US elections: When will EU congratulate the winner?
Friday, 06 November 2020
With the counting of all votes in the remaining key states ready any day, with small margins between the two candidates, the EU faces a dilemma. Will it congratulate the first candidate passing the threshold of 270 electoral votes or await the decision of the supreme court in the US in case Trump loses the count and appeals to the court?
On Thursday, Trump had already lost the popular vote by about 3,5 million votes and, if it had been another democracy, he would have been defeated and forced to resign. But in the US, as everyone knows by now, the president is not elected by direct vote but indirectly by the Electoral College which represents the states.
The Electoral College is not an innocent relic of the American past. It was the price the new-born republic paid back in 1787 to the former British colonies in the south whose economy was based on slave work. Equal voting rights for all, white and black, men and women, was a too radical solution for the American revolutionaries.
Since then, the US is stuck with an outdated system where gerrymandering by manipulation of district boundaries is common and voters are disenfranchised of their voting rights. Voter turnout is historically low. The US is also one of the few democracies in the world where prisoners and even ex-prisoners lose their right to vote. And it is a country where the winner takes it all.
Trump prepared the ground for a legal offensive already during the election campaign. He demonised mail-in voting and refused to approve extra funding for the American post service to deal effectively with the expected increase in postal votes during a pandemic.
He has made it clear that he intends to appeal to the supreme court, where a conservative majority might support him, in case he loses the counting. He will repeat his baseless claims about irregularities in the postal voting and argue that postal votes should not be counted after the election date even if they were posted in good time.
How will the EU react? At previous press conferences, the chief spokesperson of the European Commission has stated that it is not for the Commission to comment on the on-going electoral process in the US and he has expressed trust in the American system.
The EU is waiting for the announcement of the official election results and will comment at “the appropriate moment”. That moment may arrive sooner than later judging by today’s development in the counting of votes in the remaining key states.