Fiji’s prime minister got in first, gambling on congratulating Joe Biden before the presidential election had been called, slipping in a plea for action on climate change.
But once the result was official, congratulations came pouring in from around the world. Donald Trump’s allies, critics and reluctant partners had all been following the vote counting, weighing up the impact of a radical change of direction expected from Washington under Biden.
Many of those congratulating the new president-elect and his running mate Kamala Harris took the opportunity to bolster ties by underlining their connection to America. Among the first was Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau. He said: “We share a relationship that’s unique on the world stage. I’m really looking forward to working together and building on that with you both.”
Boris Johnson, who has been a close ally of Trump, took a little longer, but about an hour after the election was called put out a message reminding Biden of the “special relationship” that usually means so much more to London than Washington. He said: “America is our closest ally and I look forward to working closely together on our shared priorities.”
From Dublin the congratulations came with a nod to Biden’s Irish heritage, with his interest in the country particularly important at a time of fears that the Good Friday agreement could be threatened by Brexit.
“I want to congratulate the new president elect of the US. Joe Biden has been a true friend of this nation throughout his life and I look forward to working with him in the years ahead,” wrote the Irish prime minister Micheál Martin.
The stream of global congratulations were in stark contrast to the middle of the week, when the US slid into days of election chaos, with a flailing incumbent making wildly untrue claims from the White House as his supporters gathered in the streets to demand the basis of democracy – counting votes – be halted.
That had prompted mockery from around the world. But after a brief wobble, American democracy appeared to have come through.
And after years in which Trump has disengaged from multilateral institutions, to focus on his “America First” policy, many are likely to be hoping for greater global engagement under a Biden administration. Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez and France’s Emmanuel Macron both said they were looking forward to future cooperation.
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who often seemed frustrated by Trump – reportedly telling Macron this summer “I don’t want to be in the room with the guy” – said via a spokesman that she wished Biden “luck and success from the bottom of my heart”.
There were also celebrations around the world of Harris’s historic success as the first woman on a winning presidential ticket, and the first woman of colour to become vice-president. The first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “This is a big and special moment. Women and people of colour in particular will feel inspired by the historic nature of vice-president elect Harris’s achievement.”
Many of Trump’s closest allies abroad – and his most bitter rivals – began repositioning themselves after Biden’s win. India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, a Trump ally who critics said had tacitly endorsed the incumbent for re-election, sent congratulations and a particular message for Harris, whose mother moved to the US from India. He said: “Your success is pathbreaking, and a matter of immense pride for all Indian-Americans. I am confident vibrant India-US ties will get even stronger with your support and leadership.”
Iran’s supreme leader, the ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quick to repeat earlier mockery of the election, which he described as “a spectacle” but did not attack the president-elect personally, and on Saturday evening a political prisoner, Nasrin Sotoudeh, was given a temporary release from jail.
The timing may have been a coincidence, but there are hopes Biden and Tehran may revive the Obama-era nuclear deal jettisoned by Trump. News of the release also fostered hopes a Biden administration would be focused on civil rights beyond America’s borders, as well as at home.
“There is doom and gloom within Arab regime circles,” said Hassan Hassan, editor of Newslines Magazine. “A Biden presidency is likely to create space for activists and renewed civil society support.”
From Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, one of Trump’s most fervent backers, there has been silence.
One ousted leader had a word of advice to the outgoing president. Former Danish prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen tweeted to Trump a picture of himself walking out of the seat of power, a backpack over his shoulder, and said: “This is the right way to leave office with honour once you have lost an election. Thanks for honest conversations over the last four years. Let’s keep in touch.”