November 21st, 2020
South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) has expressed concern over President Donald Trump’s refusal to accede defeat in the recent presidential elections, fearing emergence of ‘copycat’ leaders who will now justify their authoritarian and unlawful moves with reference to the United States.
In a statement on November 20, Dr Radhika Coomaraswamy, Chairperson of SAHR, said the events that are currently unfolding in the US have enormous implications for the region and the world, as there will be emerging ‘copycat’ leaders who will now justify their authoritarian and unlawful moves with reference to the United States. The custom of concession, the readiness and willingness of the person who lost the elections to stand aside, is at the centre of any democratic process, she added.
Dr Coomaraswamy said that for a region that has often been at the brink of such developments it is particularly ominous that the United States is now leading the way in the opposite direction with the President’s refusal to even consider defeat. “Again, we fear the ‘copycat’ phenomenon, where leaders will not concede or deal with their opponents with mutual respect,” she said.
Dr Coomaraswamy said the charges of voter fraud in the current US elections also turn perception on its head, adding that such a call in many parts of the world is usually the call of the opposition and sometimes based on evidence and fact. “It is extraordinary that the President of the United States, who, according to international law would be the individual to be held accountable if there is actual vote rigging, is calling fraud against his own administration,” she said. The surprising part of this is that so many people have been persuaded that this is a possibility undermining the very basis of the American system of politics, a system it has offered the world as a model of governance, Dr Coomaraswamy said.
She said individuals allied to the President have argued that these electoral challenges are not searches for justice in themselves but a strategy to stop certification, to have the Supreme Court intervene and to take it to a state-based vote in the House of Representatives where the President’s party has the majority. “If this were happening in any other country, it would be called a non-violent coup d’état and a refusal to accept the will of the people.”
Dr Coomaraswamy expressed hope that US institutions, powerful individuals and the American people will not let their country take the route.
She emphasized that the reason democracies survive in important parts of the globe is because systems remain strong regardless of government changes. There are major issues with regard to the electoral procedures in South Asian countries as in the US but these have to do with electoral participation.
“For the US President to be so cavalier and shout voter fraud with so little evidence and to assault electoral democracy in such fundamental ways is not only deeply concerning but also makes the world less safe,” Dr Coomaraswamy said.