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Donald Trump takes leaf out of autocrat playbook by falsely declaring victory earlier than all votes counted

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Within the months main as much as US election day, it was predicted that Donald Trump wouldn’t settle for the outcomes if he misplaced, would solid doubt over the legitimacy of mail-in voting and would attempt to declare a victory earlier than all votes had been counted. Up to now, he has executed two of three.

These predictions had been made simpler by taking Trump’s phrases at face worth. Trump had falsely claimed that mail-in ballots could be purposely despatched to Democrats and never Republicans. He additionally spent months delegitimising the vote-by-mail course of, even attempting to defund the US Postal Service in efforts to derail Democrats, who had been extra prone to vote by mail.

In a press convention from the White Home early within the morning on November 4, Trump stated he would go to the Supreme Court docket to cease votes being counted. Equally regarding was his early, false declaration of victory, and his incorrect declare to have gained in states that had not been referred to as but, similar to Georgia and Pennsylvania.

The early declaration

Whereas Trump’s manoeuvres are a uncommon prevalence in a liberal democracy, calling elections early is a trademark of non-democratic regimes – and significantly presidential ones. As my very own analysis, one of many notable tendencies in authoritarian regimes is that they’ve adopted democratic establishments to be able to lengthen their energy whereas paying lip service to worldwide and home demand for “democracy”.

Worldwide observers have made it tougher for autocrats to interact in outright fraud because the chilly battle ended. This has meant that autocrats have had to determine methods wherein to win elections with out stealing them in apparent methods, or participating in electoral malpractice quite than electoral fraud. Along with the standard methods of bodily harming the opposition, controlling media narratives and stacking electoral commissions with lackeys, authoritarian leaders are additionally fast to declare victory in shut elections.

Within the case of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was fast to declare himself the winner of the 2018 June presidential election, even earlier than all of the votes had been counted or the outcomes ratified by the electoral fee. Erdoğan represents probably the most evident circumstances of govt aggrandisement and democratic backsliding, because the nation has seen its civil liberties threatened and the judiciary politicised.

Supporters of Turkey’s president Recip Tayyip Erdoğan on election day in 2018.
Srdjan Suki/EPA

In 2013, when there was not a full consensus that Venezuela was firmly authoritarian, the political inheritor to Hugo Chávez, Nicolas Maduro, narrowly gained the presidential election by lower than two share factors. Maduro was fast to declare victory, leaving the opposition crying foul and demanding a recount. In 2018, Maduro “gained” by a a lot bigger margin, however once more the opposition referred to as into query the validity of the outcomes.

One other instance is Côte d’Ivoire, at the moment in the course of a turbulent election cycle. An opposition boycott of the race led to victory for the president, Alassane Ouattara, with 94% of the vote in response to provisional outcomes introduced on November 3.




Learn extra:
Côte d’Ivoire’s turbulent previous stays entrance and centre in presidential ballot


In 2013, it was former Ivorian president, Laurent Gbagbo, who controversially declared an early victory with 51% of the votes – regardless of earlier outcomes pointing to a 54% share for Ouattara, then the opposition challenger. The discrepancy was as a result of Gbagbo-backed Constitutional Council annulling the ends in opposition strongholds. Violence ensued and ultimately, Gbagbo paid a worth for this and was placed on trial on the Worldwide Prison Court docket – although later acquitted.

Mastering electoral manipulation

There have additionally been many circumstances of early electoral victories declared in Russia and different nations of the previous Soviet Union. It is a area that has mastered electoral manipulation and the creation of false narratives concerning the degree of help of presidential incumbents. In Belarus, for instance, Alexander Lukashenko has tended to declare victory by a big margin, however in 2020 protests erupted in August disputing the validity of the consequence.

Incumbents elsewhere have additionally refused to simply accept electoral outcomes. Within the case of the Gambia, long-time chief Yahya Jammeh wouldn’t concede after he narrowly misplaced the presidential election in December 2016 to Adama Barrow, citing “abnormalities”. Jammeh then appealed to the nation’s supreme courtroom for the outcomes to be annulled and despatched in armed troopers to take management of the electoral fee. Jammeh solely surrendered after Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana deployed troops.

Some observers of American politics are bracing themselves for unrest within the aftermath of the 2020 election. With Trump given an early spectacular lead in some key swing states because of in-person voting being counted first, the election could also be disputed regardless of who the winner is.

A part of the issue is Trump’s refusal to help the counting of all of the votes, one thing that’s antithetical to democracy. As presidential elections are sometimes emotional, high-stakes affairs, delegitimising the counting course of places the US vulnerable to higher instability within the subsequent few weeks, and deeper questions concerning the energy of its democracy within the face of a pacesetter who brazenly challenges democratic norms and processes.

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