I know my friend Jarau Moses will not agree with me but rejecting defeat, claiming fraud and using an entire government machine to change election results are "tools" appreciated by dictators, "the New York Times writes in an analysis, quoted by Rador. When the strong-handed leader of Belarus proclaimed an implausible victory in the August elections and took the oath for a sixth term as president, the United States and other Western nations denounced what they said was a gross failure. respect for the will of the voters.
Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko was a 'cheater', after which he added: “We refused to acknowledge that he has now installed himself in office. We know what the Belarusian people want. He wants something else. "
Just a month later, Pompeo's boss, President Trump, is now borrowing Lukashenko's 'manual', joining the club of grumpy leaders who, no matter what the voters want, self-declare themselves winners of elections.
This club matters, and it comprises far more dictators, tyrants, and potentates than leaders of countries that are part of a so-called 'free world', countries that, led by Washington, have taught others for decades. , explaining that they must hold elections and respect the results.
The parallel is not exactly accurate. Trump ran in some free and democratic elections. Most of the dictators go beyond the will of the voters even before they vote, eliminating their real opponents from the elections and spreading waves of biased information.But even when they organize a real vote, and the result turns out to be against them, they often ignore it, denouncing it as the work of traitors, criminals and saboteurs from abroad and that, consequently, the vote cannot be validated. Refusing to accept the result of last week's election and making efforts to cancel the vote, Trump is thus following a similar strategy.
Trump is unlikely to get past the laws and institutions that care that the verdict of American voters prevail. The country has a free press, an independent judiciary, electoral officials determined to ensure a fair counting of votes and strong political opposition, but none of this exists in Belarus or Russia.
And yet, the United States has never had to force a candidate to accept an honest defeat in an election. Or, almost risking the possibility of him being forced to leave office, Trump broke the democratic tradition, deeply cemented so far, of a smooth transition.
The damage caused by this stubbornness of Trump may be lasting. Ivan Karstev, an expert on Central and Eastern Europe at the Institute of Humanities in Vienna, says Trump's refusal to acknowledge his defeat could 'create a model' for similar populists in Europe or elsewhere in the world.
"When Trump won the election in 2016, the lesson told them they could trust democracy," he said. "Now, they will no longer believe in democracy and will do anything to stay in power." He also says that, according to a so-called 'Lukashenko scenario', they will still want to hold elections, but 'they will never lose'. Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has been doing this for two decades.
Trump's anti-democratic tactics include those commonly used by leaders such as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro and Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic, who refuse to accept defeat and launch unfounded allegations of election fraud. These tactics also include undermining trust in democratic institutions and courts, attacks on the press and denigrating opponents.
Like Trump, the leaders feared that once they left office, defeat would expose them to accusations. Trump has nothing to fear from being accused of war crimes and genocide, as happened to Milosevic, but he faces a number of legal issues.
Michael McFaul, the US ambassador to Russia during the time of President Barack Obama and also a frequent critic of Trump, described "the president's refusal to accept the election result" as "a parting gift made to dictators around the world."
An older edition of the 'handbook' used by leaders who never acknowledge defeat was 'written' in 1946 by the Socialist Party of Unity, a communist body in communist-controlled eastern German regions. Defeated in the first elections held in Germany after the Second World War, this party, known under the initials SED, greeted its defeat with a newspaper article with a towering headline - "Great victory of SED!", After which ruled East Germany for the next 45 years.
He has never risked truly competitive elections again.
When Matyas Rakosi, a Moscow-led leader in Hungary, saw the Communist Party lose the 1945 election, he became "pale as a corpse and collapsed in his chair without saying a word," according to an official present. on the spot and who later told Hungarian historians what had happened. Within a year, most of his opponents were dead, in prison or silenced by fear, and he ruled the country.
No one expects Trump to follow this terrifying example. But, claiming that he won a vote whose results clearly show that he lost, he has strayed far from the rules of countries that consider themselves mature democracies.
"Trump's behavior is unprecedented among Western democracy leaders," said Serhii Plokhy, a Harvard historian who has studied former communist states such as Ukraine. "Even in the case of military dictatorships, most of the time, leaders, rather than respect the election results, prefer to withdraw if they have lost them."
Trump's refusal to accept the election result had an echo whose reverberations were felt especially in Latin America.
Trump has resorted to almost any leverage at the disposal of foreign policy against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who, despite his great lack of popularity and a catastrophic economic crisis, has fraudulently declared victory in the May 2018 elections.
The vote was contested by most Western and Latin American states, all claiming that the elections were neither free nor fair, immediately attracting new US sanctions. To punish Maduro, Trump banned Venezuelan bond transactions and imposed drastic sanctions on Venezuelan oil. And in January 2019, Trump recognized Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido, who was also president of the Venezuelan Congress, as the country's legitimate leader, and that meant another blow to Maduro. A few days later, dozens of European and Latin American allies of the United States followed suit.Trump criticized Maduro, calling him a 'usurper of power' and said that in order to remove Maduro from office and install Guaido as president, all options are available, including military intervention.
As early as September, the Trump administration imposed new sanctions on what it believed were "Maduro regime attempts to undermine Venezuela's democratic elections."Now, Trump also refuses to accept the election result.
Temir Porras, a former Venezuelan government minister who has since left Maduro's party, says Trump's refusal to recognize the US vote 'cancels' America's role as an international arbiter of democracy.
"Undoubtedly, that 'moral superiority' that the United States had is now affected by Trump's behavior," he said.
Geoff Ramsey, the Venezuelan director of the Washington Office on Latin America, a Washington-based group of researchers, said: clean from our own country? It is a propaganda gift for Maduro and for any other dictator in the world, and I guarantee you that he enjoys all this at every moment ”.
Of course, Maduro did not miss the opportunity to rejoice. "Donald Trump, here we do not lose the election because we represent the truth," Maduro said valiantly in his national speech on Tuesday.