Biden closes in on White House victory, Trump turns to courts
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Washington (AFP) –
Former vice president Joe Biden, making his third run at the White House, was tantalizingly close to victory on Thursday as President Donald Trump sought to stave off defeat with scattershot legal challenges.
Biden, 77, needs a total of 270 votes to capture the Electoral College that determines the White House winner and the magic figure was in reach with several states expected to announce their results on Thursday.
The former senator from Delaware currently has 253 electoral votes -- or 264 if the 11 electoral votes from the southwestern state of Arizona are included.
Fox News and AP news agency projected Biden as the winner in Arizona on Tuesday night. But other outlets have yet to do so and vote-counting continues in the state, where Biden has a fairly healthy lead.
The Democratic hopeful could pick up the votes needed for victory from other states where counting was continuing on Thursday -- Georgia, Nevada or Pennsylvania.
With 86 percent of the vote counted, Biden has a razor-thin 8,000-vote lead in Nevada, which has six electoral votes.
Nevada was won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 and much of the outstanding vote is from areas of the western state that skew towards Democrats.
Trump, 74, has sizeable leads in Georgia and Pennsylvania but Biden has been making gains as the votes continue to be tallied and his campaign is confident he can overtake the president.
"STOP THE COUNT!" Trump tweeted on Thursday morning.
"ANY VOTE THAT CAME IN AFTER ELECTION DAY WILL NOT BE COUNTED!"
Trump prematurely declared victory early Wednesday and threatened to seek Supreme Court intervention to stop vote-counting but it has continued nonetheless.
Pennsylvania, Biden's birthplace, has 20 electoral votes and was considered one of the major prizes in Tuesday's election.
Georgia, with 16 electoral votes, has been a reliably Republican state but could land in the Democratic column for the first time since Bill Clinton won it in 1992.
Trump won both states in 2016 in carving out his upset victory over Hillary Clinton.
- 'STOP THE COUNT!' -
With defeat looming, Trump launched multiple legal challenges on Wednesday, announcing lawsuits in Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania and demanding a recount in Wisconsin, where Biden won by just 20,000 votes.
In Michigan, the campaign filed a suit to halt vote tabulation, saying its "observers" were not allowed to watch at close distances.
And while Trump was demanding that vote-counting be halted in Georgia and Pennsylvania -- where he is leading -- his supporters were insisting that it continue in Arizona and Nevada -- where he is trailing.
In Detroit, a Democratic stronghold that is majority Black, a crowd of mostly-white Trump supporters chanted "Stop the count!" and tried to barge into an election office before being blocked by security.
An aggressive pro-Trump crowd gathered outside a vote counting office in the Arizona county of Maricopa, which includes Phoenix.
The protesters, some of whom were openly carrying firearms, which is legal in the state, chanted "Count the votes!" as law enforcement officers formed a protective line at the facility's doors.
There were anti-Trump protests overnight in Portland, Oregon, resulting in at least 10 arrests, and businesses in several other major cities have boarded up windows as a precaution.
In stark contrast to Trump's unprecedented rhetoric about being cheated, Biden has sought to project calm, reaching out to a nation torn by four years of polarizing leadership and traumatized by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We have to stop treating our opponents as enemies," Biden said Wednesday. "What brings us together as Americans is so much stronger than anything that can tear us apart."
The head of an international observer mission to the US elections called Trump's demands that vote-counting be halted a "gross abuse of office" on Thursday.
Michael Link told the German daily Stuttgarter Zeitung that Trump's false allegations of fraud could pose "a danger that goes far beyond election day."
"Even if he were to admit defeat and hand over office properly, his supporters, incited by rhetoric, may see violence as a legitimate tool because they no longer feel democratically represented," said Link, who works for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Russia's foreign ministry also voiced fears that a disputed election could lead to unrest.
Russia hopes the United States will be able to elect the next president in "full compliance with the American constitution," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
"And the most important thing is to avoid the occurrence of mass riots in the country," she added.
The tight White House race and recriminations have evoked memories of the 2000 election between Republican George W Bush and Democrat Al Gore.
© 2020 AFP