Trump responsible for Capitol chaos? Experts say yes, but so is the American electoral system

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Updated: Jan 08, 2021 6:20 PM

The visuals of chaos from the Capitol are unprecedented and have never been seen before during transfer of power in America.

An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of US President Donald Trump gather in front of US Capitol Building in Washington. (Reuters)

The US has plunged into a serious crisis with thousands of Donald Trump supporters storming the Capitol Hill against the certification of Joe Biden’s victory as President. This happened after outgoing President Donald Trump addressed his supporters near White House and asked them to march on the Capitol to express their anger at the “disputed” results. Trump has been claiming fraud in the election and had in fact approached the Supreme Court, which turned down a number of petitions questioning the results. The visuals of chaos from the Capitol are unprecedented and have never been seen before during transfer of power in America.

While some squarely blame Donald Trump for this ‘grave assault on democracy’ in America, many also hold the existing electoral system responsible for what is happening in what is referred to as a mature and the oldest democracy in the world. Former Lok Sabha Secretary General PDT Achary says that what is happening in the US is very surprising but the problem lies in the way they elect the President. In America, the President is elected through an indirect voting system called the Electoral College. “If the US had been following the popular vote system (in which people directly vote to elect President) Biden would have been the President and there would have been no such problem,” says Achary.

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The former secretary general says that the ‘American system allows’ Trump to think that he has won even when he has lost the popular votes. He further says a similar thing had happened last time when Hillary Clinton had won the popular votes but Trump won the presidency through the electoral college and ‘winner-takes-all system, which he believes is ‘faulty’. Achary further says that even today Trump is asking his deputy and Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election results. “It means he thinks that it is possible and there is some room (for overturning the results). This is baffling…why can’t America have an easy system instead of a complicated one,” ponders Achary.

He further says that unlike India, the US has no central agency which can conduct elections and announce results. “There in the US, the results are announced on TV. Every state has its own process of conducting elections and announcing results. It’s all complicated. Even today, the counting is on in Georgia,” he says, adding that the US needs to go back to the popular vote system to elect the President. Trump has alleged ‘massive fraud’ in mail-in votes which is allowed for different time periods in different states. Under the mail-in vote process, people vote using postal ballot.

Former Election Commissioner SY Quraishi blames Trump for what he called erosion of democracy in the US. “Consolidation and weakening of democracy depends largely on leaders’ attitude but Trump single handedly damaged democracy like never before,” he says. “After squared defeat from all around, Trump refuses to give up…and giving a call to supporters to storm Capitol is a criminal act…hope he will be prosecuted for this in due course,” Quraishi says. When asked what he thinks about the process followed in the US, the former chief election commissioner says, “The process is fine. But a questionable thing in the process is the difference between electoral college and popular votes. In the last elections, Hillary Clinton was ahead by more than 30 lakh votes but for the electoral college…that to my mind is a defective system which has been questioned many times in the US.” He hopes that some day the US will change that system because “democracy means popular choice”.

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