[This is a collaboration between the Governance Apprenticeship Program and Foreign Policy Team]
2024 will be a historic year for global democracy, as more than 50 countries, representing half the world’s population, are set to hold national elections at different times. The elections will be held in nations with diverse political scenarios as well, including established democracies, emerging nations, and countries with authoritarian tendencies, such as the United States, India, Indonesia, Russia, Mexico, and others.
However, concerns have been raised by experts about the state of democracy worldwide due to potential backsliding and the rise of leaders with anti-democratic leanings. Moreover, the results of these elections are certain to shape the future of global democracy and will have far-reaching implications for human rights, economies, international relations, and the overall stability of the world.
To have a broader contemporary perspective on the state of democracy around the world and understand their electoral situation, we will have to dive deeper and see where the countries expecting the electoral polls stand considering their current political scenarios.
Elections in the Asia Pacific, That Perhaps Has The Most Diverse Political Scenarios
Asia is undeniably home to a diverse political spectrum. This is only logical: with Asia being the largest and most heavily populated continent, it necessarily boasts a very heterogeneous set of cultures. You can find oligarchs, dynasts, veteran political schemers, and even practicing dictatorships masquerading behind a veil of democracy. According to EIU’s Democracy Index 2022 report, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea were the only three fully deemed democracies in Asia. Conversely, another report from Freedom House’s rankings lists Timor-Leste as the only fully free democracy in Southeast Asia, despite it being an isolated state plagued by poverty.
Moreover, the countries that will have elections this year in the Asia-Pacific region are victims of colonization who gained their independence during the 1940’s. This historical backdrop further complicates their political landscapes, influencing governance structures, socio-economic development, and the overall path of their democratic system:
An end to a secular India?
India is known to be the largest democracy in the world with over 600 million eligible voters who will cast their vote between April and May this year. This time, the two-term prime minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will be facing off against ‘INDIA’, an electoral coalition headed by the Indian National Congress consisting of 28 other political parties.
Yet, Modi, who is making a name for himself as a right-wing Hindu populist leader, appears to be preparing for a third term as there is no strong opposition in this scenario. Moreover, with Modi Sarkar winning the state polls in Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan – also known as the Indian Belt – last month, the election forecast is increasingly leaning towards another BJP storm.
During the second term of Modi, India has stood firm in the global arena with its economy becoming the 5th largest in the world, surpassing that of the UK and France. In space exploration, it has successfully landed on the moon as the 4th country in the entire world. Furthermore, India has shown strong responses when cornered by other powerful states, increasing the legitimacy of its rising global superpower status.
But at the same time, there have been some growing concerns on a national level. Freedom of the press and free speech have been on a declining trend since Modi’s second tenure. The government has been accused of monitoring journalists using Israel’s Pegasus spyware. Attacks on religious minorities are on the rise and India’s northeast state Manipur saw months of ethnic clashes breaking out while the government remained impassive.
Recently, Ram Mandir, the temple Modi promised during his 2014 election campaigns, was inaugurated in Ayodhya in the same place where Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992. While Ram Mandir will surely be a powerful vote magnet for BJP, critics fear that this inauguration has put an epitaph on the grave of Nehru’s secular India; a final parting piece that will only raise communal acts of violence.
On a different note, Bangladesh is on the verge of becoming the 4th largest import destination for India, and we might only see their relation relatively strengthening with Bangladesh being on the back foot.
Imran Khan’s PTI Under Siege, Nawaz Sharif Eying To Form The Next Government in Pakistan
On the other hand, India’s adversarial neighbor Pakistan is going through political turmoil right now with the military generals placing their favorable puppet government in power.
Pakistan has had a total of 29 prime ministers over the span of its 76 years of independence but no prime minister has ever been able to complete their five-year term successfully, Imran Khan being the latest addition to the list.
It all began in April 2022, when the opposition began citing issues such as inflation and economic pressures, accusing Khan of failing to deliver on his promises. Furthermore, there were concerns about Khan’s antagonistic brand of politics and his government’s handling of various challenges, which led to a no-confidence motion against him in the parliament. Later Khan Saheb failed to rebuke the no-confidence vote due to his lost support from the coalition parties. Following the events, a caretaker government led by interim Prime Minister Anwar ul-Haq Kakar, who allegedly had influential military connections, was put in power.
