Skip to content
trump election controversy biden 2020

Subject: Political Instability in British North America

Words: Cincinnatus
Pictures: Mak

The author of the piece below is a former US intelligence analyst who frequently wrote about political instability in developing nations. This is how that author might have written about the current situation in the US.

The author is indebted to Karren Attiah of the Washington Post who provided inspiration with her piece, “How Western Media Would Cover the US Election if It Happened in Another Country.”

16 December 2020

From: National Intelligence Council

To: Office of the Prime Minister

Subject: Political Instability in British North America

Summary: The inability to resolve the outcome of the recent presidential election in British North America has created a succession crisis and produced a level of political instability not seen in the country in more than 100 years. It is likely that the situation will be resolved peacefully by Jan. 20, 2021, when the next presidential term is set to begin. However, there is a chance, the consensus estimate is about 20%, that the situation will not be resolved by that date leading to a prolonged political crisis and possibly leading to violent conflict among various groups and government forces.

Background: On Nov. 3, 2020, a national election was held for the office of the presidency, the chief executive position in the country, as well as one-third of the upper house of the legislature and all of the seats in the lower house. Additionally many regional offices were up for election as well. The incumbent president lost the popular vote by a margin not seen by an incumbent since 1932. However, owing to the intricacies of British North America’s unique electoral system, a sufficient number of regional victories is required to be elected to the presidency, and vice presidency, while all other offices are subject to a simple popular vote in the regions they represent. At this regional level, the challenger received the same number of regional victories as the incumbent did in the previous election, though in that election in 2016 the incumbent did not win the national popular vote.

However, there is a chance, the consensus estimate is about 20%, that the situation will not be resolved by that date leading to a prolonged political crisis and possibly leading to violent conflict among various groups and government forces.

The current crisis has been precipitated by the incumbent president’s refusal to accept his defeat at the presidential level (Note: the incumbent is not questioning the outcome of any legislative or local elections in which his party generally performed better than pre-election polling indicated.). The incumbent has made various claims of widespread fraud and other irregularities which in effect “stole” the election from him and his vice presidential running mate. International observers report that they have seen no evidence of widespread fraud or irregularities. The incumbent has employed a legal team that seeks to challenge the validity of votes in some of the closely contested regions, in an effort to change the results and allow him to continue in office for another four-year term. His legal team has publicly claimed that they have evidence of widespread conspiracies to tamper with the vote on behalf of the challenger, a longtime senior legislator. However, when the legal team actually presents its cases in various courts, its claims are far less ambitious and even those claims have been nearly universally rejected to date, even by judges appointed by the incumbent president or others appointed by previous presidents of his political party.

Now that the legal strategy has largely failed to change any electoral outcomes, the incumbent appears to be pursuing another strategy in which he seeks to have local legislative bodies in effect overrule the popular vote in their respective jurisdictions and award the presidency to him by legislative fiat, or producing an uncertain outcome in which, according to the country’s constitution, the lower house of Congress would decide the election and the incumbent’s party would have the upper hand, again owing to the unique structure of how this voting would take place. We estimate that the incumbent’s chances of success in this effort are very remote. This possibility was made more remote on Dec. 14 when the regional representatives met in the various states and confirmed the challenger’s victory and the incumbent’s defeat. The last time any effort to disrupt the process at this stage came close to being successful was the disputed election of 1874. In that instance, there was documented evidence of fraud and voter intimidation and both of the candidates claimed victory. Eventually, a deal was worked out to allow one of them to take office with certain concessions made to the other side.

With the incumbent’s efforts to challenge the electoral outcome through legal means all but exhausted and even loyal senior members of his own party now conceding his defeat, the country enters a new period of uncertainty. It is possible that the incumbent may continue to not accept the electoral outcome and seek some extra-legal means to retain power. An apparent majority of the incumbent’s supporters, who do represent roughly half the country, will not accept the outcome if he publicly does not accept it as well. In that instance it is possible that he could urge his followers to take to the streets in an effort to create some sort of chaotic situation. Although the incumbent’s rhetoric has at times been extreme, he has thus far refrained from urging any sort of violence. There are fringe elements in both political camps in the country that have a demonstrated capacity for small-scale violence. It is unclear if large percentages on either side would act violently. In general local police, at times backed by militia under the control of regional governors, has been able to largely control street violence. There is the possibility that some elements within various police or military forces would be supportive of some sort of extra-constitutional measures in support of the incumbent. However, to date, there is little evidence such sentiment is at all widespread. The military’s uniformed leadership has been steadfast in their support for the constitution and has refused any calls to act as some sort of arbiter in the political dispute. The incumbent has fired the civilian defense secretary and other senior civilians in the defense establishment but it seems doubtful that uniformed leadership would follow any illegal orders directed by the civilian loyalists in the Defense Department. The attorney general, the senior legal officer in the country and a presidential loyalist confirmed that he could find no evidence of electoral fraud and is stepping down from his position.

If for some reason the dispute about who is the lawful president remains up until 1200 local time Jan. 1, 2021, in the nation’s capital, according to law the speaker of the lower house of congress, a staunch political opponent of the president, would become acting president until such time as the dispute is resolved. Presumably, in that capacity, she would act to install the opposition candidate from her party who won the election.

In conclusion, the most likely outcome of current events is that the incumbent president will leave office on Jan. 20 and his opponent will be installed as the new president. There remains a remote chance that the incumbent will be able to create some chaos prior to that date, but we assess that government forces will act to ensure the transition if necessary.

Respectfully Submitted,



Hey there!

You made it to the bottom of the page! That means you must like what we do. In that case, can we ask for your help? Inkstick is changing the face of foreign policy, but we can’t do it without you. If our content is something that you’ve come to rely on, please make a tax-deductible donation today. Even $5 or $10 a month makes a huge difference. Together, we can tell the stories that need to be told.