Donald Trump made yet another controversial remark during the last presidential debate by saying that he might not accept the election result if he loses. His claim that the election is rigged is not a new tactical tool in his campaign, as past record shows that this rather pitiful move has been used before to distract the public’s attention from his other scandals. Days after invoking nationwide backlash for his offensive comment about a Gold Star family, Trump played the “rigged election” card during a rally in Ohio.
Like a 10-year-old bully who knows that defeat is looming, Trump spews this rhetoric not only to divert attention from the conundrum that he has caused, but also also to gain more traction among voters. His statement drew criticisms from both Democrat and Republican leaders for various reasons. First, it undermines the legitimacy of this country’s democratic process in electing a new leadership. It also erodes voters’ trust in the integrity of the Electoral College. What’s most concerning about Trump’s accusation is that it’s capable of inciting violence and unrest should Hillary Clinton become the president. Once voters become disenfranchised with the system that is suppose to represent their voices, they might resort to violence as a means of protest. Let’s look at what happened around the world when elections were claimed to be rigged.
1. Iranian 2009 presidential election
In one of the most highly contested elections in Iranian presidential election history, which drew a record turnout of 85 percent, violent protests erupted after the incumbent, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, won a landslide victory against a popular reformist candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, whom many young, educated and middle-class voters had favored to bring about change to the government’s increasingly conservative rule. At its height, the protest mobilized up to 3 million peaceful demonstrators in Tehran to demand answers regarding the way the election was conducted. There were also allegations of insufficient ballot papers as well as the denial of voting right to millions of voters.
2. Malaysian 2013 general election
Despite winning the general election, the decline in popular votes as well as the loss of seven parliamentary
seats were indicative of the ruling coalition’s withering influence on Malaysian voters. In the tightest race since the country’s inception in 1957, the government won 133 out the 222 seats in the Parliament albeit
gaining about 47 percent of popular votes. This created a lot of dissatisfaction among many voters who were hoping to dismantle the governmental reign of the same party since the country’s independence half a century ago. In addition to gerrymandering, other allegations of misconduct include the registration of deceased voters as well as the registration of a single voter in multiple areas. Election petitions were sent to the court and they were dismissed. In response to this, more than 50,000 Malaysians protested in the capital city a few days after the election.
3. Gabon 2016 presidential election
President Ali Bongo retained his power amid violent protests against his re-election as the president of this central African country for another seven years. The opposition leader accused Bongo of stealing this election due to irregularities observed in some of the nine provinces involved. In Bongo’s home province, the 99.9 percent turnout seemed suspicious when compared to the nationwide turnout, only a little over 59 percent. This victory solidified Bongo’s family grip on this country after its half-century rule, which has been fueled by Gabon’s wealth in oil and natural resources. Thousands of protesters were detained and three were shot dead by government forces. The opposition leader, however, claimed that the actual number of fatalities was higher than that.