With Imran Khan being jailed and PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ) being a target of hostility, Nawaz Sharif’s party is eyeing a comeback to form the next government. After spending several years in exile due to a number of cases and convictions for corruption, the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has returned to Pakistan and is actively doing election campaigns. The judiciary has overturned his previous convictions, clearing his name for future elections. Many experts believe that the military is rooting for him to become the next president, and if he succeeds, this would make this reign his fourth term.
Amid the recent crackdown on Imran Khan’s party, approximately 5,000 PTI members and supporters have been taken into custody and dozens of party leaders have resigned surrounding allegations of coercion by the military establishment. Imran Khan’s speeches and news conferences have been banned from being covered by mainstream media. Moreover, the court has also passed a ruling that bans the PTI from using the cricket bat as their electoral symbol. That means each of the hundreds of PTI candidates has been handed down separate symbols from the independent symbol list. According to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2022-23, about 40% of Pakistanis are illiterate, which will surely confuse the voters in casting their votes, thus impacting the election results.
But the real question lies in whether the deep state, using every card up its sleeves, can keep Imran Khan and his party out of the political scenario with his popularity still being considerable.
Indonesia: Jokowi clears his son’s path to enter high castle
In February, Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, will hold a vote to choose its next president. The bidding two-term prime minister Joko Widodo, famously known as Jokowi, has already paved the way for his eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka, who is only 36, to become the next Vice President by altering the law that imposed a minimum age of 40 to run for the high seats in the parliamentary office.
Gibran will be the running mate for his father’s close ally and defense minister Prabowo Subianto; the latter will be representing the nationalist right-wing Gerindra party. With Mahfud MD as his running mate, Ganjar Pranowo of Widodo’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle is the second contender; Anies Baswedan of the Nasdem Party and Muhaimin Iskandar of the National Awakening Party make up the third pair.
According to the most recent polls, Prabowo and Gibran are expected to secure between 43 and 50 percent of the vote, solidifying their lead over Ganjar Pranowo and Anies Baswedan.
Sri Lanka and Taiwan: Stark Differences
In addition to the aforementioned nations, there is one other country that hopes to hold a presidential election in 2024. The crisis-laden Sri Lanka is to have both parliamentary and presidential elections this year, but acting president Ranil Wickremesinghe is reluctant to give up power. Furthermore, the existing government cannot be overthrown by the local polls set for February since by the 20th of that month, half of the current caretaker government’s five-year term would be complete which will give Wickremesinghe the power to dissolve it. However, the acting president has shown no interest in dissolving the current government.
On the other hand, Taiwan’s election, which was held on the 13th of January, demonstrated what a competitive and fair election bearing the true torch of democracy looked like. At a celebration rally, Taiwan’s newly elected president Lai Ching-te said the elections have shown the commitment of the Taiwanese people to democracy, stating “We have managed to keep Taiwan on the world map.” To counter this statement, authoritarian one-party-state China responded by saying “Taiwan is part of China and it will not change.”
With the exception of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, the Asia-Pacific is seeing a significant increase in populism and authoritarianism where hundreds of millions of votes won’t necessarily mean more democracy. Thus, the question arises if we are entering a post-democratic era devoid of democratic values and fair play in this region.
The Upcoming Middle Eastern Elections and their Widespread Implications
For the past few decades, the Middle East and its policies and politics have constantly made headlines. From religious autocracies to diminishing democracies, the intricacies of the politics of this region have baffled even those well-versed in diplomacy. Currently, the focal point of all tensions lies in the Gaza Strip, where Israel, backed by its allies, continues to carry out its genocidal campaign against Palestinians.
The current state of the world raises many questions regarding the direction we are headed towards. This year is particularly important as democracy will take the center-stage as 7 of the 10 most populated countries of the world vote to elect a new government. In fact, the Time Magazine termed 2024 as “The Ultimate Election Year” and perhaps rightfully so. The Middle East, while still dealing with the results of the recent Egyptian Presidential Election, will be faced with the repercussions of fresh elections in Iran and tentative parliamentary elections in Jordan and Syria.
The questionable legitimacy of the recent Egyptian presidential elections
The Egyptian Presidential Election, held in December 2023, saw President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi reelected to his position for a third consecutive term. With no major competition, the results failed to draw much of a reaction due to its predictability. Hossam Bahgat, head of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), remarked “There were no elections, Sisi used the entire state apparatus and security agencies to prevent any serious contender from even running.”
