World leaders express hope and relief after Biden-Harris win

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Washington: World leaders swiftly congratulated US President-elect Joe Biden on his victory Saturday, cheering it as an opportunity to fortify global democracy and celebrating the significance of Americans having their first woman vice-president.

Although US President Donald Trump did not concede defeat, relief was a common theme expressed in many parts of the world to the news that his reelection bid had failed.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel.Credit:AP

“The Americans have chosen their President. Congratulations @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris! We have a lot to do to overcome today’s challenges. Let’s work together!” tweeted French President Emmanuel Macron.

Other leaders who sent congratulations included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. The president of Ukraine, whose country was central to Trump’s impeachment and an attempt by the Trump campaign to paint Biden and his family as corrupt, offered speedy congratulations.

Most Western allies quickly welcomed a fresh start with a new administration in Washington.

“We’re looking forward to working with the next US government,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tweeted. “We want to work in our cooperation for a new trans-Atlantic beginning, a New Deal.”

Word of the victory in Pennsylvania that pushed Barack Obama’s former vice-president past the threshold of 270 Electoral College votes needed to take over the Oval Office cascaded around the globe on social media and live news broadcasts, sparking celebrations.

But the election's outcome inspired disbelief in Slovenia, the homeland of first lady Melania Trump. Prime Minister Janez Jansa was the only world leader who congratulated Trump even before all the votes were counted, and continued to show support after Biden’s win was announced.

It also drew mixed reviews in Iraq.

Many Iraqis remember Biden as having been a champion of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Activists who have been protesting neighbouring Iran’s heavy hand in Iraq, had supported Trump and cheered the US assassination of Iran’s top general in an airstrike at Baghdad's airport at the beginning of the year.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.Credit:Twitter/@NarendraModi

Harris’ late mother was from India. Kamala is Sanskrit for “lotus flower,” and Harris gave nods to her Indian heritage throughout the campaign.

Her election struck an immediate chord internationally. It inspired calls in parts of Africa for governments long run by men to think again.

“The time has also come to give our women the chance to occupy such a high office in our country and even the number one position,” tweeted a Nigerian Cabinet minister, Festus Keyamo.

While outspoken disappointment was scarce, a swath of Trump allies kept silent in the wake of the announced results. That included Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Serbian leaders. There was also no immediate statement from Russian President Vladimir Putin or from the powerful ruler of Saudi Arabia who had particularly warm relations with the Trump administration.

Many people, particularly in nations that have been fraught with turbulent politics, took Biden's win as providing an improved outlook for stability going forward. Among them was Tanzanian opposition leader Zitto Kabwe, who was arrested and charged with terrorism-related offences after his country's bruising presidential election.

Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga: “I look forward to working with you”.Credit:Getty

“This victory symbolises the hope for democracy at a time when many other parts of the world are seeing that light diminishing. It gives hope that integrity, honesty and perseverance still matter,” Kabwe said of the US election.

Biden’s win also encouraged people living under populist governments in central Europe that have have eroded democratic norms in recent years. Trump has been friendly with the right-wing government in Poland, and it is widely believed there that his support allowed the Polish government to go far in undermining judicial independence.

“Trump’s defeat can be the beginning of the end of the triumph of far-right populisms also in Europe. Thank you, Joe,” former European Union leader Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, said.

In Egypt, where the government launched a crackdown on dissent in recent years, pro-democracy activists welcomed Biden’s win as a win for democracy and freedom. Many took to social media to express their joy.

“It’s over. The world is without Trump. The sweetest news in 2020,” Anwar el-Hawary, the former editor of Egypt's Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, the country’s largest independent daily, said in a Facebook post.

Argentine President Alberto Fernández tweeted congratulations to Biden and Harris and described their election victory as a “clear expression of the popular will.″

There was also an outpouring of expectations that Biden's White House will prioritise fighting climate change. The Democratic candidate said during his campaign that he planned to take the United States back into the Paris climate accord from which Trump withdrew. Scientists and environmental campaigners shared widespread relief.

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said that if Biden and Harris put the United States on course to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by mid-century, it would help avert some of the disastrous consequences of global warming.

“Clearly, the American people see this, and chose unity above conflict and facts above fiction – so the US can really become great again," the institute’s co-director, Johan Rockstrom, said in a statement.


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