A woman looks at election coverage on the front pages of today’s newspapers on display outside the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The victory of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump surprised many in the country after weeks of polling data appeared to indicate Hillary Clinton was poised to win.(Michael Reynolds / European Pressphoto Agency)
Donald Trump’s election was greeted around the world Wednesday with widespread expressions of consternation — and no small amount of glee in some quarters — as global leaders scrambled to assuage the shock of his victory in the U.S. presidential election.
Amid a popular explosion of derision and dismay across social media networks, key U.S. allies hurriedly sought to calm plunging financial markets and lay the groundwork for a working relationship with a divisive figure whose leadership many feared would usher in a prolonged era of unpredictability and instability.
The left-leaning French daily Liberation greeted the news with a one-word coinage often echoed elsewhere: “Trumpocalypse.” The Times of India, that country’s largest newspaper, offered congratulations to the president-elect, paired with a sly use of ellipses to refer to one of Trump’s best-known vulgarities. “Donald Trump grabs America by the …” it tweeted.
Confronted with the reality of the world’s most powerful office soon set to pass into the hands of a man who has vowed to tear up trade deals, fence out immigrants and reconfigure global partnerships of decades’ standing, some leaders who had expressed deep misgivings about his candidacy weighed in with congratulatory statements that carried an undertone of teeth-gritting.
Others firmly put pragmatism first, stressing the importance of continuity and calm. Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, who came to power after her own country’s stunning vote in June to exit the European Union, voiced support for continued close ties.
“We are, and will remain, strong and close partners on trade, security and defense,” May said in a statement.
Many ordinary Britons felt a sense of déjà vu upon hearing the news from across the Atlantic.
“People wanted change and with Donald Trump, this was their chance to be able to voice that,” said sound engineer Kris Burton.
Predictably, many who had opposed Britain leaving the European Union were also distressed by Trump’s victory.
“With Brexit, I felt disappointed,” said Londoner Vincent Girdwood. “With Trump, I felt scared.”
Trump’s often-stated admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his ties to Russia became a campaign issue, particularly when he called on Russia to hack his Democratic opponent’s email. Putin issued a statement Wednesday congratulating Trump and saying he hoped for “cooperating in ending a crisis in Russian-American relations,” said the message, which was posted on the Kremlin’s website.
In Germany, where polls had consistently showed more than 80% hoped for a Hillary Clinton win, there was a sense of profound shock. Germany, still shadowed by its own militaristic 20th century past, considers itself to be one of closest U.S. allies.
Opposition to Trump was strong even in his grandfather’s home town of Kallstadt, a rural wine-growing town near the Rhine River. Clinton, who visited Germany numerous times as first lady, a senator, and secretary of State, was extremely popular in Germany.
“Whoever rules this great country with its gigantic economic strength, and its military potential, and its ability to influence cultural issues carries the weight of responsibility that can be felt by almost everyone around the world,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also noted that the campaign was marked by “at times confrontations that were difficult to accept.”
Merkel had been the target of criticism from Trump from time to time for letting more than 1 million refugees into Germany from Syria, Afghanistan and northern Africa over the last 15 months. She added that American voters had decided that it was Trump who should carry that responsibility. “On the basis of these values, I’d like to extend the offer of close cooperation to the United States,” she said.
In Mexico, where the U.S. elections were likely more closely watched than in any foreign country, word of Trump’s victory stunned a nation fearful that the new president’s actions could batter the Mexican economy and have other negative repercussions.
Some headlines on Wednesday caught the sense of shock and disbelief that washed over a flummoxed Mexico. “Earthquake!” declared the daily Reforma. “Nightmare,” declared the Economista newspaper.
The sense of astonishment was evident on the street and in cafes.
“Poor Mexico, and the poor Mexicans in the United States, I can’t imagine how worried they are,” said Ariel Zamora, 29, one of a number of stunned patrons at a bar after midnight Tuesday who watched the U.S. results roll in. “This can’t be happening.”
For some who watched from afar — especially those already disillusioned by aspects of U.S. foreign policy — the vote offered bitter confirmation that often-stated U.S. ideals were little more than empty words.
“Trump is the true face of the United States without makeup,” Mahmoud Bitar, a Syrian pro-opposition aid worker who lives in Turkey, wrote on Facebook.
“We have a saying: A white dog and a black dog… Either way, they’re just dogs,” said Nihad Ashqar, a 63-year old retiree sipping coffee in the Old City of Damascus, the Syrian capital.
Some far-right political figures, particularly in countries that have been buffeted by a wave of migrants fleeing war and poverty, reacted with expressions of satisfaction, raising the prospect that Trump’s triumph will embolden homegrown nationalists elsewhere.
Today the United States, tomorrow France!
“Today the United States, tomorrow France!” tweeted Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of France’s far-right National Front and the father of its current leader Marine Le Pen, a presidential aspirant.
With Trump having threatened to scrap one of President Obama’s signature achievements, the historic nuclear accord with Iran, that country’s foreign minister said the new U.S. leader must respect previous commitments.