Amidst an economic crisis driven by a devaluation of the currency, a shortage of foreign currency and rising debt, Sisi claimed 89.6% of the votes with a voter turnout of 66.8%. As Egypt shares a border with Gaza, the effect of the war in Gaza was felt throughout the election, and after his victory, President Sisi was quick to note that those who had voted for him had done so to show their opposition to the atrocities being committed in Gaza.
In Iran, a tale of oppression and an aging Supreme Leader
The significance of Iran’s role in the Middle East has been undeniable for a long time. Iran’s powerful presence continues to grow due to the resurgence of Iran-backed militia groups like Hamas, the Houthis and Hezbollah in Palestine, Yemen and Lebanon respectively. The 2024 elections will be the first since the people of Iran took to the streets to protest against the regime in 2022. Back in 2021, when conservative Ebrahim Raisi was elected as the President, numerous reformists and moderates were disqualified from contesting. Popular opposition candidates such as Ali Larijani and MP Massoud Pezeshkian have expressed their criticism for the current regime’s tactics to eliminate competition. On the other hand, government officials such as Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi and President Raisi himself have denied the allegations of the government being involved in the disqualification of candidates of the opposition. Aside from the parliamentary elections, the people of Iran will also vote to elect the members of the Assembly of Experts, the only body capable of dismissing and electing the Supreme Leader, in March 2024. This election carries just as much, or even more weight, when compared to the presidential election as the aging Supreme Leader will soon need a replacement. Amongst the Iranian people, the elections seem to have taken a back seat as they concentrate their attention on the situation of the Gaza Strip.
As Iran battles economic challenges and worsening relations with the United States and Israel, the extent of the participation of the reformists in this election and the voter turnout will determine the legitimacy of this election.
Important parliamentary elections in Jordan and Syria
Parliamentary elections in Jordan are to take place in November 2024 as predictions suggest. However, there have been debates regarding the postponing of the elections, and concerns regarding the Muslim Brotherhood gaining votes in the name of the war in Gaza.
Syria is also expected to hold parliamentary elections for Majlis al-Shaab (The Syrian People’s Council.) In May 2021, President Bashar Al-Assad won his fourth consecutive seven-year term in an election that could rightfully be termed as uncontested, and people expected little change after ten years of civil war. It is likely that this parliamentary election will be a continuation of the presidential election of 2021.
As these elections approach, the whole of the Middle East stands at a crossroads, navigating pivotal shifts in politics while dealing with several humanitarian issues and economic crises. The whole world will watch with anticipation as the region looks to stabilize itself.
Hope or Uncertainty? A Preview of Africa’s 2024 Elections
From a political point of view, 2024 is going to be a very crucial year for the African continent. Elections are going to be held in about 18 countries of the African continent in this one year alone. The practice of democracy in the African continent for the past 30 years has been disrupted since 2020 by the imposition of military rule in several countries in the Sahel region. Apart from this, military rule has been in effect in several countries for a long time. In some African countries, the government is going to be formed through the democratic process, and in some countries, the re-established military regime is going to be given a new form through elections. All in all, the discussion about the elections that are going to be held in 2024 across Africa is a crucial issue.
Countries scheduled to hold elections in 2024 include Algeria, Botswana, Chad, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Senegal, Somaliland, South Africa, South Sudan, Tunisia, Togo, Mali, and Burkina Faso.
South Africa: The continent’s most important elections
In 2024, South Africa will have its most unpredictable national election since the end of the apartheid. The African National Congress (ANC) has topped the vote in every poll conducted since 1994, giving it an absolute parliamentary majority from which it could enact laws and choose its presidential candidates.
However, this election cycle may bring about changes to this situation. According to polls, the ANC might, for the first time, receive fewer than half of the national vote. Arguably this is due to the ANC’s isolation from common South Africans, corruption within the party, and subpar service delivery, as is exemplified by frequent power outages. The weight of rising poverty, unemployment among young people, and inequality are also putting a massive strain on South Africa. However, avoiding accountability for these widespread complaints is difficult due to the ANC’s long-standing control.
