The two rivals wrangling for leadership of the world’s largest economy and its most powerful military have presented deeply contrasting visions for the United States’ role internationally. Trump has charted a more unilateral approach that has eschewed traditional alliances and international agreements, while Biden has promised a return to America’s more traditional international role — something many of its foes and rivals would not welcome.
Worries over U.S. democracy in Europe
European media outlets, which have covered the election closely, led their websites with headlines suggesting the United States was on the brink of collapse.
“America looks into the abyss with close scrutiny and Trump’s threat to go to the Supreme Court,” read one headline in Spain’s El País newspaper. “Trump wants to go to the Supreme Court, but offers no meaningful grounds,” wrote the German Spiegel newsweekly. “The troubling spectacle wouldn’t be as worrying if at the heart of the pushed-to-the-extreme tension weren’t, simply, democracy,” offered one opinion piece in France’s Le Monde.
Shortly after the president wrongly declared himself the winner and demanded the vote count end with millions of votes still to be tabulated, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer warned of the possibility of constitutional crisis for the United States.
“This is a very explosive situation,” she said on German television channel ZDF. “This is a situation that can lead to a constitutional crisis in the U.S., as experts are rightly saying. And it is something that must cause us great concern.”
Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland, said that the hours and days ahead were crucial “for the integrity of U.S. democracy.”
“The ‘good luck, America’ sentiment of last night seems even more apposite this morning,” she wrote on Twitter.
Finland’s former prime minister Alexander Stubb called the election “a stresstest” for American democracy. “I still want to believe in resilience of its democratic institutions, but am worried about the speech that we just heard from @realDonaldTrump,” he said.
Australia’s shadow foreign minister, Penny Wong, called for democracy to take its course and for all votes to be counted. “It’s in Australia’s interest that America remains a credible, stable democracy,” she tweeted. Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull simply said, “Count every vote.”
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, however, batted away questions about whether Trump’s statements were a threat to the country’s democracy. “We are totally confident that the American system has the checks and balances to give us a definitive result, so we’ll wait and see,” he told BBC.
Trump does have his supporters in Europe, including the leaders of Slovenia and Hungary, who have expressed hopes for his reelection. “It’s pretty clear that American people have elected @realDonaldTrump @Mike_Pence for #4moreyears,” tweeted Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa.
Anyone watching Russian state television would believe Trump had won and it projected several states as victories for Trump, even those still considered toss-ups. One anchor on the Rossiya-24 channel, explained that while Biden may appear ahead now “but has practically no chance.”
Markets uncertain as investors wait for clarity
Stock markets seesawed on Wednesday as uncertainty mounted over the outcome U.S. election, and the chance of a contested outcome rose.
Shares had started the week strongly as investors bet that a decisive win by Biden and the Democrats could pave the way for another economic stimulus package. But U.S. S&P 500 index futures dipped sharply after President Trump prematurely claimed victory in the election and threatened to take the contest to the Supreme Court.
That raised the specter of prolonged uncertainty over the election result. The dip, however, was relatively short-lived, as markets steadied once again.
S&P mini futures were trading nearly 0.5 percent higher in overnight trade, recovering after their brief decline. In Europe, London’s FTSE-100 index was little changed after a weak opening, while Germany’s DAX was down by more than 0.8 percent. Investor sentiment switched between fear of a contested win, and the idea that a win for Trump would ultimately benefit the markets.
Bob Shea, Chief Executive Officer at TrimTabs Asset Management in New York, told Reuters that people were defaulting towards the view that “‘Trump is good for the market’, so why not just buy now and cut to the chase.”
Asian markets were also volatile on Wednesday, with investors having expected a Biden victory based on earlier polls. The uncertainty sent traders toward safe havens of bonds and the U.S. dollar.
Mocking the elections
Trump’s claims of election fraud and his insistence that “we did win this election,” even as vote counting continued, came as U.S. adversaries in China and Russia sneered at the state of American democracy.
Russian State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said the election proved that American democracy was not a a standard to be followed, adding that “Nobody here would approve of such an approach.”
Chinese state-run tabloid Global Times quipped that the election looked like one in a developing nation. Ming Jinwei, deputy foreign editor of the state-run Xinhua News Agency, described the United States as “without hope.”
“It is clear that the United States has problems with national competitiveness and social governance capacity, and that it needs serious and profound internal reforms,” said a Global Times editorial, applying Chinese Communist Party lingo in its description of the United States.
Interest, nevertheless, remained high in China over the election outcome and by mid-morning Wednesday, #USelection had been viewed 3.4 billion times on Chinese social media platform Weibo. Although some analysts had predicted that a Biden win could usher in a diplomatic respite, there was also a sense of gloom over the future of U.S.-Chinese relations.
In Hong Kong, however, the pro-democracy crowd was firmly behind another term for Trump. Even as the inconclusive early results flowed in, many of the activists who see Trump as their savior in their fight against Beijing were cheering on the president.
A group of Trump supporters in Hong Kong filmed a YouTube video in support of his campaign, saying Trump was the only one who could fight the Chinese Communist Party. A local YouTuber, who goes by the name Stormtrooper, told his 15,000 viewers that Biden and Sen. Kamala D. Harris would be more inclined to help the Chinese government than Trump.
After Trump’s declaration that he had won the election, without evidence, Stormtrooper said he felt “more calm” and was “pretty certain” that Trump would win, parroting the president’s own falsehoods.
The president’s news conference, he said, was “very good, as Trump seems confident and unafraid of going into court.”
Trump supporters in India, Nigeria
In India, where Trump found a friend in the Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, right-wing leaning, pro-government groups are hoping for a second term — despite Harris’s Indian roots.
One Indian fringe group, the Hindu Army, even hosted a prayer ceremony to boost Trump’s chances as the polls opened. “Donald Trump is the savior of humanity,” said Vishnu Gupta, the president of the controversial outfit that has often had run-ins with the law.
As U.S. voters went to the polls on Tuesday, Trump took a moment to thank supporters in Nigeria. “A parade for me in Nigeria, a great honor!” he wrote on Twitter, reposting a video of people the country marching in the street.
One of the countries most affected by the Trump presidency has been Iran, after the United States pulled out of the nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions on the country.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday, however, reiterated the country’s stance that it was not important who won the U.S. election but rather that the United States respect international treaties.
His foreign minister, Javad Zarif, had earlier said that Biden’s comments on the relations had seemed more promising.
Trump has said he wants to negotiate a new treaty with Iran that would curtail its nuclear program and its ballistic missile program, something which Tehran has categorically rejected.
Dou reported from Seoul. Shibani Mahtani and Theodora Yu in Hong Kong; Isabelle Khurshudyan in Moscow; Niha Masih and Taniya Dutt in New Delhi; Michael Birnbaum in Riga, Latvia; Paul Schemm in Dubai; Lyric Li and Liu Yang in Beijing and Simon Denyer in Tokyo contributed to this report.