Trump’s post-election strategy put him in the Unsavory company

MOSCOW – Strong Ruler of Jab Belarus announces a landslide victory In an election in August, and was sworn in for a sixth term as president himself, the United States and other Western countries said that what he said was a violation of the will of the electorate.

President Hangzhou G. Lukashenko’s victory, said by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month, was “fraud.” Mr Pompeo said: “We have opposed the fact that he is now inaugurating himself. We know what the people of Belarus want. They want to do something different.”

Just over a month ago, Mr. Pompeo’s boss, President Trump, is being borrowed from Mr. Lukashenko’s playbook, joining a club of truculent leaders who, whatever the electorate, decides to call themselves for elections. The winners declare.

The club counts far more dictators, oppressors and powerful as its members than those leaders known as the “free world” – which Washington-led countries have held for decades to conduct elections and Lectured others on the need to respect the result. .

Parallel is not ok. Mr. Trump participated in a free and fair democratic election. Most voters shun voters before they vote, leaving actual rivals from voters and swallowing the airwaves with one-sided coverage.

But when they actually hold competitive votes and the result goes against them, they often ignore the result, characterizing it as the work of traitors, criminals and foreign saboteurs, and therefore invalid. By refusing to accept the results of last week’s elections and working to hand over the vote, Mr. Trump is following a similar strategy.

There are very few signs that Mr. Trump can remove the laws and institutions that ensure that the American electorate decides on this day. The country has an independent press, a strong and independent judiciary, an honest count of election officer votes and a strong political opposition, none of which exist in Belarus or Russia.

Nevertheless, the United States had never before been forced to accept a fair defeat in elections. And only by increasing the possibility that he would have to be out of office, Mr. Trump has broken the democratic tradition, the cornerstone of a seamless transition.

The damage already caused by Mr. Trump’s loyalty may be permanent. Ivan Krastev, an expert on East and Central Europe at the Institute of Anthropology in Vienna, said Mr Trump’s refusal to “create a new model for like-minded people in Europe and elsewhere”.

“The lesson when Trump won in 2016 was that they could trust democracy,” he said. “Now, they will not trust democracy, and will do everything and anything to stay in power.” He called the “Lukashenko scenario”, in which leaders still want to hold elections, but “will never lose.” Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has been doing this for two decades.

Among the anti-democratic tactics that Mr. Trump has adopted are some that were commonly employed by leaders such as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic – refusal to give up and unfounded allegations of electoral fraud. To hurt This strategy includes undermining democratic institutions and courts, attacking the press and attacking opponents.

Like Mr. Trump, those leaders feared that he would be prosecuted after he quit his position by giving up. Mr. Trump does not have to worry about war crimes and genocide charges, as was Mr. Milosevich, but he does not cope Confusion of legal problems.

As a frequent critic of President Barack Obama and Mr. Trump, US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFall described the president’s “refusal to accept the results of the election” as “his gift to the autocrats around the world”.

The initial draft of the playbook was written in 1946, used by leaders facing defeat by the communist organization Socialist Unity Party in the then Soviet-controlled eastern lands of Germany. Trend in the first German election after World War II, the party, known as SED, welcomed its defeat in its newspaper with a bold headline – “Great Victory for SED!” – and ruled East Germany for the next 45 years.

It never risked a competitive election again.

When Matias Rakosi, leader of Moscow in Hungary, [AftergoingtotheelectionoftheCommunistPartyin1945hesaid”asalashwithoutawordofshame”[1945मेंकम्युनिस्टपार्टीकेचुनावहारजानेकेबादउन्होंने”एकलाशकेरूपमेंपीलाअपनीकुर्सीपरगिरादियाएकशब्दकहेबिना” A party officer who was present and later described what happened to Hungarian historians. Within a year most of his adversaries were killed, jailed or strangled by silence – and he was running the country.

Nobody expects Mr. Trump to follow that horrific example. But insisting he won a vote that led to the results Show he clearly lost, He has increasingly broken with norms of countries that see themselves as mature democracies.

“Trump’s behavior is without precedent among leaders in Western democracies,” said Cervi Plowkhi, a Harvard historian who has studied former communist states such as Ukraine. “Even in military dictatorships, dictators retire more often than not to respect the results of elections and if they lose them.”