More people in South Africa support the African National Congress (ANC) than any other political party, even if it doesn’t win a majority of the votes. The Democratic Alliance (DA), led by John Steenhuisen, is the most popular opposition party. According to polls, the DA has between 25% and 33% of the vote, mostly because of its anti-corruption and pro-good governance platforms. Nonetheless, it has to dispel the notion that it is a party controlled by white people. With six other, primarily smaller parties, the DA has formed an alliance known as the Multi-Party Charter for South Africa.
It remains a question whether the African National Congress, which has been in power for a long time and has other weaknesses, including corruption, nepotism, and an inability to keep the economy running, will be able to take advantage of the opportunities that other small and large opposition parties, including the Democratic Alliance, have. However, the overall dynamics are such that national coalition politics are becoming more prevalent in South Africa. This will be a significant change that calls for compromise and power sharing.
The junta postponed elections to restore a Civilian Government in Mali
Notwithstanding its repeated promises Mali’s military junta, on the contrary, has once again delayed the country’s presidential elections which were scheduled to be held on 4th February, 2024. Even though it was meant to reinstate a civilian democratic administration, in September 2023, the election’s date was glibly postponed indefinitely for “technical reasons.”
Since toppling Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta’s democratically elected government in August 2020, Colonel Assimi Goïta’s military junta has not put up any significant attempt to prepare for elections. With 67 percent of the vote, Keáta secured a second four-year term in 2018 through legitimate elections.
When then-transitional president Bah Ndaw and his prime minister, Moctar Ouane, started to take steps towards organizing elections following the junta’s pledge to an 18-month transition that was to culminate with elections in February 2022, Goïta went on to carry out another coup in May 2021. A date of February 2024 was chosen following additional talks and assurances with the Economic Community of West African States, where the Goïta’s junta lobbied for a five-year transition.
In June 2023, the junta arranged a vote that would consolidate power in the president and grant junta leaders the ability to establish a new administration, enabling Goáta to continue holding control.
For another Junta-ruled state, Chad, the situation is somewhat different. General Mahamat Déby took control of the Chadian government via a military coup in April 2021, following the death of his father, President Idriss Déby, who had himself seized power in a coup 30 years earlier. As a result of the extra constitutional means by which he came to power, Mahamat Déby has struggled with a persistent legitimacy deficit. Upon taking executive authority, he promised a transition to democratic elections within 18 months. Instead of upholding that commitment, he organized a National Dialogue for a predictable outcome that the transition should be extended an additional 2 years and that junta leaders adopt a new constitution where they would be eligible to join the subsequent civilian government and set November 2024 as the election date which will be a highly orchestrated exercise to ensure General Mahamat Déby remains in power.
Postponement is likely a Reality in Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso, another African nation governed by the military, has impending elections which are plagued by vague circumstances. Initially, presidential and legislative elections were scheduled for July 2024, as per the agreement reached with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc. Nevertheless, several events have called into question this timetable. In the last two years, Burkina Faso has seen two military takeovers, the most recent of which was conducted by Captain Ibrahim Traore in September 2023. Even though he had committed to the July 2024 election earlier, he later changed his priorities. According to Traore (September 2023), elections are not a “priority” in comparison to security; citing the continued attacks and insurgency by jihadists. Concerns regarding a possible indefinite postponement were aroused by this announcement. Experts believe that a postponement is very likely, and no specific date has been set. ECOWAS is urging the junta to stick to the initial July 2024 timeline, but their influence remains uncertain.
New Contenders in Senegal, Namibia, and Ghana
The presidential election in Senegal, which is set for February 25, 2024, seems to be a historic occasion that will be accompanied by both anticipation and unpredictability.
After serving two terms, President Macky Sall has announced that he will not run for office again, creating a space for other candidates. Following his confirmation, 79 people—two of them were women—filed candidatures, intensifying the rivalry. Prime Minister Amadou Ba (representing the ruling coalition), opposition leader Ousmane Sonko (who is imprisoned), and former mayor of Dakar Khalifa Sall are a few of the front-runners. Notably, Sonko’s criminal history led to his candidature being initially rejected, which caused demonstrations and raised worries about political exclusion. Voters are expected to prioritize issues like good governance, security, and access to essential services, in addition to economic concerns like job creation, poverty reduction, and youth unemployment.
Namibia’s Presidential election in November is going to be another intriguing election on the continent in 2024 where people may have a new president with the conclusion of President Hage Geingob’s second and final constitutionally mandated term.
