'What a spectacle!': US adversaries revel in post-election chaos

From Iran to Venezuela to Russia, once-chided national leaders enjoy the sight of US democracy in action

Rivals and enemies of the US have come together to revel in the messiest US election in a generation, mocking the delay in vote processing and Donald Trump’s claims of electoral fraud in barely veiled criticisms of Washington’s political activism abroad.

“What a spectacle!” crowed Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “One says this is the most fraudulent election in US history. Who says that? The president who is currently in office.”

With a large dose of schadenfreude, Washington’s fiercest critics declared deep concern about the US elections and the state of the country’s democracy.

Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman on Thursday panned the “obvious shortcomings of the American electoral system”, calling the framework “archaic”.

“It’s a show, you can’t call it anything but that,” Vyacheslav Volodin, the chairman of Russia’s Duma, said earlier this week. “They say it should be seen as a standard for democracy. I don’t think it’s the standard.”

In China, state media savaged the delayed results, with one daily writing that the process looked a “bit like a developing country”.

Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, could not resist baiting the US over what he called its “surprising electoral process”, and seemed so amused that at one point he broke into song with a rendition of the theme tune to the Miss Venezuela beauty pageant: “On a night as beautiful as this, either of them could win,” he crooned, before adding with a chuckle: “The United States. I don’t stick my nose in.” In two recent local elections, he noted, all the votes had been counted by 11pm.

As a parliamentary campaign kicked off in Venezuela this week, Maduro claimed there were important lessons the US could learn from its elections rather than lecturing the world about democracy. Venezuela was a showcase of “civilised and peaceful” voting using “proven and transparent technology” and biometric voting machines that provided same day results, he said.

Trump has spent the last two years unsuccessfully trying to topple the Venezuelan president and in a Wednesday night broadcast Maduro delighted in the electoral confusion gripping his northern neighbour.

“The state department puts out statements that say: ‘In this country we don’t recognise the election. In that country we don’t like the election. In the other country we don’t like this or that,’” Maduro said, adding that the US would be better off focusing on its own problems.

“Who’s the banana republic now?” wondered the frontpage headline of Colombia’s Publimetro, one of many Latin American newspapers whose editors thought the term – a US-originated slur that was inspired by Honduras and has haunted Latin America for decades – perfectly captured the electoral turmoil playing out in the US.

Merval Pereira, one of Brazil’s most prominent political commentators, called his daily column “Bananas americanas” and wrote: “This is a singular event in US democratic history which puts the country in the list of banana republics, an expression created by the Americans themselves.”

As Trump demanded states stop counting mail-in ballots, the US embassy in Abidjan issued a poorly timed statement urging Côte d’Ivoire’s leaders to “show commitment to the democratic process and the rule of law”. “We also need a Côte d’Ivoire statement on US elections,” quipped one BBC editor on Twitter.

For many, it was a chance to give the US a taste of its own medicine. “Neither free nor fair,” wrote Margarita Simonyan, the head of Russian state-backed RT, parroting the language of a UN or Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) statement.

And the OSCE itself did weigh in, with mission leader Michael Georg Link attacking Trump for making “baseless allegations of systematic deficiencies” and “[harming] public trust in democratic institutions”.

The irony was not lost on many at home. A cartoon by the Russian critic Sergei Elkin made the rounds on Thursday, featuring an elderly babushka lugging buckets of water past a man in a rundown village somewhere in Russia. “They still haven’t finished counting in Pennsylvania and in Michigan,” the man says. A stray dog walks along an unpaved street behind him.


Andrew Roth in Moscow and Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro

The GuardianTramp

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