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World looks on anxiously as US makes a fateful choice

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Russia backs Trump, the chaos candidate, but Latin Americans are praying for a Clinton win

Latin America

Governments have often preferred Republican presidential candidates because they historically put an emphasis on free trade, but this time, politicians and commentators are lining up to express doubts about Donald Trump, who has alarmed many with his dismissive comments about Latinos, plans to build a wall on the Mexican border, and his unpredictable behaviour.

Demtrio Magnoli, a sociologist and prominent voice of Brazils new right, said a Trump victory would be a geopolitical earthquake. Trump is the closest the US has gotten to fascism. You would have an American president that is nationalist and nativist and we would see mass deportations, and a wall being built, which is likely since he will most likely not deport 11 million people.

He predicted this would force Mexico to turn more towards Latin America and could upset free trade agreements and hurt economic growth.

Trump is so unpredictable and politically inexperienced. We have no idea what he will do, but he seems authoritarian, sexist and contemptuous about Latinos, said Violeta Granera, of the opposition alliance in Nicaragua.

By comparison, Hillary Clinton is seen as a safe pair of hands who is likely to continue the relatively benign policies of the Obama administration.

Carlos Lins da Silva, a senior consultant for the So Paulo Research Foundation, said US regional policies were unlikely to see a major change, but added: The election of Trump would at least in the short term cause dramatic impacts on the international system if he puts into practice some of the programmes he is advocating. Brazil wont come away unscathed. For example, if he makes the entrance of Muslim people more difficult, builds a wall between Mexico and the US, has Nato members pay for US defence, encourages Japan to have a nuclear bomb, gets tougher on Nafta and other free trade deals. All of these ideas would have negative consequences for many countries.

Diplomats said they did not expect a major shift in Washingtons Latin American policy regardless of the outcome.

Hillary Clinton knows Brazil better than Trump, as she has been here before and knows people here, but there will not be any substantial change in relations either way because external relations with South America are a low priority for the US, said Rubens Barbosa, former Brazilian ambassador to Washington.

The country with most at stake may be Cuba, which has enjoyed a reconciliation with the US under Barack Obama. Former Cuban president Fidel Castro weighed in with an article last month in the Granma newspaper in which he awarded Trump the medal of mud, but the old revolutionary also had nothing good to say about the Democrats.

Middle East

Trump outraged the Arab world with his comments on Muslim immigration and regional public opinion certainly reflects this. A survey of 3,017 people in the Middle East and North Africa found that if they had a vote half would snub both Trump and Clinton.

On the fight against Islamic State, Clinton has pledged to never send troops back to Iraq, and ruled out boots on the ground in Syria. Trump has been less specific about his plan to fight Isis, but said in March that the US has no choice but to send 20,000 to 30,000 combat troops to the region.

In the survey, from the Jeddah-based daily Arab News and pollsters YouGov, 46% said the US should send troops to fight Isis and collaborate closely with Russia on Syria. The rest did not want a US presence on the ground but did feel that Washington should be more involved in the humanitarian efforts for Syrian refugees, arm moderate groups and increase air strikes on Isis. Clinton was most popular, with 78% saying she would be the best for the Arab world.

On the candidates policies, Arab opinion is much more balanced. Clintons stance on climate change and US Israel policy found strong support in the poll. But Arabs overwhelmingly back Trumps stance on abortion and, ironically perhaps, border controls.

Russia

Vladimir Putin was thrust into an unexpected starring role in this election, and whatever the result, it will please the Kremlin that it has been able to cause so much mischief. How much of this was down to direct Kremlin meddling, we will perhaps never know, although the state medias bias towards Trump has been fairly clear.

Most Russian analysts believe the US is systemically set up to oppose Russia, and while there is an understanding that Trump is an unusual candidate, many believe a Trump presidency would not change things much. Other more sober heads are well aware that for all Trumps friendly rhetoric, as president he would be a much more unpredictable quantity than Clinton, the devil they know.

