Some in Europe doubt whether U.S. election will be 'free and fair'

LONDON (Reuters) - People in seven European nations overwhelmingly want Joe Biden to win the U.S. presidential election, an opinion poll showed this week, but barely 10% think the vote will be fully free and fair, a finding that comes as some diplomats in Washington worry President Donald Trump may not accept the election result.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., September 29, 2020. Picture taken September 29, 2020. Olivier Douliery/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

The YouGov survey, conducted in seven European countries between Sept. 15 and Oct. 4, found that 80% of Danes want Democratic candidate Biden to win. The numbers were also high in Germany (71%), Spain (69%), Sweden (65%), France (64%) and Britain (61%).

Even in Italy, where sentiment towards Trump is more positive, 58% favoured a Biden victory.

(For full survey results, see: here)

Only between 2% (Germany) and 11% (Italy) of those surveyed think the Nov. 3 election will be completely free and fair. A fifth of Germans and 16% of Britons said they thought it would not be free and fair at all.

The findings reflect deepening doubts about the strength and reliability of U.S. democracy after four years of the Trump presidency.

Trump, lagging Biden in opinion polls, has himself called the democratic process into question, making the unfounded assertion that mail-in balloting leads to fraud even though experts say such fraud is rare. The Republican president has also refused to say whether he would accept a peaceful transfer of power if he loses.

Some diplomats based in Washington say it has been uncomfortable to watch a nation that has for so long been held up, and held itself up, as an exemplar of democracy have those foundations chipped away at from the White House.

“I do agree with those who say this election is a battle for the soul of America,” said one. “People fundamentally need to decide which direction they want their country to move in.”

The confusion and mixed messaging around Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis and hospitalisation has added to concerns about how the election outcome will be handled, especially if the results are extremely close.

One European ambassador said at times it was no longer possible to separate truth from fabrication coming out of the White House. “Frankly, this doesn’t bode well for Election Day,” he said.

Editing by Frances Kerry