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Swiss media on Biden win: ‘A signal far beyond American borders’

Joe Biden is set to become the 46th President of the United States. Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Swiss media and politicians react to Joe Biden’s win, saying that he has his work cut out for him to bring the country together but he’s the right person to do it and to rebuild the country’s reputation abroad.

This content was published on November 8, 2020 - 15:22
Keystone-SDA/jdp

Major US media networks have called it: Joe Biden will become the 46th President of the United States. After five days of ballot counting, Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes helped former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris secure the 270 votes needed to head to the White House.

It wasn’t the landslide the Democratic party expected and hoped for, with Trump securing even more votes than in 2016. The narrow win over President Trump revealed how deeply divided the United States is and the challenges ahead. The President-elect will be tasked with bridging divides and healing a country that is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences.

In response to the announcement, the Tages-Anzeiger wrote:“Joe Biden knows what suffering means. That's why he's the right president for a wounded America”.

In an editorial, Meret Baumann from the Neue Zürcher Zeitung wrote that the win shows that the “majority of Americans are fed up with the lies and chaos in the White House".

She added that it will take years to clean up the heap of rubble caused by Donald Trump. Biden faces acute crises while also addressing the damage Trump has done to the reputation of the US and its institutions, she added. 

“This election is a signal far beyond American borders. It strengthens liberal democracy when the geopolitically and economically most powerful country with its great radiance is no longer ruled by an authoritarian demagogue.”

The soul of the nation

Biden's success this time around was thanks in part to his tone and conviction to fight for the "soul of the nation" argued the Tages-Anzeiger. He always seemed “present” and “authentic” in the way he communicated with voters.

On Sunday, the Swiss press recognised the role Kamala Harris - the first woman and first black woman - played in helping secure votes. Richard Werly at the French-language paper Le Temps wrote that this is also her victory. With her speech on Saturday, Harris "confirmed her reputation as a fighter and her desire to lead by example," he wrote.

Ultimately though, at 77 years old, Biden's candidacy was not about hope or the future of the Democratic party, the paper said.

This was echoed by Baumann who argued that the win was less about Biden. It was also not a decision between different positions or political directions. “It was a referendum on the president.”

She added that President Trump never tried to address those who rejected him and instead targeted his policies at his supporters, which “increased polarisation and destabilized the country by constantly stirring up chaos”.

The narrow win should still prompt self-reflection by the Democratic party writes Martin Suter in the Tages-Anzeiger. "Biden's political luck was the Covid 19 pandemic, in which Trump's communication skills failed miserably. In addition, a sufficient number of voters longed for an end to the turbulence that constantly raged around Trump." 


Trump’s test for democracy

Just after the announcement, President Trump said in a statement from his campaign that Biden is “rushing to falsely pose as the winner,” and called the race “far from over.”

Beginning Monday, Trump's campaign said it would start prosecuting its case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and "the rightful winner" is seated. "I will not rest until the American People have the honest vote count they deserve and that Democracy demands," Trump said in the statement.

In response, Valérie de Graffenried wrote in Le Temps that by seeking to discredit the electoral process, the outgoing president once again demonstrated his contempt for democratic institutions. His attempts to steal the victory from Joe Biden and fuel conspiracy theories is “dangerous and irresponsible”.

Andrea Caroni from the centre-right Radical Liberal party told Keystone-SDA that the election showed the strength of American democracy in that it is capable of defending itself against a "system breaker", a "sower of division", such as Donald Trump. 

What this means for Switzerland

It's unclear what a Biden presidency means for Switzerland. Simonetta Sommaruga who holds the rotating Swiss presidency congratulated Biden and Harris and said that it represented a "strong signal".

Jan Atteslander from the business association economiesuisse told Keystone-SDA on Saturday that he doesn't believe the election of Joe Biden will dramatically change economic relations between the two countries. However, he is interested to see if the Democrat is able to unblock the situation with international trade, which is very important to Switzerland as an export-heavy country.

Although Switzerland suffered from US tariffs placed on steel and aluminum, Swiss exports rose during Trump’s term. What the election means for negotiations on a free trade agreement between the two countries is unclear. There have been several attempts to restart negotiations but progress has been slow.

Martin Naville, CEO of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce, told the NZZ that he wasn't optimistic that a Swiss trade deal will be on the top of the Biden agenda. However, it will depend on who he appoints in the administration.

"Switzerland has excellent contacts with the current government," he said, noting visits by several top Trump officials in the last few years. "There is no one among the Democrats who advocates for free trade." He added that Swiss pharmaceutical companies may be the most affected if Biden pushes to lower drug prices.

Swiss parliamentarian Charles Juillard from the Christian Democratic Party told Keystone-SDA that “this is a nice surprise for the US and the world”.

Trump has not been a fan of multilateralism – something that Switzerland holds in high regard. How Biden chooses to move forward with multilateral institutions will be of great interest to Switzerland, which serves as host to the the World Health Organisation and the European Headquarters of the UN. 

Carlo Sommaruga told Keystone-SDA that Joe Biden's election is extremely important for the world. He has clearly expressed "his commitment to multilateralism, an essential platform for the peaceful functioning of our planet," said the Socialist Democratic Party parliamentarian.

Juillard said that he hopes that the US will consider changing its climate change politics. Last week, the US formally pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

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