The United States has long championed democracy around the world, pushing persistently, if not always consistently, for leaders to give up power when they lose.
President Donald Trump is now establishing a new American model — refusing to concede, making unsubstantiated claims of fraud and seeking the intervention of courts and political allies in hopes of reversing his defeat to Joe Biden.
Political figures and experts interviewed in several countries fear that Trump’s blueprint will be eagerly embraced in fragile democracies, especially in Africa, letting strongmen point to the world’s most powerful nation in justifying their attempts to cling to office.
“Donald Trump’s refusal to concede reinforces the view of our leaders in Africa that elections should be done in a way so that they don’t lose,” said Mahamat Ahmat Alhabo, secretary-general of the opposition Party for Freedoms and Development in Chad.
Eldred Masunungure, a political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe, said that Trump was singing “sweet music to autocratic rulers.”
“It’s tragic. We are used to that in Africa but when it happens in the US we get shocked because it’s happening in a centuries-old democracy,” Masunungure said.
“It’s a dirty lesson our leaders will take advantage of and cite even in the long-term future when they lose and don’t want to concede defeat.”
Garry Kasparov, the Russian chess legend and outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, said that Trump’s assault on the democratic process will result in “many similar attacks in future elections, in the US and elsewhere.”
“Democracy discredited, Putin’s dream,” he wrote on Twitter.