US Elections 2016: Final countdown

Trump's claims of rigging spark concerns of unrest

Republican dials up the rhetoric as polls show him slipping but party's top honcho tries to soothe fears

Concerns are growing that rhetoric of a "rigged" contest could spark unrest, should Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump lose the election on Nov 8.

While the billionaire businessman had planted the idea earlier in the campaign, he has since sharpened his rhetoric as opinion polls show him slipping.

Over the weekend and also yesterday, he amplified his allegations, while top Republicans - including House Speaker Paul Ryan and vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence - sought to play down the claims.

"Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive," Mr Trump tweeted yesterday morning.

Mr Trump's top lieutenants were also out defending his claim.

MEDIA BIAS

When he talks about a rigged election, he's not talking about the fact that it's to be rigged at the polls. What he's talking about is that 80 per cent to 85 per cent of the media is against him.

MR RUDY GIULIANI, former New York City mayor, on Mr Trump's rhetoric.

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani told CNN he would be a "moron" to say "the election in Philadelphia and Chicago is going to be fair".

"Dead people generally vote for Democrats rather than Republicans," Mr Giuliani added, suggesting that the Democrats could win due to ballots that belong to dead voters, but are cast anyway.

Also, former House speaker Newt Gingrich suggested on ABC that voters should monitor polling stations, as past elections had been "stolen" by voter fraud.

But most tried to clarify that Mr Trump did not mean that the polls would be rigged, but instead meant that the media was biased against the Trump campaign.

Mr Pence, Governor of Indiana, chose to soften his running mate's rhetoric, telling NBC: "We will absolutely accept the result of the election." He added: "But the American people are tired of the obvious bias in the national media. That's where the sense of a rigged election goes here."

Mr Giuliani also echoed this sentiment: "When he talks about a rigged election, he's not talking about the fact that it's to be rigged at the polls.

"What he's talking about is that 80 per cent to 85 per cent of the media is against him."

With many people are worried that Mr Trump's rhetoric could lead to violence at the polls or voter suppression, Mr Ryan, the top Republican in the United States Congress who last week distanced himself from the presidential candidate's campaign, stepped in to reassure voters that the results would not be compromised.

Mr Ryan's spokesman AshLee Strong said: "Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the Speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity."

With just slightly more than three weeks to the election, tensions are definitely running high.

In North Carolina, a Republican party headquarters was firebombed on Sunday. The words "Nazi Republicans get out of town or else" were spray painted on the side of an adjacent building.

The state's Republican Governor Pat McCrory called the incident an "attack on our democracy".

Mr Trump tweeted: "Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina just firebombed our office in Orange Country because we are winning."

Meanwhile, Democrats have condemned the violence. Mrs Clinton's campaign tweeted that it was "horrific and unacceptable".

This presidential election cycle has seen its fair share of violence.

Earlier this year, supporters of Mr Trump and protesters clashed in Chicago, Illinois, while a Trump supporter sucker-punched a protester in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2016, with the headline 'Trump's claims of rigging spark concerns of unrest'. Print Edition | Subscribe