U.S. Presidential: “Today, American institutions are not threatened”.

U.S. Presidential: “Today, American institutions are not threatened”.

After several days of suspense, the results of the U.S. presidential election are finally known: Joe Biden won the 270 voters required to become president, according to various U.S. media.

However, the Democratic candidate will have to wait until December 14 to be nominated by the electorate, and then January 21 to take over from Donald Trump at the White House.

What can we expect during this turbulent transition period, when the incumbent president says the election is not over?

The wait for the results of the U.S. presidential election lasted long days, but it finally came to an end: Democratic candidate Joe Biden won the required number of electoral votes (270) to succeed outgoing President Donald Trump.

The transition period that has just begun, and will end – barring an unlikely turnaround – with Joe Biden’s inauguration in the White House on January 20, 2021, promises to be eventful.

For in the latest, Jean-Claude Beaujour, vice-president of the France-Americas diplomatic association and international lawyer takes stock of the key steps – and obstacles – that should punctuate the American political landscape between now and then.

What steps still await Joe Biden before he becomes the 46th President of the United States?

It is important to point out that Joe Biden has not yet been elected president: he has been declared the candidate with the highest number of electoral votes. The Electoral College will convene on December 14 for the electors to select the candidate for whom they have pledged to vote. On that date, the Electoral College will officially designate the winner of the presidential election.

Subsequently, in early January, Congress will validate the candidate’s election. And the swearing-in ceremony on Capitol Hill will take place on January 20. So much for the calendar.

Can the legal challenges initiated (or announced) by Donald Trump delay this schedule?

No, all election-related challenges must be served by December 8. This includes appeals at the local level in the states concerned (such as Pennsylvania) as well as at the Supreme Court of the United States, if the appeals go that far. The judicial system is responsive to this type of emergency, so any such appeals will be resolved by December 8.

Do these appeals have a real chance of succeeding?

As with any judicial procedure, there must be a proven fact that is found to violate the electoral legislation of the state in question. These facts must not only be established but must have altered the sincerity of the ballot. The fact that observers were not able to attend the counting of the votes does not mean that fraud was committed.

Any irregularity is not necessarily taken into account: as long as it did not (or only slightly) affect the sincerity of the vote, the judge may disregard it. For example, a polling station that opens ten minutes late is an irregularity, but it does not affect the sincerity of the ballot.

It is up to the plaintiff to bring a strong case. At this stage, I have not seen anything consistent in this regard from Donald Trump and his team. But it’s still a little early to judge.

American public opinion has feared potential violence or serious tensions in view of the polarization of the two camps, Democrat and Republican, and the expectation of results, against a backdrop of accusations of fraud, may have fuelled this climate of anxiety. Should we expect any outbursts in the coming weeks?

Indeed, there has been much talk about the risk of violence following this election, even civil war. But I don’t believe it for two reasons. The first is that in the end, in the 50 American states, except in two or three where the results are contested, the election went well. Today, American institutions are not threatened, the system is working properly and the president has not challenged the judiciary. The proof is that he wants to use it to assert his rights.

I don’t believe much in civil war or massive outbursts because the candidates have no interest in going down that slippery slope. There may be tense demonstrations here and there, but from January 20 on, the president-elect will have to lead the country: he has no interest in letting a situation develop that he would have to deal with later on.

It seems unlikely that Donald Trump will retire from American politics, especially after receiving nearly 70 million votes. Can he play a real role in American public life during the coming term?

President Trump is not the kind of person who plays the second fiddle. We are in an American-style presidential system: once you are defeated, you get out of the game. Traditionally, even when the president has gone into trouble – as Nixon did – he stands back and instead takes a wise role in keeping the country united. Jimmy Carter, for example, has continued to be involved in peace engagements. This is traditionally the place reserved for presidents.

Donald Trump may not be satisfied with this role. I don’t see him playing the peacemaker fathers afterwards. Can he become the leader of the Republican Party? I am not convinced of this because in the American system, as it is conceived, young senators are waiting their turn to commit themselves to the country.

You have to remember that Trump won the Republican Party [before his election in 2016], but he was never a choice of heart. There was never a massive endorsement for him. I’m not sure that he plays a political role in the Republican Party, but that doesn’t stop him from being active in public life.

Only once in U.S. history has a president been elected for a single term and re-elected after another president’s term: Grover Cleveland [in the late 19th century]. And at 74, Donald Trump is not as old as Obama was when he left the White House, so that’s a factor to be taken into account for the future.

What is the most notable change Americans can expect from Trump at the beginning of Joe Biden’s term in office?

Joe Biden’s main commitment was to join the Paris Climate Accord. He also indicated that he would do everything he could to manage the coronavirus, so it’s likely that this will be a big part of his public health policy.

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