World leaders from Ardern to Merkel condemn ‘disgraceful’ Capitol riot

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  • Angela Merkel
    Angela Merkel
    German chemist and politician; Chancellor of Germany 2005–2021
APTOPIX Congress Electoral College (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
APTOPIX Congress Electoral College (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Nations across the world have reacted in horror to the “disgraceful” scenes unfolding in Washington after rioting supporters of departing President Donald Trump violently stormed Capitol Hill and clashed with police. But many United States adversaries also responded with a degree of schadenfreude, condemning the violence while accusing Americans of now getting a taste of what they describe as the kind of instability that Washington has long been accused of exporting.

In a scene reminiscent of recent breaches of democratic institutions in countries like Kyrgyzstan and Ghana, angry supporters of the president broke into the Capitol building on Wednesday, reaching as far as the House floor, in a chaotic protest aimed at thwarting the peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden. Mr Trump continues to dispute the results of the election and has called on his supporters to ”not give up the fight”.

Police quickly evacuated lawmakers to secure locations, hustled Vice President Mike Pence away, and put the building under lockdown. Officers drew guns and launched tear gas at the angry mob with one person shot during skirmishes. National Guard troops were later deployed and a citywide curfew called for shortly after dusk, as hordes of far-right rioters continued to swarm the capital.

America’s longtime allies were aghast at the scene. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has seen as ideological cousin of America’s rightwing president, urged an end to the “disgraceful scenes in US Congress”.

"The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power," he wrote on Twitter.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also condemned what he described as “horrendous scenes” depicting an attack on a longtime ally’s most crucial institutions. “These are not ‘protestors’ – this a direct attack on democracy and legislators carrying out the will of the American people,” he wrote on Twitter.

Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison, another rightwing populist, condemned the ‘distressing scenes’ that took place in the Capitol, while Canadian leader Justin Trudeau and top EU officials voiced concern.

But other US allies were more willing to call out Mr Trump for his role in promoting the rioters. "These images made me angry and sad," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a meeting with members of her political party. "A ground rule of democracy is that after elections there are winners and losers. I regret very much that President Trump has not acknowledged his defeat since November and also again not yesterday. Doubts about the election outcome were stirred and created the atmosphere that made the events of last night possible."

"What is happening is wrong. Democracy — the right of people to exercise a vote, have their voice heard and then have that decision upheld peacefully — should never be undone by a mob," echoed New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

APTOPIX Congress Electoral CollegeCopyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
APTOPIX Congress Electoral CollegeCopyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

The chaotic scenes and violence in Washington also bolstered nations that have long been critical of what they describe as US interference in others’ political affairs. “With this regrettable episode, the United States suffers the same thing that it has generated in other countries with its policies of aggression,” the government of Venezuela, which has been targeted for regime change, said in a statement.

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani said the chaos showed the defects of the types of political system he said the west has long tried to export, but also blamed factional politics, which afflict the islamic Republic. "We've seen what happens when rivalries become extreme," he said in a speech on Thursday. "What we witnessed last night and today in America showed how weak and fragile western democracy is, and how weak its foundation is."

Chinese officials kept mum about the unrest, with Beijing issuing a travel advisory to its citizens in the Washington area. Top Russian officials were also mostly quiet. Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the foreign affairs committee of upper house of the Duma, said American democracy had reached an impasse. “America is split in two, and the equal half are now always going to challenge any vote they lose,” he said. “We aren’t, alas, even at the depths yet, and I say this with no desire to gloat. America no longer charts a course — and therefore no right to set it, let alone to impose it on others.”

Jihadist supporters of Islamic extremist groups were celebrating the images on their social media channels, with many hoping the chaos would escalate and plunge America in civil war.

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