18th Jan 2022

Biden on edge of victory, as EU fears post-election 'chaos'

  • Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden to win, if he takes Nevada on Thursday (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

The pro-European candidate, Joe Biden, is on the cusp of victory in US elections, with Germany leading attacks on president Donald Trump's "awful" claims of fraud.

Biden moved to needing just six more Electoral College votes to win after taking the swing state of Michigan, in a result called shorty before midnight Brussels-time on Wednesday (4 November).

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  • US president Donald Trump was "nightmare" for Europe, one MEP said (Photo: whitehouse.gov)

Biden also had a slim lead in Nevada (worth the six votes he needs), but state authorities said they would not announce their final result until Thursday.

Meanwhile, even if Biden ended up losing Nevada, Trump would still need to win Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania to pip him to the post.

The anti-European incumbent was ahead in all three states on Wednesday night, but only by a hair's breadth, with lots of votes still to be counted, especially in Pennsylvania.

For his part, Biden voiced cautious optimism after the Michigan news came in.

But Trump reacted with a tirade of tweets, in which he "claimed" to have won Michigan, as well as Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, in comments flagged as being untrue by Twitter.

He also alleged "major fraud" and called on those states where he was still ahead to stop counting postal votes.

And his camp launched legal challenges to force recounts in swing states he had lost.

His words prompted rebukes by leading figures in his own Republican Party.

They were "some of the most irresponsible comments that a president of the United States has ever made," the party's John Bolton said, referring to fears that pro-Trump fanatics could cause unrest or violence.

"Baseless allegations of systematic deficiencies ... harm public trust in democratic institutions," international monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe also said.

'Explosive situation'

Several EU politicians, especially in Germany, voiced similar feeling.

"It is important that all politicians ... establish trust in the election process," German foreign minister Heiko Maas said.

"This is a very explosive situation, a situation which ... could lead to a constitutional crisis in the United States," German defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer added.

Trump's actions were "really unbelievable" and his "awful behaviour" caused "great sadness" for Norbert Röttgen, a prominent German MP.

"A candidate ... who calls for postal votes not to be counted, is acting anti-democratically," Saskia Esken, another German MP, also said.

Trump's behaviour "undermines US democracy", Iratxe García, a centre-left Spanish MEP, noted.

And it risked causing "chaos", Guy Verhofstadt, a Belgian liberal MEP said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the populist Slovenian prime minister, Janez Janša, had stuck his neck out by congratulating Trump on having won.

But that earned him thinly-veiled censure by the European Commission, whose spokesman said: "We'll abide by whatever announcement is forthcoming officially by the relevant US authorities, and we think everybody should do likewise".

Summing up Trump's past four years in power, which saw him attack Nato, start trade wars, and rip up international accords on climate change and nuclear non-proliferation, Udo Bullman, a German MEP, said: "We hope ... that the nightmare [of] Trump will finally come to an end".

Some far-right EU politicians felt differently.

"A leader [Trump] who pleads for the return of the nation, of patriotism, of borders, and of sovereignty, in my opinion, is headed in the same direction as history," French far-right figurehead Marine Le Pen said.

New era

But if Bullman represented the voice of the EU mainstream, the political mayhem in America made others less sanguine about the future of transatlantic relations even if Biden defenestrated Trump in the end.

"Whether Joe Biden or Trump is chosen by the Americans does not change this strategic fact … the American continent has detached itself from the European continent and it is time for Europeans to assume their responsibilities," French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said.

"Europe has its own interests to represent - against Trump as well as Biden," German economy minister Peter Altmaier added.

"We prefer to go together with Washington, but if not, we can go it alone," Federica Mogherini, the former EU foreign relations chief, also said.

The times of leaning on US power were "finally over" no matter who won for Martin Selmayr, a former top EU civil servant, who now leads the commission office in Vienna.

And "champagne corks [were] popping in Moscow and Beijing" according to Jörg Wojahn, the head of the commission's office in Berlin, as Russia and China - Europe's main adversaries on the world stage - watched the US convulsed by internal division.

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