MOSCOW — When the strongman ruler of Belarus declared an implausible landslide victory in an election in August and had himself sworn in for a sixth term as president, the United States and other Western nations denounced what they said was brazen defiance of the voters’ will.
President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko’s victory, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month, was “fraud.” Mr. Pompeo added: “We’ve opposed the fact that he’s now inaugurated himself. We know what the people of Belarus want. They want something different.”
Just a month later, Mr. Pompeo’s boss, President Trump, is now borrowing from Mr. Lukashenko’s playbook, joining a club of truculent leaders who, regardless of what voters decide, declare themselves the winners of elections.
That club counts as its members far more dictators, tyrants and potentates than leaders of what used to be known as the “free world” — countries that, led by Washington, have for decades lectured others on the need to hold elections and respect the result.
The parallel is not exact. Mr. Trump participated in a free and fair democratic election. Most autocrats defy voters before they even vote, excluding real rivals from the ballot and swamping the airwaves with one-sided coverage.
But when they do hold genuinely competitive votes and the result goes against them, they often ignore the result, denouncing it as the work of traitors, criminals and foreign saboteurs, and therefore invalid. By refusing to accept the results of last week’s election and working to delegitimize the vote, Mr. Trump is following a similar strategy.
The United States has never before had to force an incumbent to concede a fair defeat at the polls. And merely by raising the possibility that he would have to be forced out of office, Mr. Trump has shattered the bedrock democratic tradition of a seamless transition.