The ruling party- South West Africa People’s Organization’s (SWAPO) Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, currently serving as SWAPO’s vice president, is anticipated to succeed Geingob as party leader in March 2024. Geingob is expected to step down from his role as party leader, passing the baton to Nandi-Ndaitwah. Nandi-Ndaitwah will be SWAPO’s first female presidential candidate. While SWAPO has won every previous presidential election, the margins have been decreasing. In 2019, Geingob won with 56 percent of the vote. This compares to the 76 percent he received when he first ran in 2015.
The next general election in Ghana, scheduled for December 7, 2024, is expected to select a new leader for this country in West Africa. The field is now open for new contenders as President Nana Akufo-Addo has run out of term and is not eligible to run again. Given that both main parties have ruled Ghana since 1992, this is a dramatic change in the country’s political landscape.
The front-runner for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) is former president John Mahama, who was defeated by Akufo-Addo in 2016 and 2020. His main concerns are job creation and economic revival. The ruling party is yet to finalize its candidate, with several contenders vying for the nomination. Ghana faces economic challenges like rising inflation and debt, and voters will be looking for candidates with credible plans to address these issues. Corruption remains a concern for many Ghanaians, and candidates will need to demonstrate their commitment to transparency and accountability. Regional instability and global economic trends could also play a role in the election.
Managed Electoral Events in Algeria, South Sudan, and Rwanda
Algeria’s presidential election is shaping into a tightly managed electoral event. Algeria’s military has been the dominant political actor in this strategically important North African country for decades, ensuring the continuation of the power of the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN). President Abdel Madjid Tebboune, the former prime minister under longtime ruler Abdelaziz Bouteflika, represents a perpetuation of this power structure. A new term would represent his second and final constitutionally mandated term in office.
Similarly, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has built a career out of delaying elections, which has allowed him to hold the office of de facto president since 2005 despite only being eligible for a single four-year term after the country’s 2011 vote for independence. This is not surprising, however, given his plan to run for office. In this 11-million-strong nation, the youngest in Africa, he is the only president this country has ever had.
On the other hand, Rwanda will have its presidential and legislative elections on 15 July 2024. This election is anticipated to have closely supervised polls similar to those in South Sudan and Algeria but with slight variations. Since 1994, when he came to power following the extermination of an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, Kagame has been the head of the state of Rwanda. The 66-year-old Kagame would be serving his fourth term in office. He was able to circumvent the current two-year term restriction provision and run for two additional five-year terms, bringing his total time in office to forty years, thanks to a contentious constitutional change passed in 2015. Kagame is essentially qualified to serve as president indefinitely.
Multiparty Democracies in Botswana and Mauritania
The general elections in Botswana are expected to be the most competitive in the country’s history.
Botswana, which has a multiparty democracy that has been regarded as one of Africa’s most stable and long-standing democracies, will have general elections in October. For a maximum of two five-year terms, Botswana’s president is indirectly chosen by the National Assembly.
Beginning with Ketumile Masire, who became Botswana’s first president after Seretse Khama passed away in office, four of the country’s leaders have pledged to leave office after serving the full number of terms allowed by the constitution. Botswana is unique among the nations on the continent due to its remarkable succession tradition.
In the case of Mauritania, the nation has been on a gradual path of political openness since 2019 when President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz respected term limits and stepped down from the presidency. President Aziz’s departure from office represented the first peaceful transfer of power in Mauritania’s history, particularly notable since he came to power in a 2008 coup.
Guinea may turn back to a Democratic Government
This year is going to be significant for Guinea’s return to democracy. In September 2021, Alpha Condé, Guinea’s first democratically elected president, was overthrown by a military junta headed by Colonel Mamady Doumbouya. The junta has promised to organize presidential and legislative elections by December 2024 as part of a 10-point transition roadmap that was established with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
On the surface, the junta appears to be unique among military putschists in West Africa due to its involvement with ECOWAS. The ban on leaders of the transitional military administration holding positions in a new government has also been upheld by the junta in Guinea. The Guinea situation is also distinctive in that the military ousted a president who had violated the Constitution’s two-term limit—despite widespread popular protests against the term limit extension and its legally dubious justifications.
