US election: hint of schadenfreude as European Union watches democracy at work in Trump’s America

Stuart Lau
·4-min read

European politicians and citizens looked on with shock and mockery as Donald Trump threatened to stop votes in the United States presidential election from being counted.

After years of animosity between Trump’s White House and the European Union, including its biggest economy Germany, there is a sense of concealed excitement among Europeans about possible victory by the Democratic Party challenger, Joe Biden.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was among the highest profile officials from across the Atlantic to intervene – and he spoke out twice, on Thursday and Friday – as the final result remained unknown.

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“What is happening in America does not quite correspond to the democratic culture we know from the United States. It is important that the result is then accepted by everyone,” Maas tweeted on Thursday, before Trump made his remarks that “if you count the legal votes, I easily win”.

Maas added in the tweet: “It’s easy to be a winner, but sometimes it’s hard to be a loser,” in an echo of comments Trump made to his staff on election day.

Maas continued to criticise Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud on Friday morning, and called for calm as the vote count continued in crucial battleground states.

“Anyone who continues to pour oil on the fire in a situation like this is acting irresponsibly,” Maas said in an interview with Germany’s Funke media group, adding that the US was not a “one-man show [and] decent losers are more important for the functioning of a democracy than radiant winners”.

US election result crucial to US-China relations ahead

Maas said he was hopeful that after the election result, “the West plays as a team again”.

He also appealed for America to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, adding: “To have the country with the second-largest emissions on board would be very, very important.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Photo: AFP
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Photo: AFP

The EU’s Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said the bloc respected the US democratic process and would wait.

“It is a discussion, I have no doubt that we will find a compromise,” he told broadcaster France 2.

The British government has so far remained silent on the goings-on in the country with which it boasts a special relationship. Trump has previously lavished praise on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, calling him the British Trump.

China quiet on US election but state media directs attention to chaos

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban dodged an invitation to back Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud as he gave an interview on state radio on Friday. Regardless of who became president, Orban said, the US would not be lecturing others on elections after this one.

Calling Trump “Hungary’s friend”, Orban said he had always supported the American president and that US-Hungary relations had improved in recent years.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors elections throughout Western nations and the former Soviet Union, criticised Trump’s allegations of electoral fraud.

“Baseless allegations of systematic deficiencies, notably by the incumbent president, including on election night, harm public trust in democratic institutions,” director of the mission Michael Georg Link said.

Anthony Gardner, who served as US ambassador to the EU under former US president Barack Obama and is now based in London, sought to reassure his European followers on Twitter.

“If I had to put a positive spin on [this] sad mess in US it would be that perhaps, just maybe, some Americans will learn that our democracy is brittle and needs defending,” he said.

“All the horrible things we read about in school about so-called underdeveloped countries’ disorder can happen in US.”

Across Europe, millions watched the US election and followed it on Twitter. One Twitter user said Europeans knew more about the race for the White House and Senate than they knew the composition of the European Parliament.

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