WILMINGTON, Delaware: US President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris stand with spouses Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff after delivering remarks on Saturday after being declared the winners of the US presidential election. - AFP

WASHINGTON: US President-elect Joe Biden began the transfer of power yesterday that Americans hope will turn the page on four years of divisiveness as his defeated rival Donald Trump refused to concede and continued to cast doubt on the election results. As congratulations poured in from world leaders and supporters nursed hangovers after a day of raucous celebrations, the 77-year-old Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, 56, launched a transition website, BuildBackBetter.com, and a Twitter feed, @Transition46.

It lists four priorities for a Biden-Harris administration: COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change. "The team being assembled will meet these challenges on Day One," it said in a reference to Jan 20, 2021, when Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Biden plans to sign executive orders repealing a ban on travellers from several Muslim-majority nations, rejoining an international climate accord, reversing Trump's withdrawal from the World Health Organization and buttressing a program protecting from deportation "Dreamers" immigrants brought to the US illegally as children shortly after taking office on Jan 20 that would reverse several contentious Trump policies.

Biden, who turns 78 on Nov 20, is the oldest person ever elected to the White House. Harris, the junior senator from California, is the first woman and first black person to be elected vice president. Biden has already announced plans to name a task force today to tackle the coronavirus pandemic which has left more than 237,000 people dead in the United States and is surging across the country.

Biden, just the second Catholic to elected US president, was attending church yesterday morning in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, as Trump was headed for the golf course. Trump, 74, was playing golf at his club near Washington on Saturday morning when the US television networks announced that Biden had secured enough Electoral College votes for victory and he returned for another round yesterday morning. As Trump's motorcade headed to Sterling yesterday, protesters along some streets held signs hostile to him.

In a victory speech in Wilmington on Saturday, Biden promised "not to divide but unify", and reached out directly to Trump supporters, declaring "they're not our enemies, they're Americans". "Let's give each other a chance," he said, urging the country to "lower the temperature". Biden made an explicit call for cooperation between America's two major political parties as he faces political dysfunction and partisan gridlock in Washington. "Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end, here and now," Biden said.

He also thanked black voters, saying that even at his campaign's lowest moments, the African-American community had stood up for him. "They always have my back, and I'll have yours," he said. Casting his eye further, Biden said he would "make America respected around the world again" - a reference to Trump's tearing up of traditional diplomatic ties. "Tonight, the whole world is watching America and I believe that at our best America is a beacon for the globe," he said.

The celebratory event, which featured confetti, fireworks and a soundtrack including Springsteen and Tina Turner, also gave Americans a closer look at Biden's running mate Harris. In her speech, cheered every few seconds by the ecstatic crowd, Harris lauded the record turnout and said that after so much division, "Joe is a healer". "When our very democracy was on the ballot in this election, with the very soul of America at stake, and the world watching, you ushered in a new day for America," she said.

In Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Washington and other majority-Democratic cities, people poured into the streets to celebrate and car horns honked. An excited crowd of several thousand gathered on Black Lives Matter Plaza next to the White House, giving a hostile reception to Trump as his motorcade passed nearby on return from the golf course. "It's been so many years waiting for this day to happen," said Jack Nugent, a 24-year-old software engineer.

There were similar scenes in New York, Trump's birthplace. However, in Arizona, where the race was close, a group of almost 1,000 Trump supporters gathered in Phoenix to protest what they said was a stolen election. "There's a lot of fraud here. It needs to be either redone totally or recounted," Donna McCollum, 77, said.

On Saturday, Trump fired off tweets saying he had won the election "by a lot" and he continued to make unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud on Twitter yesterday. In one tweet, he cited an ally, former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich, as saying the "best pollster in Britain wrote this morning that this clearly was a stolen election".

In another series of tweets, Trump quoted a George Washington University law professor who testified on his behalf during his impeachment in Congress. "We should look at the votes," Jonathan Turley said in the tweets quoted by Trump. "We should look at these allegations. We have a history in this country of election problems."

Trump left out another part of the professor's opinion in which he stated that while there is "ample reason to conduct reviews" there is "currently no evidence of systemic fraud in the election". The Trump campaign has mounted legal challenges to the results in several states but no evidence has emerged so far of any widespread irregularities that would overturn the results of the election.

Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union" yesterday, Symone Sanders, a senior advisor to Biden, dismissed the court challenges as "baseless legal strategies". Biden received nearly 74.6 million votes to Trump's 70.4 million nationwide and has a 279-214 lead in the Electoral College that determines the presidency. Biden also leads in Arizona, which has 11 electoral votes, and Georgia, which has 16, and if he wins both states he would finish with 306 electoral votes - the same total won by Trump in 2016 when he upset Hillary Clinton. - Agencies