BERLIN – As an angry mob storms the heart of the world’s most powerful democracy, the rest of the world watches with dismay and disbelief the once unimaginable scenes unfolding in Washington – and deep concern over what the unrest could mean as authoritarian forces. gaining power around the world.
Many of those who follow live broadcasts of armed rioters invading the Capitol see it as a strong and disturbing warning to all the world’s democracies: If it can happen in the United States, it can happen anywhere.
“We are currently witnessing an attack on the foundations of democratic structures and institutions,” said Peter Beyer, the German government’s coordinator for trans-Atlantic affairs. “It’s not just an American national issue, but it’s shaking the world, at least all democracies.”
One by one, officials around the world responded with the kind of statements the US State Department issued earlier when political violence conquered other countries.
“These photos made me angry and sad,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday. “I regret that President Trump has not accepted that he has lost since November, nor did he do so again yesterday.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison condemned the violence, calling what was unfolding in Congress “very disturbing”. while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand said she and others in her country were “crushed” by the events.
“The right of people to vote, to make their voices heard and then to uphold the decision peacefully, should never be undone by a mob,” she said. wrote on Twitter.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg took the extremely unusual step of weighing a domestic issue in a Member State, writing: “The outcome of this democratic election must be respected.”
Even some of mr. Trump’s most outspoken admirers have distanced themselves from the violence that has unfolded. Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Nationalist League Party in Italy, wrote on Twitter: “Violence is never the solution,” while Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India called for an “orderly and peaceful transfer of power”.
The attack on the Capitol – less than a day after Hong Kong police arrested more than 50 democracy activists – is seen as a deep blow to America’s global credibility, making it harder for the United States to become authoritarian leaders. accountable around the world. trampling on democratic values.
The world’s authoritarian leaders “must be in a euphoric and festive mood,” wrote Yossi Melman, an author of Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, which names President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, President Xi Jinping of China, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In Cambodia, Sok Eysan, a senator and spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, has the claim of mr. Trump argued that the US election was tainted when he asked, “If the US has election fraud and corruption, which country is cleaner?”
Many blamed the US president.
“This is what happens when you sow hatred,” said Stéphane Séjourné, a member of the European Parliament and a close ally of French President Emmanuel Macron. wrote on Twitter. “Let us defend and protect our democracy, because it cannot be taken for granted.”
Chancellor Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany and welcomed President Trump into office in 2016 by reminding him of the principles of democracy, did not utter her words.
“He instilled uncertainty about the outcome of the election and it created an atmosphere that made last night’s events possible,” she said.
Charles Santiago, an opposition lawmaker in Malaysia who is also chairing the ASEAN parliamentarians for human rights, said Mr. Trump has joined other world leaders “in undermining democracy and the will of the people.” He quoted Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia and President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines.
“The US has lost its moral authority to proclaim democracy and human rights to other countries,” he said. “It’s become part of the problem.”
Marzia Rustami, a women’s rights activist in Afghanistan, read the news about what was happening in the United States while Taliban fighters attacked a military base near her home in the northern city of Kunduz.
“In the United States, I see that the dialogue has given way to chaos,” she said, describing how she heard explosions and gunfire in the distance as she followed the news online. “It has been like this in my country for 40 years, and now the failure of the United States in this country has made the situation worse for us.”
For many foreign leaders, the scenes in America were also reminiscent of recent political attacks on democracy at home.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has drawn a parallel between the storm of the US Capitol and the recent attempt by a far-right German mob to enter the Reichstag, the building that houses the German parliament.
‘Inflammatory words will lead to acts of violence – on the steps of the Reichstag, and now in the Capitol. “The contempt for democratic institutions has a devastating effect,” he said. Maas said wrote on Twitter. He added, “The enemies of democracy will be happy about these amazing photos from Washington, DC”
And they were.
In Russia, the violence fits neatly into the Kremlin’s propaganda narrative of a crumbling American democracy. The Russian state-run news channel, Rossiya-24, broadcast the chaos in the Capitol on a split screen. One side shows happy Orthodox Christmas in Russia, and the other the violent chaos in Washington. President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela tackles state television to read his ministers on the virtues of democracy while presenting the official state media of Iran minute-by-minute updates, which Mr. Trump’s role in inciting violence is emphasized by making false allegations about election fraud.
