US expats in UAE shocked but united
Dubai - US expats in the UAE rally around Donald Trump's call to make America great again
On the morning of November 9, American expats in the UAE nervously gathered to watch the results of one of the most memorable (and divisive) presidential elections the United States has ever witnessed.
The countdown began at 6.30am during a breakfast organised in Dubai by the American Business Council of Dubai and Northern Emirates (ABC) where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton supporters came together in front of large screens broadcasting live coverage of the elections.
A series of unanticipated events that marked the elections - from a tape surfacing of Trump engaging in a lewd conversation about women, to the FBI revisiting Clinton's private email investigations - gave American audiences the hint that this year's elections would be like no other.
Many expats were certain that Clinton would be elected as the 45th US president, and Democratic supporters in Dubai were confident until the red colour starting dominating the American map.
A round of applause filled the room when Clinton was announced as a winner of a certain state. Then silence. What followed were shocked faces as Trump began to lead in key states.
It was clear that the majority in the room were Democratic supporters. Soon enough, the smiles began to fade away and hopes started to vanish.
"I am for Trump, but the room is clearly not for Trump," said American expat Matthew Steckel, as he waited for the results of an election that stretched longer than expected.
"Personally, I don't like the Clintons. They were never clear on what their agenda was," he said, before leaving the now quiet room as tensions rose, giving way to disappointment.
"It is getting close. I was more confident last night," said Julia Denis, press officer at Democrats Abroad UAE.
While some smiled with worry and disbelief at the results, others sat quietly with stony faces.
By 10.30am, some Democratic party supporters began to exit the room. Trump had increased his lead. There was no point hanging around longer.
Watching them at the door was an elderly American couple who refused to be named. "We voted for [Clinton], but we are now very upset and worried about what the future will bring," the old man said before his wife added, "The educated white women didn't come out in the numbers that we had hoped for. And other people like the Hispanics couldn't make the difference even though they tried their best."
The couple expressed their worries about the country's economy. "[Trump] convinced people of a dream that I doubt he can fulfil. It makes America look bad because people around the world are shocked that something like that will happen," said the senior expat. "Now the economy will suffer because he has no business plans."
After the election results that stretched for almost five hours, only three men were left waiting to hear Trump's victory speech.
At 12:30pm when Trump appeared before his supporters at his campaign headquarters on TV, Bilal Sabouni, CEO of ABC, called for a united America.
"This campaign has been about red and blue states, but it's very important for us to shift focus and look at the US. We are about building unity and respecting the democratic process."
The room then echoed with Trump's campaign slogan, "Let's make America great again."
Democrats abroad UAE not losing heart, see new role for Hillary in public life
Donald Trump's election as the next president of the United States may have stunned the Democratic Party, but supporters still hoped that Hillary Clinton would continue in politics.
Orlando Vidal, Chairman of Democrats Abroad UAE and Democratic National Committee member, said: "Don't listen to the media, don't listen to the pundits, don't listen to the experts, or the political talking heads. Above all, don't trust any polls. The people have spoken; sometimes people get it wrong but that's democracy. I say a prayer for my country, a prayer for this region and a prayer for the world."
He added that while the Democratic Party was on the verge of making history by electing Hillary Clinton as the first female president, the outcome did not mean that there was no achievement for women in politics.
"Not only is Hillary Clinton among the most qualified candidates ever to run for president, she is also the first woman to be the nominee of any major party." With around 8.7 million Americans living overseas, the get-out-the-vote efforts had doubled the membership of Democrats Abroad since March, according to Vidal.
Democrats Abroad, the official Democratic party for Democrats living outside the US, has recorded a 300 per cent jump in voters registration when compared to 2012. In 2016, over 2.5 million Americans living overseas were reached through the site.
Julia Denis, press officer of Democrats Abroad UAE, said, "Though we are deeply disappointed with the results, we hope Trump will reach out to the opposition and to those who voted for his opponent." For UAE expats, she hoped the President-elect would promote more positive dialogue, forge new alliances abroad and avoid being an isolationist. "Trump has successfully alienated leaders we have had great relationships with. While he lacks foreign policy experience, it makes us hope he can build bridges with countries." Trump should surround himself with the right advisors, she said. Clinton could still be tapped to head foreign policy, she said. "She didn't win, but she paved the way for other qualified female leaders to reach the Oval Office. Now it's easier for other women to follow in her path."
"From our side, we know that we have done our best in using our online portals to allow UAE expats to vote, but the turnout was unpredictable."