SAINTE MARIE DU MONT – In one of the towns in Normandy where U.S. Army paratroopers fought and died on D-Day in World War II, a French store owner already has readied the “Trump 2020” flag that he plans to unfurl in celebration if the U.S. president wins a second term.
But in Sweden, a scientist alarmed by the increasing signs of global warming she witnessed on her latest Arctic research trip is hoping Trump is voted out, not simply because she believes Democrat Joe Biden will do better against climate change but also because she wants to fall back in love with a country she now finds repellent.
Two voices, from among the multitudes of people across the globe for whom the U.S. election is not a faraway event in a faraway land but an impossible-to-ignore contest with stakes for the entire world. For many, that’s especially true in a year in which the scythe of the coronavirus cutting through millions of lives and livelihoods has driven home the need for countries to work together.
Because Trump has had such an outsize impact on global affairs -- tracing his own “America First” course and upending traditional alliances, friendships and norms -- the possibility of change in the White House has left the rest of the world even more captivated than usual by an election in which it has no say.
“America votes and gives the world a president,” tweeted the editor in chief of the Ashraq Al-Awsat newspaper, which is Saudi-owned and published from London.
As ballots were cast, global onlookers both fascinated and trepidatious braced for the butterfly effect of America’s choice and its knock-on effects big and small. A very real feared repercussion for some was the prospect of a reelected Trump further closing pathways to immigrants and some visitors.
“Trump makes these unexpected decisions out of nowhere and the lives of millions are changed,” said Ishan Kalra, a doctoral student in linguistics from India who fears her studies in the United States could be cut short. “It’s on my mind all the time.”
By often refusing to be a team player on global initiatives, including pulling the U.S. out of international efforts to slow climate change and withdrawing from the World Health Organization in the midst of the virus pandemic, Trump dismayed many around the world who long for U.S. engagement and leadership.
That includes Gunhild Rosqvist, a Stockholm University professor just back from her latest trip studying climate warming’s impact on Arctic communities. She’ll be keeping a close eye on her smartphone as election results come in, hoping that Biden wins and reengages with pressing global problems.
“If America drops out even more from the global agreements, it’s going to be bad,” Rosqvist said. “If Trump wins, it means that half of the population in America thinks he’s doing a good job, and that’s scary because then that means they don’t care.”
In the suburbs of Paris, the founder of a Black literature book club said that if Trump is reelected, her first thought will be that it’s a signal French nationalist far-right leader Marine Le Pen also could win in France’s 2022 presidential election. Laurie Pezeron said Trump’s unabashed nationalism and flirting with far-right groups has emboldened extremists beyond U.S. shores who now “express themselves far more freely and aren’t ashamed of their supremacist views.”
The particularly rancorous nature of the battle for the presidency made it a ready target for critics’ jibes. In Africa, commentators noted the irony of the Trump administration voicing concerns about election irregularities in Tanzania as Trump himself makes unsupported claims about voting fraud in the U.S. campaign.
Iran’s supreme leader also couldn’t resist an Election Day dig.
“The incumbent president ... says this is the most-rigged U.S. election throughout history,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised address Tuesday. ”His opponent says Trump intends to widely cheat. This is American democracy.”
But in the Normandy town of Sainte Marie du Mont, store owner Philippe Tanne was relishing the spectacle of America voting in the only election he cares about outside France.
Before the pandemic, the former soldier traveled to the United States two or three times a year because “I really love the country, the way of life. For us, it represents freedom.”
If Trump wins, he’ll proudly fly his “Trump 2020” flag at the front of his store that sells military memorabilia, facing the village square where U.S. forces fought off Nazi occupiers in 1944 and the church where bullet holes left by the squirt of a machine gun remain visible in the confessional’s wooden panels.
“I’d like to have a president in France who thinks a bit like him,” Tanne said. “He says, ‘Americans first, let’s make America work for us.’ I’d like to have a French president who says ‘the French first.’”
Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran; Sarah El Deeb in Beirut, Lebanon; Cara Anna in Nairobi, Kenya; Sheikh Saaliq in New Delhi, and AP journalists elsewhere in the world contributed.