Trump now seems resigned to a legal fight and has declared the election, which he appeared to be winning on Tuesday night, as ‘rigged’ through the use of universal mail-in ballots. He has also described the turnaround in results which has seen him deprived of 5 or 6 battleground states he was winning by a large margin as a ‘fraud’. As spontaneous protests break out in the United States and tempers escalate, on both sides, the election aftermath is historically unprecedented and even more serious than that which transpired after the twenty-third election in 1876.
As state authorities in the United States ready to declare more battleground states for US presidential challenger Joe Biden, the US President is claiming that the election is ‘rigged’ and vows to pursue his legal challenges saying that ultimately the electoral contest must now be decided in court. It comes as the Thai baht has surged against the US dollar with fears that a constitutional crisis could envelop the world’s superpower and its largest economy, with knock-on effects for both foreigners in Thailand and the already battered local economy.
Foreigners in Thailand and exporters are watching the drama unfolding in the US presidential election where an unprecedented situation caused, by the Covid-19 pandemic leading to the widespread use of mail-in ballots, could propel the world’s largest economy into a constitutional crisis not seen in the United States since 1876. The current situation is, arguably, more challenging and fraught with difficulty.
In that year, the Republican candidate Rutherford B Hayes, from Ohio, who won the electoral college and lost the popular vote, was finally handed the 20 electoral votes withheld through party political moves in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina when he agreed to withdraw occupying Union military forces from the southern United States.
He went on to serve as US President from 1877 until 1881.
This paved the way for the Democrat Party to disenfranchise black voters there until the mid 20th century.
German Defence minister described the US election results as a potentially ‘explosive situation’
On Wednesday, German Defence Minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told Reuters: ‘This is a very explosive situation. This is a situation that can lead to a constitutional crisis in the US, as experts are rightly saying. And it is something that must cause us great concern.’
In Thailand, the election aftermath is being watched avidly by ardent Trump supporters, Democrats and Independents among US expats living in Thailand as well as other westerners for whom, the United States is considered a bulwark upholding the world economy and indeed world security not to mention cultural attachments to the country.
Already, even as the United States electorate and the media are coming to terms with the deepening crisis that is unfolding, there are effects.
US dollar has plunged against the Thai baht
The US dollar has dropped sharply against the Thai baht plunging to its lowest level since the end of January and it may fall even more sharply as lawsuits are filed and tempers escalate among supporters and opponents of the US President.
On Thursday alone, the baht fell by 1.1% as fears grew over mail-in voting concerns stateside.
Despite the mainstream media’s repeated contention that there is no basis for the US president’s claims of fraud, there is anxiety among the Trump-voting public about the impact of mail-in ballots on the election process which has seen both US President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival achieve record numbers of votes historically.
Trump and Biden have set polling records for the largest number of votes obtained in this election
Trump has recorded, so far, 69.62 million votes which is more than US President Barack Obama polled in his historic 2008 election win, while Biden has polled an unprecedented 73.5 million votes.
Republican activists point to anomalies in the vote on Tuesday night in the United States when counting was stopped and when large volumes of mail-in ballots, introduced, for the first time, for normal voters in this election because of the pandemic, began to be counted.
There have been claims by Republicans, including the US President’s son Eric, that voter turnout in Wisconsin was 89% based on a 50 year average of just above 68% but this was later debunked. Voter turnout in US elections is calculated on the votes cast divided by voting-age population not registered voters.
The correct figure is a voter turnout of 71% for Wisconsin in 2020 which is not unusual.
However, at an average of 66.8%, the election itself will see, by far, the greatest turnout in US electoral history since 1900 when it was 73.7%.
The massive turnout, in the year of a pandemic, is raising concern among Republican supporters who note the US president garnered more votes and increased his vote penetration among Black and Latino voters bringing the best results for the Republican Party in recent history.
Similarly, a better than expected performance by the Republican Party in the race for the Senate and the House of Representatives is also raising eyebrows.
Difficult for Trump to overturn state results
However, any legal attempts by the sitting US President to change or overturn the results prepared by the states will be a difficult one.
US courts are reluctant to interfere in elections and it will almost certainly have to be dealt with in the US Supreme Court where the bar will be set high to even consider a case much less rule in the President’s favour.
On Thursday, President Trump left no one in any doubt when he told a press conference at the White House: ‘If you count legal votes, I easily win, if you count illegal votes, they could try to steal the election.’
His comments led to some TV networks pulling the feed on the conference to examine the president’s remarks and indicates just how tense and uncertain America has become with many fearing that the atmosphere could be poised to get worse.
