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US election: Joe Biden vows to ‘unify’ country in victory speech

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media captionBiden to Trump voters: ‘Let’s give each other a chance’

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Joe Biden has said he wants to restore the soul of the United States, vowing “not to divide but unify” the country, in his first speech as president-elect.

“This is the time to heal in America,” he told a crowd in Wilmington, Delaware.

Mr Biden defeated incumbent President Donald Trump following a cliff-hanger vote count after Tuesday’s election.

Mr Trump has yet to concede and has not spoken publicly since his defeat was announced while he was playing golf.

The result makes Mr Trump the first one-term president since the 1990s.

“I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify; who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States,” Mr Biden said in his speech on Saturday night.

“I sought this office to restore the soul of America, to rebuild the backbone of this nation, the middle class and to make America respected around the world again, and to unite us here at home.”

He also reached out to those who voted against him in the election, which saw a record turnout.

“It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again,” Mr Biden said. “And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as enemies.”

The president-elect announced that he would form his coronavirus response committee to ensure it is ready to implement decisions from his inauguration day in January.

More than 237,000 Americans have died since the pandemic began – more than any other country in the world – and Joe Biden’s campaign focused heavily on curbing the spread of the virus.

Harris: ‘America is ready’

Mr Biden was introduced by his running mate, Kamala Harris, who has made history as the first female, first black and first Asian-American US vice-president-elect.

Kamala Harris arrives on stage

image copyrightReuters

image captionKamala Harris will be the country’s first female, first black and first Asian-American vice-president

“When our very democracy was on the ballot in this election, the very soul of America at stake and with the whole world watching, you ushered in a new day for America,” she said.

“You chose hope and unity, decency, science and yes, truth – you chose Joe Biden as the next president of the United States.”

“And the road ahead will not be easy but America is ready, and so are Joe and I.”

She also noted the historic moment that the election result marked: “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.”

Enthusiastic crowds gathered outside of the campaign’s headquarters ahead of the speeches.

Joe Biden's supporters wait for the speech in Wilmington, Delaware

image copyrightReuters

What were the results of the election?

The BBC projects that Mr Biden won the key battlegrounds of Pennsylvania and Nevada, propelling him over the 270 electoral college vote threshold required to clinch the White House.

The Trump campaign has indicated their candidate does not plan to concede.

The BBC’s projection of Mr Biden’s victory is based on the unofficial results from states that have already finished counting their votes, and the expected results from states like Wisconsin where the count is continuing.

The election has seen the highest turnout since 1900. Mr Biden has won more than 74 million votes so far, the most ever for a US presidential candidate.

A man sprays champagne as people celebrate after news media declared Biden the winner of the election in Washington

image copyrightReuters

image captionBiden supporters took to the streets to celebrate in a number of cities

Offering his congratulations, former President Barack Obama, with whom Mr Biden served two terms as vice-president, said: “I know he’ll do the job with the best interests of every American at heart, whether or not he had their vote.”

Biden supporters have been gathering in the streets on New York and other cities to celebrate victory.

How has Trump reacted?

Mr Trump has not yet spoken in public since the results were announced, but he repeated previous claims of voter fraud in a tweet, which Twitter soon marked as a “disputed” claim.

President Donald Trump returns to the White House after US media declared Joe Biden's victory

image copyrightReuters

image captionPresident Trump appeared subdued as he returned to the White House on Saturday

The president has drawn more than 70 million votes, the second-highest tally in history.

President Trump had falsely declared himself the winner of the election when vote counting was unfinished. He has since alleged irregularities in counting, but has not presented any evidence of election fraud.

After Mr Biden was projected to win he remained defiant, saying Mr Biden was “falsely posing as the winner” and insisting the election was “far from over”.

His campaign has filed a barrage of lawsuits in various states.

The response from senior Republicans has been muted. Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted that “the media doesn’t decide who wins elections, voters do”.

But Senator Mitt Romney, a critic of Mr Trump, congratulated Mr Biden and Ms Harris. He said he and his wife “know both of them as people of good will and admirable character”.

media captionHow voters in the US responded to Joe Biden’s defeat of Donald Trump in the US election

The election was fought as coronavirus cases and deaths continued to rise across the United States, with President Trump arguing a Biden presidency would result in lockdowns and economic gloom. Joe Biden accused the president of failing to impose sufficient measures to control the spread of Covid-19.

Mr Biden will be 78 when he takes office, making him the oldest first-term president in American history.

What happens now?

Usually the losing candidate concedes but Mr Trump has vowed to contest the election results on several fronts.

A recount will be held in Georgia, where the margins are tight, and Mr Trump wants the same in Wisconsin. He has also vowed to take legal action to the Supreme Court, alleging voting fraud without evidence.

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump rally outside the State Capitol building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

image copyrightReuters

image captionThe president’s supporters have continued to hold rallies

If the election result is challenged, it would require legal teams to challenge this in the state courts. State judges would then need to uphold the challenge and order a recount, and Supreme Court justices could then be asked to overturn a ruling.

Meanwhile, votes in some states are continuing to be counted and results are never official until final certification, which occurs in each state in the weeks following the election.

This must be done before 538 chosen officials (electors) from the Electoral College – which officially decides who wins the election – meet in their state capitals to vote on 14 December.

The electors’ votes usually mirror the popular vote in each state. However, in some states this is not a formal requirement.

The new president is officially sworn into office on 20 January after a transition period to give them time to appoint cabinet ministers and make plans.

The handover of power takes place at a ceremony known as the inauguration, which is held on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington DC.

After the ceremony, the new president makes their way to the White House to begin their four-year term in office.

How election is third time lucky for Biden

Mr Biden ran for the White House twice before.

In 1988 he withdrew from the race after he admitted to plagiarising a speech by the then leader of the British Labour Party, Neil Kinnock.

In 2008, he tried again to get the Democratic nomination before dropping out and joining Barack Obama’s ticket.

media captionA look back at Joe Biden’s life and political career

His eight years as vice-president allowed him to lay claim to much of Mr Obama’s legacy, including passage of the Affordable Care Act.

The six-term senator from Delaware was first elected in 1972.

Early in his career, he sided with southern segregationists in opposing court-ordered school bussing to racially integrate public schools.

He was also a fierce advocate of a 1994 anti-crime bill that many on the left now say encouraged lengthy sentences and mass incarceration.

Most Americans know that Joe Biden’s life has been marked by personal tragedy – experiences he often refers to.

In 1972, he lost his first wife, Neilia, and baby daughter, Naomi, in a car accident. He famously took the oath of office for his first Senate term from the hospital room of his toddler sons Beau and Hunter, who both survived the accident.

In 2015, Beau died of brain cancer at the age of 46, and Joe Biden said this played a role in his decision not run for president in 2016.

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