As the US moves closer to determining a winner in the presidential race, President Donald Trump has made controversial broad allegations of voter fraud, while his Democratic rival Joe Biden has expressed confidence that he and his running mate Kamala Harris will win.
The duelling statements came on Thursday with the media giving Biden a wide lead in the electoral votes needed to win and Trump trying to tie up the counting in courts but so far without succeeding in stopping the count.
In the polarising atmosphere, protests were held across the country by supporters of both leaders and in New York City the anti-Trump protest turned violent for the second night with attacks on police and several arrests.
“If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” the President told reporters at the White House on Thursday, implying that some of the postal ballots, the counting of which he was trying to stop was illegal.
“If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us. If you count the votes that came in late, we’re looking at them very strongly, but a lot of votes came in late.
“This is a case where they’re trying to steal an election a” trying to rig an election,” he asserted.
Biden, in contrast, said: “Each ballot must be counted and that’s what is going on now. And that’s how it should be. Democracy is sometimes messy, so sometimes it requires a little patience.”
Trump’s allegations about election fraud brought immediate condemnation from the media, almost all of which labelled it “false”, and politicians in Republican and Democratic parties.
The main TV networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, stopped broadcasting his speech midway.
Larry Hogan, the Republican Governor of Maryland tweeted: “There is no defence for the President’s comments tonight undermining our Democratic process.”
Adam Kinzinger, a Republican member of the House of Representatives, was blunter in his tweet: “This is getting insane.”
While the New York Times and CBS gave Biden 253 electoral college votes, the Associated Press and Fox News gave him 264 votes and Trump 214, both projections put the presidency in Biden’s reach.
Accompanied by Harris in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden repeated his low-key claim of victory.
“We continue to feel very good about where things stand. And we have no doubt that when the count is finished, Senator Harris and I will be the winners.”
Among the key states from where the results are to be announced, Biden improved his tally in Georgia and Pennsylvania, where Trump still had a lead, while Biden’s lead narrowed in Arizona.
In his speech, Trump highlighted an issue of embarrassment for the national media, the polls that were widely off the mark in most cases.
He called the polls “election interference” by “powerful special interests” that were “designed to keep out voters home” and “diminish Republicans’ ability to raise funds”.
He cited the polls in Florida and Ohio where he won despite poll predictions that he would lose.
One instance of what he cited as an irregularity was brushed off by most media and Democrats as inconsequential, but would appear as a major flaw in many countries.
That was the refusal by authorities in some places to allow party observers to watch the counting process closely.
He cited the case of Pennsylvania, where a judge ruled on a Republican appeal to allow observers to effectively watch the counting process.
The judge permitted observers to be within six feet of the counting process while following Covid-19 preventive measures after the Republicans had complained they were kept so far away that they could not see the ballots.