(AP) — From Ford Model T cars that popped off the assembly line in just 90 minutes to 60-second service for burgers, the United States has had a major hand in making the world a frenetic and impatient place, primed and hungry for instant gratification.
So waking up to the news Wednesday that the winner of the U.S. election might not be known for hours, days or weeks — pundits filled global airwaves with their best guesses — came as a shock to a planet weaned on that most American of exports: speed.
’’We have to have a little patience, almost certainly a lot of patience,” said the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, as the nail-biting contest for the White House increasingly focused on three states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — that could prove crucial in determining whether President Donald Trump or challenger Joe Biden wins.
“In the American system, the last vote counts, and maybe the last vote changes the result,” Borrell told Spanish National Television.
But as world leaders generally refrained from commenting on the outcome until it was clear, the particularly fractious and contested nature of the vote was already sparking concerns overseas that the superpower’s sharp divisions and internal conflicts exposed by the election might endure long after the winner is declared.
“The battle over the legitimacy of the result — whatever it will look like — has now begun,” said the German defense minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
“This is a very explosive situation. It is a situation of which experts rightly say it could lead to a constitutional crisis in the U.S.,” she said on ZDF television. “That is something that must certainly worry us very much.”
In financial markets, investors struggled to make sense of it all, sending some indexes up and others down.
Overall, uncertainty ruled. In the vacuum of no immediate winner, there was some gloating from Russia, Africa and other parts of the world that have repeatedly been on the receiving end of U.S. criticism, with claims that the election and the vote count were exposing the imperfections of American democracy.
“Africa used to learn American democracy, America is now learning African democracy,” tweeted Nigerian Sen. Shehu Sani, reflecting a common view from some on a continent long used to troubled elections and U.S. criticism of them.
Traditional U.S. allies clung to the belief that regardless of whether Trump or Biden emerged as the winner, the fundamentals that have long underpinned some of America’s key relationships would survive the uncertainty and the U.S. electoral process.
“Whatever the result of the election, they will remain our allies for many years and decades, that is certain,” said Thierry Breton, the EU’s commissioner for the internal market.
That idea was echoed by the prime minister of Japan, Yoshihide Suga, who told a parliamentary session that “the Japan-U.S. alliance is the foundation of Japanese diplomacy, and on that premise I will develop solid relationship with a new president.”