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Bracing for a Trump presidency.

By Marwan Kabalan, Special to Gulf News,Thinker

With just three days remaining until November 8, the spectre of an upset in the United States presidential elections is looming large. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign is struggling in the wake of a unexpected FBI decision last week to reopen an investigation into her use of a private email server when she was secretary of state and if by doing so she had compromised America's national security. The timing of the decision and the possibility of the FBI recommending that Clinton face criminal charges have jolted her campaign and deflated her momentum. Latest polls show that her lead against Republican candidate Donald Trump has dissipated and that she is now neck-and-neck with her rival. In fact, one ABC poll released on Tuesday showed Trump edging her by one point.

What seemed unlikely few weeks ago is now a haunting probability: A Trump presidency is no longer an issue that is mentioned with tongue-in-cheek reproach, but a real possibility. With the recent Brexit outcome in mind, the polls could be wrong either way, but even if Clinton wins, it will not be the landslide victory that she was hoping to secure as the first woman president in US history. Despite accusations of racism, misogyny, demagoguery, isolationism, bad temperament, questionable business dealings and many others, Trump's voter base is largely intact and even key Republican leaders who had disavowed him few weeks ago are now coming back. Meanwhile, the stain of corruption that is following the Clintons simply refuses to go away.

Understanding the inner workings of the American political system is a tough task even for the experts. The world will anxiously watch as millions of Americans head to the polls - more than 25 million have already voted - and we must brace ourselves for the possibility of a Trump victory. Clinton needs a strong voter turnout, especially by minorities and educated women, and she must win over many of the independents and young men and women who favoured her party rival Bernie Sanders and his leftist programme. For Trump's coming days, it is about staying on his populist message; that Washington is corrupt and as on outsider he will fix a rigged political system, bring jobs back and do away with unfair trade deals. But for most Americans, the majority of whom have unfavourable views of both candidates, it boils down to choosing the lesser of two evils.

For most of the world a Trump presidency will be a disaster. He is an unknown quantity and his positions on world trade, immigration, open borders, Nato, trade with China and relations with Russia promise to upset the current international order. Markets are already nervous about Clinton's latest woes and the unpredictability of Tuesday's elections.

For the rest of the world, Clinton is a safe bet. Her policies and views will largely safeguard the current global political and economic infrastructures. She will work with America's allies in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere and will defend free trade and honour America's international and regional commitments. In many cases, hers will be an extension of the Barack Obama presidency.

However, there are those who would like to see Trump emerge victorious. Russia, for instance, has been accused by Clinton of interfering in US elections by allegedly hacking the emails of top Democratic Party officials and releasing hundreds of thousands of embarrassing documents through Wikileaks in a bid to influence voters. Democratic leaders have called on the FBI to investigate secret links between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But at the end of the day, it is the American people and their delegates who will decide the outcome of this bizarre election season. Clinton's chances remain stronger, but with the promise that Wikileaks will release a new tranche of emails before November 9, it is anyone's guess who will come on top at the end.

For the Middle East, a Trump victory will not be entirely bad. He had promised to renegotiate what he called a bad deal with Iran over its nuclear programme - something that will please Gulf leaders who believe the Obama administration had done little to check Tehran's ambitions in Yemen, Iraq and Syria and its rise as a militant regional power. The Israeli government will also want to see the US putting fresh pressure on a defiant Iran.

Trump had promised to defeat Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), but without revealing his strategy, which is unlikely to differ from what the current administration is doing. But when it comes to the war in Syria, Trump may be willing to let Putin have his way there; something that will deepen the region's crises and its instability.

If Trump does win, it is unlikely that he will carry out any of his outrageous proposals. He will be surrounded by advisers who will caution him against adopting radical decisions on Nato, nuclear armament, free trade agreements and others. He is more likely to concentrate on his domestic agenda, especially appointing conservative Supreme Court justices, repealing Obamacare, tightening immigration laws and opening the door for controversial oil and coal exploration projects in an effort to revive US heavy industries.

The FBI investigation into Clinton's email saga is likely to continue beyond Election Day and if she wins, it means that even as she waits to be sworn in as president on January 20, 2017, the possibility that she could be indicted in the last minute will continue to haunt her. What this could mean for her and the future of the presidency of the US will be the penultimate chapter in one of the oddest elections in American history.

Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.

- Dr Marwan Kabalan - Francis Matthew - Dr Ramzy Baroud

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Nov 4, 2016
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