Posted: Sunday, November 8, 2020. 3:40 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The Associated Press reports some countries now believe the shoe is on the other foot with regard to maintaining democracy in the country that has long tried to export it.
Or as Colombian daily newspaper Publimetro put it, “Who’s the banana republic now?”
In recent days, countries around the world which have been advised by Washington on how to run their elections are watching with bewilderment, shock and awe and in some cases humor at President Donald Trump’s claims of fraud and attempts to “steal” the election, even calling to stop the counting of votes.
It has not been lost on many the irony of President Trump being cut off and publicly corrected by news media over claims of a mishandled electoral system. The country long criticizing “strongman” tactics around the world now faces a potential crisis of its own.
Among those quick to take aim is Venezuelan President, Nicolás Maduro, who openly laughed and sang on state television, referring to his country’s annual beauty contest: “On a night like tonight, any of them could win.”
From Kenya – the cultural home of former president Barack Obama – a commentator tweeted out satirically, drawing freely from clichés that long have described troubled elections on the continent and elsewhere.
But many more are dismayed, as many people in Africa see the U.S. as a bellwether for democracy. After recent troubling votes in Tanzania and the Ivory Coast, one Tanzanian questioned why America’s process appears so fragile when it is so often held up to the rest of the world as a beacon of perfect democracy?
The U.S. has used its diplomatic and occasionally military clout for decades to advocate principles of a pluralistic system and free and fair voting, not always succeeding. Now, the world pays close attention to see if America practices what it preaches.
A South African professor pointed out at an online event in October that America does not even have its own independent electoral commission, uniform voters’ roll and other standards it imposes on African and other nations. “Some African elections are actually better-run,” added Nic Cheeseman, professor and author of a book on democracy in Africa.
Others believe Trump’s behavior is the exception, but that should not absolve national governments of their obligations.
In Mexico, some commentators called on the media to follow the lead of U.S. colleagues in cutting off transmissions when their own country’s president begins spreading falsehoods.
But the wider warning is that such behavior can set a bad precedent in a region where many democracies are fragile or sliding into autocracy. Nonetheless, those polled believe America will emerge bruised but unbowed.
The American system of “50 different ways in 50 different states” may not work for other countries, one observer noted, but at the end of the day, the ritual of the concession speech after a bitterly fought vote signals that the partisan hats come off and the national hat goes on. Many other countries emulate it, but it may take some time for Trump to follow through if indeed he does.
The world wishes for America what Washington wishes in return: a humble, stronger democracy. The Kenyan commentator sums it up: “I really don’t know how it ends… We’re all trying to figure this democratic thing out.”
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