Cases of mail-in voter fraud have been detected and proved in the United States in 2020
Across America, Republican Party activists and panels have been going to work to unearth what they describe as wholesale and orchestrated election fraud.
This counters the mainstream media mantra that there is no evidence of voter fraud related to mail-in ballots and that the mail-in system of voting has been proven to be safe and dependable over the past twenty years.
This is despite the arrest and prosecution of Democratic Party officials taking part in New Jersey’s Paterson City municipal elections this May for fraudulent activity involving hundreds of mail-in ballots.
Defenders of mail-in ballots point out that the four politicians involved were only acting as ‘bearers’ of votes and had not been involved in submitting false ballots. They also point to the widespread use of the system in US elections since 1996, even in some staunchly Republican states.
However, a judge in August ordered a rerun of the municipal election in the state on the basis that the election had been ‘tainted’. 20% of the votes cast in May’s election were by mail-in ballot.
Dead voters in Michigan and New York, votes stolen in Nevada as information begins to pour in
In Michigan, two deceased voters, Bill Bradley aged 118 years and Robert Brock aged 120 years all purportedly requested ballots from the Michigan Department of State, mailed them back and had their ballots cast, despite being dead for quite some time. Mr Bradley died in 1984.
This information is available on the state’s public website.
The New York Post, on Thursday, cites further instances of dead Democrat Party voters casting ballots in the election although one was declared invalid.
In Nevada, the Republican Party, on Wednesday, introduced the media to Jill Stokes who described what happened when she went to vote. Her story comes amid Republican Party claims that registered voters, who had left Nevada because of the pandemic, had been recorded as voting and other irregularities.
Ms Stokes was told by officials, on election day, that her vote was already cast when she came to vote in person on Tuesday, the 3rd November.
‘In years past I always voted in person. This time they mailed out the ballot and somebody took my ballot. They also took the ballot of my roommate. I was told by the interviewer from Channel 8 and I said can other people do this? He said yes.’
Thai business leaders and officials broadly favour a Biden Presidency in the United States
In the meantime, Thai exporters and, off the record, Thai officials are quietly hoping that a Biden Presidency will be confirmed and that, at some stage, even President Trump, who, it has to be acknowledged, performed extremely well in the election, exceeding all the estimates of the pundits and the mainstream media, may eventually give way for the sake of the nation in the US.
Easing of tensions between the US and China
On Thursday also, top Thai business figure, Supant Mongkolsuthree, told respected news outlet Nikkei Asia that he was looking forward to a Biden Presidency which he expected to ease the tensions between the United States and China.
Mr Supant said that this would immediately impact not only Thailand but the Asian region and the world leading to a pick up in trade.
However, he cautioned that a Biden administration may be more conscious of human rights issues which could usher in as yet unknown obstacles to Thai exports to the United States which are performing well in the latter months of 2020.
‘We still believe that the trade and investment outlook would be better and world trade would get back to normal, which is good for every country,’ he said.
US may become a more reliable partner
These were the same thoughts as Pornsilp Patcharintanakul of the Thai Feed Mill Association who looked forward to the United States becoming a more reliable partner, for Thailand and the world, in trade, under the former Vice President if he assumes office in January 2021.
He also saw an upside in Biden’s determination to stamp out the virus threat in the United States.
‘Meanwhile, Biden would end the Covid-19 outbreak as quickly as possible. If the US can contain the spread of the disease, the economy will recover.’
Double-edged sword as strict Covid-19 policy may hamper Thai export growth in the US economy
That may be a double aged sword since Thailand has seen a 4.6% drop in exports to the European Union in September because of the strong measures taken by European governments which have caused a GDP contraction of approximately 10% in many leading countries there, while the United States economy, under Trump, is only projected now to contract by 3.7% because of Trump’s insistence on dismissing virus fears while focusing on providing hospital facilities and resources.
It is a political tactic and response that 2020 election exit polls show gained him votes among working-age adults.
However, for now, the depreciating value of the US dollar is a growing problem for Thailand’s export performance which has been picking up steam.
Prospect of a full-blown constitutional crisis makes everyone nervous especially foreigners and expats
A full-blown constitutional crisis, given the combustible nature of the political divide developing in the world’s largest economy and military power, could have unforeseen consequences not only for America but for the world, something that could be even more serious, economically, than even the Covid 19 emergency, that the world continues to reel from, if the situation gets out of control.
The US dollar is still the lynchpin of the global economy.
Little wonder that western foreigners and expats in Thailand are watching the situation extremely closely and with growing apprehension at what it all means.
This global and international community is particularly susceptible to disruptive situations in the developed world as this year has already painfully demonstrated.