Trump could be a ‘role model’ to world dictators

Friday, November 13th, 2020 00:00 |
US President Donald Trump. Photo/AFP

This has been a strange year! With still a month and a half to go, it is not yet time to write its epitaph.

But even with a year as strange as this one, who would have written the script that has played out in the presidential election in the US?

There is little chance Donald Trump will have his way and stay in office. The institutions in that country are too strong to let him have his way. But that is not because of lack of trying on the President’s part.

In the lead-up to the elections Trump did everything he could to prepare the ground to enable him claim victory even if he lost.

Although he is the incumbent, he packaged himself as the underdog and the opposition Democrats as the ones preparing to rig him out of office.

Come election day, with all the machinery of State at his disposal, with the capacity to detect any malpractice in the elections, he put that aside and launched a propaganda drive to make his case.

Drawing from a playbook for long associated with dictators, most of them in Eastern Europe, his neighbours in South America and in the distant land of Africa, Trump got his party to go along with his claims.

The chair of his Republican Party supported him in this as did the leader of the majority.

His appointed officials broke with tradition and held back the process of releasing power. 

Trump then moved on to try to replace officials who may stand on his way. He fired his Secretary for Defence. Now word is that there are more officials on his firing line.

All these sound familiar. The president of Belarus, Aleksander  Lukashenko, lost elections early this year, refused to leave office and swore himself in, the protests from his countrymen notwithstanding.

American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo led the world in protesting Lukashenko’s actions.

Now the statements from Pompeo sound empty with Washington doing exactly the same thing.

Vladmir Putin of Russia must consider himself a genius. Over the last two decades he has ruled Russia sometimes pretending to leave office but without actually doing so. 

In 2010 Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo lost power after campaigning under the ‘we win or we win’ slogan.

When he did not win he chose not to leave office leading the country into civil war that lasted nearly six months.

With the help of international intervention, he was eventually dragged to The Hague to face trial as his successor Alassane Ouattara took over. Now Ouattara has himself changed the constitution to allow him stay on.

Dictators loathe to leave office. A recent study found that since 1950 only 12 per cent of dictators worldwide have left office willingly after losing elections.

Interestingly all that left office either go back to the barracks or, like Gen Augusto Pinochet in Chile, were granted new offices that secured them more power.

Pinochet became a senator for life which essentially granted him immunity from future prosecution. 

Since he came to power in 2016, Trump has packed the courts with his ideological soulmates, sometimes with the stated hope that should elections go to court, the judges would look the other side and support his claims of election rigging. 

Indeed, his last big fight was to ensure his third appointee to the supreme court, where a potential election dispute would eventually end, was confirmed by a Senate dominated by his party faithful.

The world will now wait when next the US will preach to some dictator in an African capital, or from South America, about respecting electoral processes and the people’s will. 

Trump has sullied American image across the globe. Rebuilding it will not be easy.

The only hope is that the world’s dictators will now not use him as the excuse to perpetuate their bad behaviour. — The writer is dean , School of Communication, Daystar University

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