Election 2020

How the World Is Covering Trump’s Premature Victory Lap

The election has been called an “attack on the nerves”—and Trump’s statements have been dubbed an “attempted coup.”

This article is part of Election 2020: America Votes, FP’s round-the-clock coverage of the U.S. election results as they come in, with short dispatches from correspondents and analysts around the world. The America Votes page is free for all readers.

Election night in Tokyo
A staff member stands in front of a monitor displaying the Japanese yen's exchange rate against the U.S. dollar and a TV screen showing a live broadcast of U.S. President Donald Trump speaking during election night in Tokyo on Nov. 4. PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. President Donald Trump, in his campaign event at the White House in the early hours of Wednesday morning, sought to freeze the U.S. election in its tracks, declaring the counting of ballots to be “fraud.” As the ongoing vote count enters its second day, many Americans have their bleary eyes glued to Electoral College maps, where the race is neck and neck, with key battleground states like Pennsylvania not likely to have full returns until Friday. But as it turns out, international readers are also glued to the refresh button. Below, we’ve rounded up some of the morning’s leading headlines from newspapers and magazines around the world.

United Kingdom: Although the Times of London didn’t evaluate Trump’s claims in a headline on Wednesday morning—“Trump claims victory and demands end to vote count”—the paper clarified in the article that the race is “still wide open” in key states. The claims, the Times’ U.S. editor and Washington correspondent reported, amounted to a “baseless allegation.” Meanwhile, the front page of the tabloid Daily Mail, Britain’s highest-circulation paper, juxtaposed Biden’s growing lead in Michigan and Wisconsin with Trump’s unfounded allegations of “surprise ballot dumps.”

Ireland: “Fintan O’Toole: At 2.23am today, the US president launched an attempted coup,” reads the front page of the Irish Times. O’Toole, a columnist at the paper, wrote that “Close to half of Americans voted for him in the full knowledge that he was going to do it.” The irony of this, given incoming election results, is that Trump “behaved like an autocrat even when it was quite possible that he could still win by being a democrat,” O’Toole wrote. Elsewhere in the paper, the Washington correspondent reported that despite Trump’s claims of victory and fraud, the election is “too close to call.”

Germany: The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel prefaced its coverage of Tuesday’s U.S. presidential election—which it called “an attack on the nerves” —with two caveats. First, the contest’s results won’t be clear for a while. Second, and perhaps more jarring for a readership that gives Trump low marks, Spiegel reported that more U.S. voters have already cast their ballots for the Republican nominee than four years ago. The magazine added that this trend follows an overall uptick in voter turnout, conceding that “at least that is good news.” 

By contrast, the Bild tabloid—Germany’s most widely read publication—went the clickbait route, quoting Trump’s unfounded claim that his lead “magically disappeared” and describing the election as a “thriller.” It also pasted a photo of the controversial new Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett to its homepage, with an all-caps title asking, “WILL SHE DECIDE THE ELECTION FOR TRUMP?”

France: “Donald Trump and Joe Biden neck and neck, the United States is tearing itself apart,” read the front page of Le Monde on Wednesday morning. The paper’s correspondent in Washington, favoring straightforward analysis, wrote that the race saw “echoes” of 2016, with the country’s fate resting on a handful of states. The main difference from four years ago, Le Monde reported, is the delay in the vote count. 

Spain: El País, read widely throughout the Spanish-speaking world, declared that the United States is facing an “institutional crisis” on its front page. The paper’s lead election story focuses primarily on Trump’s accusations of fraud and assertions that he won, even though key swing states are still counting votes. “Election night has entered the most-feared scenario,” the early morning Wednesday story begins, quoting Trump at length throughout.

Lebanon: On the morning after the U.S. presidential election, Lebanon’s Daily Star said, “the rest of the world was none the wiser.” The paper referenced Trump’s “pre-emptive declaration of victory” overnight, citing civil rights groups that view the move as “trampling of long-standing democratic norms.” After reviewing international leaders’ mixed reactions to the too-close-to-call election, the Star rehashed Bush v. Gore, referencing Trump’s promises to bring the 2020 election before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Japan: As the presidential contest narrows, the English-language Japan Times notes that the U.S.-Japan relationship hangs in the balance—with the Japanese government yet to comment on the election. In Japan, concerns are rising that the “political crisis” in the United States sends a message of uncertainty to its allies. The results of the election are likely to shape new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s first visit to the United States as Japan’s leader, the paper reports. 

Singapore: “Too close to call, Biden bats away Trump victory claim,” reads the front page of the Straits Times, Singapore’s major English-language daily, which also points to the president’s lack of evidence of any fraud despite his late-night press conference. The paper’s U.S. correspondent notes the potential for online misinformation in the days ahead as Biden calls for patience with counting mail ballots. 

Australia: The Sydney Morning Herald’s North America correspondent called Trump’s premature declaration of victory a “dark, disturbing moment in American history” in a dispatch from Washington, raising concerns about potential unrest and the integrity of U.S. democratic institutions over the next few days. “A nation with widespread gun ownership, a polarised population, tribal media outlets and a reckless president has to muddle its way through as all the votes are counted,” he reports.

Chloe Hadavas is an editorial fellow at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @Hadavas

Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

Allison Meakem is an editorial fellow at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @allisonmeakem

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