Trump will 'have to see' about accepting the result if he loses the election in November

The idea that US President Trump may not accept the result if he loses has been gaining ground in Washington DC. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON - United States President Donald Trump over the weekend fuelled speculation that he would not accept the result if he loses the election in November.

In an often testy interview with Fox News host Chris Wallace, aired on Sunday (July 19), Mr Trump was asked directly if he would accept a loss. The President replied: "I will have to see."

"Look, you - I have to see. No, I'm not going to just say 'yes'. I'm not going to say no and I didn't last time either," Mr Trump said.

Mr Wallace asked the President at one point whether he was "a good loser". He responded by saying that he was not.

The President also repeated what he said in recent weeks and months - that he thinks mail-in voting will be subjected to fraud to rig the Nov 3 election. "I think mail-in voting is going to rig the election. I really do," he said.

It was in that context that Mr Wallace asked the direct question about the President losing the poll.

The idea that President Trump may not accept the result if he loses - and especially if he loses narrowly - has been gaining ground in Washington DC, including in diplomatic circles, for some weeks, as he has ramped up concerns about alleged rigging.

On June 22 for example the President tweeted that the election would be rigged, with "millions of mail-in ballots… printed by foreign countries, and others".

Analysts however say there is no reason to believe that mail-in ballots, while assuming more importance, as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic could affect physical turnout at the polls, will lead to a rigged election.

However, that the President's own words indicate he could refuse to accept the result if he loses, makes such a scenario plausible, even if still improbable.

If it were to transpire, it would be both a test of the strength and resilience of US institutions, and a test of which vision of America will ultimately prevail.

To be sure, talk does not mean action. President Trump is adept at creating tension and distraction. In fact, in 2016, during a debate with his rival Hillary Clinton, when asked - also by Mr Wallace who was one of the moderators - he also said: "I will tell you at the time. I'll keep you in suspense."

On Sunday, Mr Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Mr Trump's presumptive Democratic Party rival Joe Biden, who currently leads Mr Trump in a number of opinion polls, said: "The American people will decide this election. And the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House."

Many analysts believe the US is heading towards the most volatile election in its modern history. "If this election were being run in another country there's a pretty high likelihood that Americans would be saying 'we need to send in observers'," Mr Ian Bremmer, chief executive officer and founder of The Eurasia Group, told MSNBC last week.

Still, a particular strength and resilience of the US is peaceful transitions of power.

Twenty years ago, the infamous Florida recount was, after some five weeks of wrangling, settled by a Supreme Court ruling - and Democratic Party candidate Al Gore, who had earlier been tipped as the winner (and won the popular vote), had to accept it, and his Republican rival, Mr George W. Bush, became President.

"The system would make fast work on any president who attempted to deny the results of the election," Professor Jonathan Turley, of George Washington University Law School, told Politico in late June.

Others are not so sure. In June, Amherst College law professor Lawrence Douglas told Vox: "We have a President of the United States who has pretty consistently and aggressively telegraphed his intention not to concede in the face of an electoral defeat, especially if that electoral defeat is of a very narrow margin.

"And it looks like it probably will be a narrow margin. In all likelihood, the 2020 election is going to turn on the results in probably the three swing states that determined the results in 2016: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin."

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