The United States has fallen out with such a bad company that has caused panic not only to Mr. Trump’s political enemies, but also to citizens of countries that have long been accustomed to leaders who are busy welcoming him.

Kenya’s cartoonist and political commentator Patrick Gathara has exposed the United States as “drinking alcohol and promoting water”, after “preaching democracy to all” for decades.

In November 2010, Ivory Coast President Laurent Gagbo refused to accept his losses in an election, stoking protests with live ammunition, killing dozens and dragging the country into a brief civil war In which more than 3,000 people died.

Like Mr. Trump, he used government machinery independently To challenge the election result, insisted that he was not defeated. The crisis spread over about five months and brought Ivory Coast to its knees financially.

With French military support, the president-elect, Alsene Autara, eventually took power as Mr. Gagbo – whose campaign slogan was “We win or we win” – was ejected from his bunker in the capital, Abidjan.

This year, Mr. Outara changed the constitution and allowed him to run for a third term, and Announced last week that he won in a landslide.

However, sometimes even experienced dictators give up, especially if they can engineer a succession that promises to guarantee their personal and financial security.

General Augusto Pinochet, who gained power in a military coup in Chile in 1973, conceded defeat in the 1988 constitutional referendum, which allowed him to continue in office in 1990, and after winning an presidential election to an opponent from the presidency. Freed.

But he remained a commander and became a senator-for-life immune from prosecution. (Nevertheless, he was arrested in Britain in 1998 following a request for extradition by a Spanish judge while the President investigated his alleged crimes.)

A 2018 study based on worldwide elections since 1950 found that only 12 percent of dictators who submit to elections and lose in elections peacefully leave office. But military dictators, the study found, are generally more willing to accept defeat because they can return to the barracks and avoid being arrested or killed.

“It is rare for dictators to step down, but when they do, because like Pinoshe, they have a possible option, such as reorganizing the military, which allows them to avoid accountability for human rights abuses , ” Study, by One Earth Future, A research group said.

Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept the election result has resonated with special forces in Latin America.

Mr. Trump used almost every tool in his foreign policy arsenal against Venezuelan President Mr. Maduro, who, despite his deep unpopularity and a catastrophic economic crisis, defrauded the May 2018 election.

The vote was described as neither free nor fair by most Western and Latin American nations, and immediately brought fresh American sanctions. Mr. Maduro, to punish Mr. Trump Banned transactions in Venezuelan bonds, and crippled restrictions on Venezuelan oil.

And in January 2019, Mr. Trump recognized Venezuela’s main opposition leader and Congress President Juan Guedo as the country’s legitimate leader, another major blow to Mr. Maduro. Dozens of European and Latin American allies from the US followed suit within days.

Mr. Trump condemned Mr. Maduro’s “beginning of power” and said that all options, including military intervention, were to remove Mr. Maduro from office and to place Mr. Guado on the presidency.

In September, the Trump administration imposed additional restrictions under the name “Maduro Regime” Attempt to corrupt democratic Elections in Venezuela. “

Now, Mr. Trump is also refusing to accept the election results.

Temir Porus, a former Venezuelan minister since Mr. Maduro left the party, said Mr. Trump refused to recognize the American vote as a “delegation”, a role that America’s role as an international arbitrator of democracy is.

“The argument of ‘moral superiority’ that America had,” he said, “is without doubt influenced by Trump’s behavior.”

Geoff Ramsey, director of Venezuela at the Washington office of Latin America, a Washington-based research group, said: “How would the US government hope for a free and fair election in Venezuela when the results of our own president do not recognize a clean electoral process in our country?” ? It is a promotional gift to Maduro and every other autocrat around the world, and I guarantee they are loving every minute of it. “

Mr. Maduro certainly does not miss the opportunity to despair. “Donald Trump, here we do not lose elections because we are the truth,” Mr. Maduro said in a national address on Tuesday.

Reporting was contributed by Adam Nossiter from Paris; Julie Turkwitz from Bogota, Colombia; Anatoly Kurmanv from Caracas, Venezuela; Abdi Latif Dahir from Nairobi, Kenya; And Monica Mark from Johannesburg.

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