Threat of contested vote has US allies on edge

London/Berlin, November 3

As Americans head to the polls, Prime Ministers and Presidents around the world face a delicate question — when to congratulate the eventual winner, especially given the risk the election result will be contested.

On the one hand, there’s a chance the popular vote will go one way and the Electoral College — which actually determines the winner — the other. Also, President Donald Trump has repeatedly alleged mail-in ballots are subject to fraud, suggested he may not accept the result and said the Supreme Court may have to decide the winner.

Kamala Harris during poll rallies.

Prayers for Harris in ancestral village

Chennai: Supporters of Kamala Harris held prayers near her ancestral village in India ahead of US election. Hours ahead of the election, people living in and around Thulasendrapuram, the village of Harris’ grandfather, gathered at a temple for special prayers. Reuters

“You want to be prompt and clear in sending congratulations, particularly to such an important ally,” said a foreign policy adviser to a northern European leader.

“But it’s risky this time. You don’t want to get it wrong, or move too soon. We may be sitting on our hands for a while after election day.”

2.5 mn Indian-American voters

There is an estimated four million Indian-American population of which about 2.5 million are potential voters. Over 1.3 million Indian-Americans are voters in key battleground states, including Texas, Michigan, Florida and Pennsylvania.

Foreign policy advisers recall the US election in 2000, when a host of leaders, including the Presidents of Germany and France, the Prime Minister of New Zealand and ruling parties in South Africa, South Korea and Japan, sent congratulations to George W Bush after US TV networks had declared him winner. It would be another five weeks before the Supreme Court ruled in his favour, finally handing him victory over Al Gore. In the meantime, some leaders withdrew their congratulations.

Others just kept quiet.

What opinion polls say

  • The latest opinion polls show the race is close enough in the battleground states to swing the outcome to either party, even as Biden leads Trump in national polls
  • Some states do not begin to count early votes until after polling stations close. Others allow ballots to be included as long as they are postmarked by November 3

The 2016 contest between Trump and Hillary Clinton produced a similarly tight finish, with Clinton winning the popular vote but Trump securing the backing of the Electoral College.

This year, Jean-Claude Juncker, former president of the European Commission, said it was critical not to send congratulations too soon.

“Caution is the mother of the transatlantic porcelain box,” he said in an interview with Germany’s ARD-TV, using a German figure of speech to convey how carefully the European Union’s relationship with the United States needs handling. — Reuters

‘Won’t let you down’

In 2008 and 2012, you placed your trust in me to help lead this country alongside Barack Obama. Today, I’m asking for your trust once again — this time, in Kamala and me. We won’t let you down. — Joe Biden

Nobody’s ever had such large crowd before. And so, I think that translates into a lot of votes and we’re going to see it very soon. We’re getting good response. — Donald Trump

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