“We have a saying: A white dog and a black dog… Either way, they’re just dogs,” said Nihad Ashqar, a 63-year old retiree sipping coffee in the Old City of Damascus.
In China, often a target of Trump’s harsh campaign rhetoric, millions tracked the vote online. By Wednesday afternoon, the election topped the trending list on Weibo, the country’s most popular microblog, with more than 1.17 billion views.
Some posts fretted about Trump’s victory — “the world will not be in peace,” wrote one — while others chided the fallibility of democracy. ““We don’t have to go through all the trouble,” wrote one user. “Lucky.”
Asian stock markets plummeted as Trump closed in on victory. Japan’s Nikkei index plunged more than 5% Wednesday and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 2.2%.
Trump spent much of his campaign bashing China. He accused the Communist country of “raping” the U.S., manipulating its currency, and stealing jobs from American workers. He also vowed to yank the U.S. out of the Paris climate change deal, an agreement the two countries point to as a sign of shared goals.
But Chinese tend to take a pragmatic approach to U.S. elections, and often disregard slights made during the presidential campaign. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang on Wednesday said the country would work with the new U.S. president to ensure “steady and sound” ties.
Yin Hao, a doctoral engineering student at Guangzhou’s South China University of Technology, tried his best to sound hopeful.
Former President Clinton and President Obama “both attacked China before they got elected,” said Yin, who has translated campaign speeches into Chinese since the primaries and posted them online. “Afterward, cooperation between the two countries got closer and trade relations increased. So maybe Trump will turn back to his business side.”
The news resonated in far-flung hot spots, including the northern Iraqi city of Irbil, a scant 50 miles from the battle to retake Mosul from the militants of Islamic State.
“Trump is going to be tough with terrorists,” said Omar Omar, a Syrian refugee who said his wife in Michigan voted for the Republican. Standing on a street corner in Irbil’s busy Ainkawa neighborhood Wednesday, Omar said he wasn’t bothered by Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration, Muslims and Syrian refugees.
But Hoshank Adnan, watching the returns at the Irbil Samsung store where he works as service manager, was disappointed. He wanted Clinton to win, citing her longtime experience in world affairs.
“We’re worried,” he said of Trump. “Because he doesn’t have any information about politics.”
In Israel, the rightist government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered congratulations, with a message on the prime minister’s official Twitter feed hailing Trump as a “true friend of Israel.” Netanyahu’s tenure has been marked by friction and policy disputes with Obama. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat sent a letter of congratulations, appending a handwritten “Mazal Tov, Mr. President!”
Israeli leftists, though, were worried, saying that Trump’s polarizing style reminded them of Netanyahu himself. “I’m in shock, like after Bibi was elected,’’ said Yuval Shemesh, a 45-year-old software startup executive, using Netanyahu’s nickname. “It’s a feeling of fear, uncertainty and extremism. I expect more militancy and less reconciliation.”
In contrast to the warm congratulations from Israeli officials, the reaction from Palestinian officials struck a chillier tone. “We will deal with any president elected by the American people on the principle of achieving permanent peace in the Middle East passed on the two-state solution, Nabil Abu Rudeinah, spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement.
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said expectations for the election were low to start. “The Palestinian people do not count too much on any change in the American presidency, because the U.S. policy toward the Palestinian issue is a consistent policy and based on the bias for Israel."
In Turkey, the authoritarian-minded President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signaled that a Trump administration might prove a more compatible fit than has the Obama administration.
While most Western governments have been critical of Turkey’s sweeping post-coup crackdown on political opponents, Trump has been more supportive.
“With this choice, a new era has begun in America,” Erdogan declared.
Although Trump’s characterizations of Muslims have made many uneasy, some Turks said they were still willing to give him a chance as long as he was straightforward in his dealings with the Islamic world.
In Africa, where Obama’s family roots had been a source of pride, many reacted with shock. In April 2015, Trump referred to South Africa on Twitter as a “total – and very dangerous – mess.”
South Africa President Jacob Zuma congratulated Trump on Wednesday, saying he hoped South Africa could further strengthen its relationship with the U.S. But prominent radio presenter Eusebius McKaiser began his morning news program on Radio 702 with a minute’s mournful silence, and tweeted in capital letters, “BREAKING NEWS: HATE TRUMPED LOVE.”
Staff writers Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing; Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Irbil, Iraq; Robyn Dixon in Johannesburg; and special correspondents Jessica Meyers in Beijing, Nabih Bulos in Damascus, Christina Boyle in London and Erik Kirschbaum in Berlin contributed to this report.
Staff writers Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing, Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Irbil, Iraq, Robyn Dixon in Johannesburg, and special correspondents Jessica Meyers in Beijing, Nabih Bulos in Damascus, Christina Boyle in London and Erik Kirschbaum in Berlin contributed to this report.
11:55 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from officials and observers in Britain, Mexico and Turkey.
8:45 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri and Hoshank Adnan of Irbil, Iraq.
This article was originally published at 7:05 a.m.