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'This is the time to heal America': President-elect Joe Biden calls for unity in victory speech

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President-elect Joe Biden gives his victory speech on Saturday, November 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware.
President-elect Joe Biden gives his victory speech on Saturday, November 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware.   -   Copyright  Andrew Harnik/Associated Press
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In a bid to build bridges in a deeply divided country, President-elect Joe Biden appealed for unity and for the United States to begin healing as he addressed the nation on Saturday following his election victory.

Speaking to crowds at a drive-in rally in his home city of Wilmington, Delaware, he told a country gripped by four years of turmoil that "this is the time to heal in America".

He also reached out to supporters of President Donald Trump in an effort to assuage their anger as Republicans struggle to come to terms with defeat.

"For all those of you who voted for President Trump, I understand the disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of elections myself," he said.

"But now, let's give each other a chance. It's time to put away the harsh rhetoric. To lower the temperature. To see each other again. To listen to each other again. To make progress, we need to stop seeing our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies, they are Americans".

The Associated Press and the major US TV networks called the election for Biden on Saturday after the vote count in the battleground state of Pennsylvania tipped in the Democrat's favour. Its 20 electoral college votes pushed him over the 270-vote threshold to secure the presidency.

It came after four days of uncertainty as officials worked to count unprecedented volumes of mail-in votes in an election that saw both candidates break records for the number of votes cast for a presidential nominee.

President Trump has so far refused to concede defeat in the election, instead choosing to pursue legal action in key battleground states where he claims without evidence that electoral fraud has taken place.

In cities across the US, Trump supporters continued to protest on Saturday outside state Capitols and centres where ballot counting is still taking place.

Throughout the campaign, Biden presented himself as the candidate to "restore the soul of America" and renew bipartisanship.

"I ran as a proud Democrat. I will now be an American president," Biden said. "I will work as hard for those who didn’t vote for me as those who did".

He added: "Let this grim era of demonisation in America begin to end, here and now."

Biden particularly highlighted the support of the African-American community for his campaign and for helping to deliver his election victory.

"And especially for those moments when this campaign was at its lowest — the African American community stood up again for me. They always have my back, and I’ll have yours," he said.

"I said from the outset I wanted a campaign that represented America, and I think we did that. Now that’s what I want the administration to look like."

His running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris became the first woman in American history to be elected as Vice President. She is also the first African-American and the first American of South Asian heritage to hold the position.

In her opening remarks, Harris, dressed in suffragette white, acknowledged "all the women who have worked to secure and protect the right to vote".

She also gave a nod to the historic nature of her election as the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government in the US.

“Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before," Harris said.

Introducing Biden as "the president for all Americans," she added that voters had "ushered in a new day for America".

"You delivered a clear message," she said. "You chose hope and unity, decency, science and yes, truth".