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Shock and awe at Trump’s rise to power

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Paris, France | AFP |

Donald Trump’s extraordinary US election victory sent shockwaves across the world on Wednesday, as opponents braced for a “dangerous” leader in the White House while fellow populists hailed a ballot-box revolution by ordinary people.

America’s allies put a diplomatically brave face on the outcome of the deeply divisive presidential race, which has implications for everything from trade to human rights, climate change to global conflicts.

A “Trump slump” hit some markets, with Asian stocks nosediving on concerns over the untested polices of the billionaire tycoon, although European shares clawed back some of their initial losses and Wall Street was mixed.

Mexicans were thunderstruck at the victory of a man who has called migrants rapists and drug dealers, and vowed to force their country to pay billions to build a border wall.

And in Canada, the immigration ministry website crashed as many Americans sought to flee to their northern neighbour.

But Trump’s populist brothers-in-arms in Europe reacted with unabashed glee, with Nigel Farage, who spearheaded the “Brexit” campaign for Britain to leave the EU, trumpeting “two great political revolutions”.

The Republican’s virulently anti-establishment rise to power was keenly watched abroad as he campaigned on a platform of trashing trade deals, restricting immigration, dismissing climate change, and otherwise disengaging from the rest of the world.

“Once again we have collectively failed to grasp the depths of frustration and anger among white, less well educated and often working class voters who feel cut adrift from mainstream politics, under threat from the global market and profoundly uncomfortable with rapid ethnic change,” British academic Matthew Goodwin said on Twitter.

Warning against isolation 

From Berlin to Beijing, Ankara to Ottawa, world leaders were quick to push for a continuation of ties with the planet’s top political and economic power, despite some previous misgivings about the tycoon.

With concerns high in Europe that Trump may review commitments to NATO, the EU urgently called a meeting of foreign ministers on Sunday to discuss future relations with Washington, while the bloc’s leaders warned against US “isolation”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been repeatedly flattered by Trump, was among the first to send his congratulations and said Moscow wants to restore “fully fledged relations” with Washington after the strained ties under Barack Obama.

An image purportedly showing Putin and Trump, both bare-chested, riding a horse together, went viral on Twitter in Russia.

Across the globe, viewers at election-watching events stared at giant screens tallying the returns as they digested the impact of the unpredictable property baron heading the world’s most powerful nation.

“It’s very similar to Brexit, but it’s probably worse… It’s scary,” said Molly Davies, 24, from San Francisco, as she watched in a London bar. “Our rights are gonna go backward… like gay rights, abortion.”

“I’m very afraid, will there be more wars? Will America attack Muslim countries again?” asked Indonesian activist Alijah Diete.

“It’s a nightmare, with a lot of uncertainty about what’s going to happen,” said 35-year-old architect Erick Sauri, who wore a T-shirt reading “Hillary Clinton for President” as he watched the results in Mexico.

 ‘Into the abyss’ 

Britain’s left-leaning Guardian newspaper pulled no punches, saying the United States has elected “its most dangerous leader”.

“We have plenty to fear. The people of America have stepped into the abyss. The new president-elect is an unstable bigot, sexual predator and compulsive liar. He is capable of anything.”

Trump’s win has also fanned fears for the global economy.

“Clinton was a continuation of the status quo, whereas Trump is a huge leap into the unknown, so investors, as well as the wider public, have significant concerns about what he will do and whether he is up to the job,” said Rebecca O’Keeffe, head of investment at stockbroker Interactive Investor.

“Trump is likely to cut taxes, invest in US infrastructure, be very pro-growth at home but be highly protectionist when it comes to the rest of the world.”

Jittery participants at UN climate talks in Morocco insisted Trump — who has described global warming as a “hoax” — could not derail the global shift to clean energy.

“Trump’s election is a disaster, but it cannot be the end of the international climate process,” said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, a global group pushing for divestment from fossil fuels.

 ‘Democracy is alive’ 

But in Europe, populist politicians rushed to congratulate their hero.

“What we are witnessing is the end of a period of big business and big politics controlling our lives,” Britain’s Farage said. “Prepare for further political shocks in the years to come.”

Marine Le Pen, head of France’s far-right anti-immigration National Front (FN) — who is running for president next year — congratulated Trump and the “free American people”.

And Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who leads a right-wing coalition with a strong anti-immigration stance, declared: “Congratulations. What a great news. Democracy is still alive.”

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