In China, a State Department spokesman, Hua Chunying, expressed US support for the major protests that took place in Hong Kong, which at one point included the 2019 takeover of the legislature. statement at the time by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said the protests in Hong Kong were “a beautiful sight to behold.” ‘
“Do you still remember that US officials, members of Congress and some media at the time – what phrases did they use for Hong Kong?” she said Thursday in Beijing. “What phrases are they using for America now?”
One of the beleagured opposition activists in the area was quick to distinguish the brief takeover in Hong Kong from the storms of Congress.
“Let me be clear, there is no way for anyone to justify what is happening in the States today with what happened in Hong Kong,” Joey Siu posted on Twitter. “Yes, both have entered the legislative chamber, but one with the determination to sacrifice for the defense of democracy and one that seeks to damage it.”
A sense of guilt arose in other parts of the world that were at the end of advice on good governance from Washington.
“As Africa, we call on Americans to respect democracy, to respect the rule of law and to allow a peaceful transition to power,” Mmusi Maimane, former leader of the opposition, wrote on Twitter. “Follow the example of major democracies such as South Africa that respect the outcome of elections.”
Amid the outcry, there was several hopeful voices insisting that this was a last fall of the Trump presidency rather than the beginning of the end of Western democracy – and that a Biden presidency would turn things around.
“I trust in the strength of America’s democracy,” tweeted Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of Spain. ‘The new presidency of@JoeBiden will overcome this time of tension and unite the American people. ”
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also showed an optimistic tone in a tweet. “Democracy in the US must be maintained – and it will be,” he wrote.
Others have warned that the Democracy crisis went further than Mr. Trump and that America could take years to recover.
In Germany, where democracy once gave way to Nazi rule after an unstable decade of outrageous right-wing militias and failed coups, images of an armed mob attacking the U.S. seat of national power echoed uncomfortably. history aroused.
“After our disastrous failure in the 20th century, our Germans were taught by the USA to develop strong democratic institutions,” said Andreas Michaelis, the German ambassador to Britain. “We have also learned that democracy is not just about institutions. It is also about political culture. ”
Still, others found dark humor in the day’s events.
Lebanese-British comedian Karl Sharro has made a nod between Trump’s encouragement of the Capitol mob and the history of the United States to overthrow the leaders of other countries. “Trump basically introduced US foreign policy to the US,” he wrote on Twitter.
Felipe Neto, a popular Brazilian political commentator, took a chance on the United States.
“I’m waiting for the US to invade the US so they can ‘re-establish democracy’, ‘ he wrote on Twitter.
Katrin Bennhold reports from Berlin and Steven Lee Myers of Seoul. Reporting was contributed by Melissa Eddy and Christopher F. Schuetze of Berlin; Andrew Higgins and Anton Troianovski of Moscow; Natalie Kitroeff and Oscar Lopez of Mexico City; Aurelien Breeden of Paris; David M. Halbfinger, Isabel Kershner, and Adam Rasgon of Jerusalem; Mark Landler, Megan Specia and Benjamin Mueller of London; Ernesto Londoño of Rio de Janeiro; Anatoly Kurmanaev of Caracas, Venezuela; Julie Turkewitz of Bogotá, Colombia; Vivian Yee of Tunis; Jason Horowitz of Rome; Catherine Porter of Toronto; Farnaz Fassihi of New York; Ruth Maclean of Dakar, Senegal; Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Steven Erlanger from Brussels; Austin Ramzy of Hong Kong; Emily Schmall of New Delhi; Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Najim Rahim of Kabul, Afghanistan; Damien Cave of Sydney, Australia; Hannah Beech and Richard C. Paddock of Bangkok; Sun Narin of Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Choe Sang-hun of Seoul; Motoko Rich and Makiko Inoue of Tokyo; and Amy Chang Chien from Taipei, Taiwan.