To go on the public rhetoric alone, the casual observer would think the Russian establishment is banking on Trump. Russian television has been giving airtime to many of Trumps claims that the election could be rigged, but this is as much to help discredit the US system in the eyes of viewers as it is sincere backing for Trump. He has been backed not because of his politics, but because he is the chaos candidate; in the same way Russia was also keen on Brexit. Even if Clinton wins, Russia knows that after this divisive campaign, US democracy is in for a period of soul-searching which will leave less energy and focus for meeting external threats.

Africa

If Africa has barely featured in the campaign, then the continent has, in part, returned the compliment. But though many experts believe the result may not imply any drastic change in US policies in Africa, there is still widespread anxiety and Trump has already alienated many, particularly with his apparently racist rhetoric.

Few Africans are putting any store on Trump if he wins the election, that is if he remembers we exist once hes done with Mexicans and illegal immigrants, wrote Gitau Warigi, in Kenyas Daily Nation.

Trumps call for a ban on Muslims entering the US received widespread coverage and provoked outrage. The Somalia-based Islamic militant group, al-Shabaab, included a clip of Trump proposing the temporary ban in one of its recruiting videos.

The tycoon does have supporters. Although a poll in Nigeria found that 77% would vote Clinton and only 19% Trump, while in South Africa the proportion was 59% to 15%, some African commentators see Trump as an anti-establishment candidate of a sort they would welcome: one who could disrupt an unjust status quo.

The world and nations dont reform when they are comfortable. They only do so when they are afraid or have been severely injured bring on Trump, wrote Charles Onyango-Obbo, a Kenyan publisher and columnist.

However, neither candidate has given any real clues to their attitude on Africa. On trade, there is speculation that Trumps support for greater protection of US industries could mean higher tariffs that would damage some African economies, local analysts say. Nearly 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa can export goods to the US duty-free under legislation from 2000. In some, the regime has served as a catalyst for industrial production.

On aid, there are fears for the funding of projects to prevent and treat HIV and Aids which have helped millions. Clinton is seen as backing continued, or enhanced, public health assistance.

Trumps allegations of vote rigging in the US have prompted strong reactions in a continent where manipulation of electoral process is widespread.

Donald Trump is a gift to all tin-pot dictators on the African continent. He is giving currency and legitimacy to rigging because if it can exist in America, it can exist anywhere, Zimbabwean opposition leader Tendai Biti told Reuters news agency last week. However, it is a fake quote which has caused the biggest stir. Trump has been widely reported to have pledged to lock up both Robert Mugabe, the veteran president of Zimbabwe, and Museveni. The false comment was not questioned and prompted anger, hope, ridicule, excitement and hilarity as well as a small demonstration of support in Uganda where five protesters waved placards outside the US embassy.

Germany

A new video by German comedian Jan Bhmermann was released last week, entitled Grab US by the Pussy. It waxes lyrical about the foreign policy that Washington might pursue if Trump were in the White House.

We like the new spirit of your nation / Lets walk hand in hand into isolation goes one of the lines.

In reality, the majority of Germans view the prospect of a Republican victory on Tuesday with fear. Some 65% of respondents in a YouGov survey released last week said that they were afraid of such an outcome. If Germans could vote, a poll by the magazine Stern found that only 5% would cast their vote for Trump.

In political circles, Germanys biggest concerns relate to how much damage a Trump presidency would do to the transatlantic alliance. The US is the key contributor to the UN budget and has the highest military budget within Nato, yet during his campaign Trump has described Nato as obsolete and indicated that he would, at the very least, seek to renegotiate its framework.

If the Republican wins and lives up to his own words, Germany and France would, after Brexit, be the two countries expected to try to fill the geopolitical vacuum in Europe. Hope remains that Trumps rhetoric would prove more dramatic than his actions.

In Berlin government circles, Der Spiegel recently wrote, officials are more concerned about Trumps character than the radical political about-face he might introduce.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/06/us-election-world-anxious-wait-clinton-trump

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