for Ukraine should be limited. In their view Ukraine has nothing to do with US national security interests. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has pointed to the fact that US national debt has reached 31 trillion and hinted that aid to Ukraine could be cut if Republicans win a majority in the midterm elections.”

Diena (LV) /

Bartering to be expected

Diena counters:

“Both sides will renegotiate Ukraine and other foreign policy issues. Put simply, the Republicans will offer to support the Biden administration's foreign policy initiatives in exchange for the implementation of their own domestic policy objectives. There are also several other strong reasons to believe that the US course in foreign policy will essentially remain unchanged after January next year, when the new Congress takes office. Whether it will remain so after January 2025, however, depends on the outcome of the next elections, especially for the US president.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Threat of further radicalisation

The Wiener Zeitung voices concern about the polarisation in the US:

“The tragedy is that the Democrats are stubbornly failing to forge a broad alliance of moderate, sensible people which could overcome the distortions of the electoral system and the frequent partisan gerrymandering. ... If the forecasts are correct and the Democrats suffer losses, the extremist Republican fringes will feel emboldened in their strategy. The radicalisation of American domestic politics will then accelerate. Violent extremists will see this as an invitation to pursue their goals with their own means.”