Ranked: Authoritarians Condescending to America About Its Elections

“If half the things said here are true, neither can be president of the United States or any other country.”

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad gestures as he speaks during a news conference with Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, after their meeting in Damascus October 11, 2010.
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (Khaled Al Hariri / Reuters)

Americans aren’t the only people ready for the U.S. election to be over already. Around the world, dictators, strongmen, and other less-than-democratic local leaders have found themselves barely able to contain their contempt for what America’s free and fair process has wrought. Here are five world leaders—and frequent targets of Washington’s scolding—who have spotted a chance to reciprocate.

5. Syria’s Bashar al-Assad: “We have hopes that we can see rational American presidents; fair, obey the international law, deal with other countries according to mutual respect, parity, etc., but we all know that this is only wishful thinking and fantasy.” Sounds like Assad is pulling for Gary Johnson.

4. Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro: "If half the things said here are true, neither can be president of the United States or any other country." To be clear, Maduro was reacting to the first presidential debate—you know, the civil one. Meanwhile, politics in Venezuela—where the Maduro government has quashed efforts to recall him from office, prompting massive street protests and a diplomatic intervention by the Vatican—have become decidedly uncivil.

3. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Asked to pick which candidate he’d get along with better if that person became president, Erdogan insisted: “I’m not falling into that trap.” He then asserted: “The best thing for me is to see the will of the people being served in the United States, the choice of the American people will be the right choice. I believe democracy more than anything else.” More, certainly, than in the contenders themselves. Perhaps he wasn’t so much spotting a trap as he was unable to decide who he likes least: Hillary Clinton, who wants to arm his Kurdish adversaries, or Donald Trump, who wants to ban Muslims from the U.S.

2. Iran’s Hassan Rouhani: “Should I prefer bad over worse or worse over bad?" Rouhani’s balancing act is arguably more complicated than most people’s—except perhaps Paul Ryan’s. (It’s worth noting that he did not specify which candidate corresponded to which degree of badness.) Politically, Rouhani owns the act of reconciliation embodied by the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal, but he does not hold the ultimate power in the country. That lies with the supreme leader, whose hardline allies hate the deal. The safest answer, then, if Rouhani wants to make the deal work with the next American president while also appeasing his anti-deal bosses: A pox on both of the Great Satanists’ houses.

1. Russia’s Vladimir Putin: “I don't think they are setting the best example,” he remarked in September. Say this for Putin: He has a steely poker face. He manages to get in a few digs at the candidates’ decorum all while doing his utmost to disrupt the U.S. electoral process. On Thursday, he also managed to get in a dig at the American system itself while denying his own meddling in it: “Does anyone seriously think that Russia can influence the choice of the American people? Is America some kind of banana republic?” That’s how you set an example.

This article has been adapted from Matt Peterson’s weekly newsletter for Eurasia Group, Signal.