The world has never been indifferent about the presidential elections in the United States, but this year, the world’s interest comes with uncertainty and apprehension.
Many international leaders and diplomats have expressed the strongest and sometimes colorful emotions regarding the process to elect the new occupant of the White House and the candidates competing for the main prize. Everyone seems to be caught up in the heat of the moment, either marveling at the entertainment value of the American political process or wondering what the consequences will be for their nations, once the election is over.
An expert compared the suspense over the U.S. elections and the possible ripple effects in some regions, to the recent vote by Great Britain to exit the European Union.
“Not unlike the Brexit vote, the world looks upon this election with some trepidation and dismay, wondering what the outcome will be, but also, what the direction of this country will be in the future,” said Robert R. Preuhs, a political scientist at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Many nations seem more worried about the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency, although some are also concerned about a Hillary Clinton administration.
Popular opinion is generally against Trump. An internet poll conducted for a German newspaper in the G20 countries—the 20 largest economies in the globe—found that Clinton’s lead over Trump ranged from 12 points in China to 54 points in Mexico.
But according to Preuhs, a Clinton win is not necessarily seen by the world as a panacea to the issues raised during this election season.
“Even if she wins, which many countries see favorably, it's clear that there´s a certain amount of discontent, populism, xenophobia, and isolationism emerging in America,” he added. “The question is to what extent does that play out in future international relations, trade negotiations, military alliances, and immigration.”
Russia will probably welcome a Trump win since the country's leadership and state-run media have not been sympathetic to Hillary Clinton. This tension goes back to at least 2011, when as Secretary of State, she expressed “serious concerns” about that country's parliamentary election.
Since then, the bromance between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump has seemed to blossom with mutual praise. Putin has said that Trump is very “talented” and Trump admires him as a “very strong leader.”
In the past few days, Trump has leaped to the Russian President's defense, asserting that Clinton “speaks very badly of Putin, and I don't think that´s smart.”
Clinton has called Trump a “puppet” for Putin and she has accused the Russian government of an alleged role in computer hackings that have exposed internal information of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.
In the past few years, the Russian President has sought a major role in international affairs, challenging the U.S., NATO, and the European Union, and playing a significant role in Syria.
But Clinton has made it clear that she would present a stronger opposition to Putin's ambitions than Barack Obama, leading Putin to believe he would be better off with the inexperienced and more sympathetic Trump at the helm of the United States.
No country has been more engaged and outspoken in the U.S. presidential election than neighboring Mexico, where former President Vicente Fox has been openly combative, calling the Republican nominee “crazy” and warning that the country “will not pay for the (expletive) wall.”
The construction of a “tall, beautiful wall” at the border between the U.S. and Mexico is one of the centerpieces of Trump's presidential campaign, and he promises to stop or impose additional fees on remittances that Mexicans here send to their country if that government refuses to pay for the barrier.
Mexico and Mexicans appear genuinely afraid of a Trump presidency, and it’s not only because of any hurt feelings regarding the Republican´s rhetoric around “Mexico not sending their best” or asserting the undocumented bring “drugs, crime, and rape” to the United States. It´s actually about the effect he would have on their economy.
“Every time Trump rises in the polls, the Mexican peso falls, and the opposite is also true when he goes down, the peso goes up,” said David Ayón, Director of the Focus Mexico project at Loyola Marymount University's Center for the Study of Los Angeles. “Many people fear the economic effect of a Trump win in that country.”
In recent years, Mexico has experienced significant economic improvements and the growth of a stronger middle class, while sending fewer migrants to the United States. Understandably, Mexicans are uneasy about potentially losing remittances, having millions of its citizens returned to their nation, and having to renegotiate the NAFTA trade agreement, as Trump promises.
As for the rest of Latin America, it depends on who you ask. A former president of Brazil, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, said in April that a Trump win would push many countries back towards the political left, economically towards China, and warned of “dangers.”
Trump´s policy toward Latin America remains unclear, because aside of declaring his attitude toward Mexican immigration and his intention of building a wall in the United States’ southern border, he has said precious little.
In fact, Latin America doesn´t have a lot to go on when thinking about the next President of the United States, as the topic has rarely being raised at all in the campaign beyond the usual political hot potatoes of Mexico and Cuba.
Clinton is seen by many as more of a hardliner against the left in Latin America, particularly Venezuela, but also Cuba, a country that has recently enjoyed the benefits of the thawing of relations with the U.S. led by the Obama Administration.
Trump, thinking of Florida voters, has threatened to turn the clock and revert those moves. Clinton has said she agrees with Obama´s positions, but many analysts believe she would press Havana for more democratic reforms than the current U.S. president.
Venezuela´s government seems particularly cold to a Clinton presidency. A recent ad by her campaign comparing Trump to late former leader Hugo Chavez earned a sharp rebuke by Venezuelan foreign affairs minister Delcy Rodríguez, who said on Twitter that the ad was “inexcusable and aberrant.”
The next president of the United States will immediately face many crises in the Middle East that will require his or her attention, in particular, the conflicts in Syria and Lybia, where ISIS is expanding its presence. The resulting refugee crisis is the worst since the end of World War II.
But while Trump criticizes Clinton and Obama for a “reckless and aimless foreign policy in the region,” he has both promised a lighter footprint in the world and, at times, aggressive military intervention as in “bombing the (expletive) out of ISIS.”
According to international reports, Trump is compared by many Arabs to their own autocratic, populist, and heavy-handed leaders, and seen with suspicion for his anti-Muslim rhetoric.
But if people in the middle east don´t quite know what to expect from Trump, many understand that a Clinton administration will be more interventionist than Obama’s, probably leading into expanded military action.
At the same time, she has a more sympathetic audience in some quarters, because she wants the United States to take a larger share of responsibility for offering a home to up to 65,000 Syrian refugees, while Trump seeks to generate fear of their presence here.
In China, popular sentiment measured by polls is against Trump, but the official reaction has been muted, even as Trump bashes the country repeatedly.
A few months ago, the Chinese finance minister, Lou Jiwei, called the Republican “an irrational type” for proposing to impose hefty tariffs on Chinese goods in the United States.
At the same time his intention to tear up the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a multi-nation trade deal which excludes China—is seen favorably in that country, which seeks to diminish the U.S. place in the region.
Europeans see the elections in the United States as a reflection of issues they are dealing with on a daily basis: anger at mainstream politics, hostility towards immigration, and anti-globalization, which are common sentiments in the old continent.
But polls and reports indicate that most Europeans would rather have a known quantity—Hillary Clinton—rather than the uncertainty of Donald Trump.
On a recent trip to the region, political science professor Stephen Farnsworth of the University of Mary Washington in Virginia observed that “most people seemed shocked that Donald Trump could be a major nominee, given his combative personality and his inexperience.”
Trump´s flirtation with Russia and his remarks about the NATO alliance have caused grave concern in the region, and Hillary Clinton would win in a landslide if the Europeans were the voters.
Because as the old saying goes, when the United States sneezes…
Top image: Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto with the Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump during Trump's visit to the neighboring country. Getty Images