Guinea-Bissau is in Turmoil
Guinea-Bissau has experienced four coups and more than a dozen attempted coups while enduring 23 years of direct or military government since independence from Portugal in 1973. While the leading political parties have not officially put forward their candidates, the 2024 election would likely involve a rematch of the 2019 poll, wherein President Embaló gained the majority of the votes over Domingos Simões Pereira.
In Guinea-Bissau’s semi-presidential system, conflicting ideas about the role of the executive are at the core of the dysfunctional governance. In this system, the prime minister, chosen by parliament, is the head of government and is responsible for appointing ministers and determining the daily agenda. The president acts as the head of state. The 1993 Constitution established this structure to fortify the division of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. This was a reaction to President João Bernardo Vieira’s 19-year tenure, which centralized power in the executive branch and allowed abuses of authority to occur with impunity.
12th General Election for Mauritius
On the other hand, in November, Mauritius will hold its 12th general election since gaining its independence. To hold onto power, the ruling Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) hopes to give Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth another five-year term. One of Africa’s most robust democracies is thought to exist in Mauritius. In the general elections of 2019, about 90% of Mauritius voters cast ballots. On the continent, Mauritius hails as one of the most transparent media landscapes.
Somaliland: Inclusive Multiparty Democratic Systems in East Africa
In November, the self-proclaimed state of Somaliland is scheduled to hold a much-awaited presidential election. The election of President Muse Bihi Abdi to a second five-year term will end a protracted era of unpredictability for Somaliland. Since gaining independence from Somalia in 1991, Somaliland has made significant progress towards developing one of the most inclusive multiparty democratic systems in East Africa; despite its lack of international recognition. In Somaliland, this will be the country’s third universal suffrage presidential election. There have been power shifts between parties after previous elections.
Migration crisis: A potential game-changer in Tunisia’s 2024 election
The migration crisis, particularly the arrival of irregular migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, is expected to play a significant role in Tunisia’s upcoming December 2024 elections, influencing both the campaign narratives and voters’ choices.
Tunisia has become a major transit point for migrants seeking to reach Europe, with numbers significantly escalating in 2023. This has strained public resources and fuelled anti-migrant sentiment. The influx of migrants coincides with Tunisia’s economic struggles, including high unemployment and inflation. This creates a perception among some voters that migrants exacerbate existing problems. Both pro-establishment and opposition parties are using the migration crisis to their advantage. Some emphasize the need for stricter border controls and cooperation with European countries, while others call for a more humane approach and address the root causes of migration.
Developments in neighboring countries, such as Libya and Italy, will also play a role in shaping the migration crisis and its impact on the elections. Analysts believe that considering President Kais Saied’s power grab in 2021 and suspension of parliament, lead to the elections representing a crucial transition point for Tunisian democracy.
Shifting Winds: Right-Wing Populism Sweeping Across Europe and the Unfolding Dynamics of the 2024 Elections
Certainly, the highest number of people are expected to head to the polls in 2024 worldwide. More than 400 million Europeans are estimated to participate in the European elections this June, one of the biggest democratic votes in the world. The European Parliament is probably the only institution that directly represents EU citizens and given the rise of far-right parties in EU elections, the Parliament could be expected to be notably contentious.
According to the European Council on Foreign Relations, the populist right is going to secure the lead at the European Parliament election in June leaving uncertainties regarding the EU’s stance on green policies, foreign affairs, immigration, and EU enlargement. After Brexit, the number of members of the European Parliament, or MEPS reduced to 705, which was previously 751.
As per convention, it is required to secure 353 seats for the parties to identify themselves as the majority in the parliament and practice their political ideology. Since the inception of the European Union, the European People’s Party (EPP), a centre-right-wing political party, and the Socialist & Democrats (S&D), a far-left political party, have been the major players in the European Parliament, continuously holding a large share of the seats.
Despite the EPP securing the highest seats during the last elections, S&D and Renew combinedly secured better representation of the left-wing ideology that contributed to passing the recent environment law by the slightest margin. However, it is believed that if the same vote was held after the 2024 elections based on the current election forecasting, the law could be rejected by 72 votes due to the strong opposition from the majority right-wing lawmakers. According to the forecasted makeup of the EU parliament, the seats for S&D are supposed to shrink by 7%. At the same time, Identity and Democracy, a far-right political party, can expand by more than 40% putting more challenges to the EU efforts to fight climate change while simultaneously boosting pro-Russian representation in the parliament.
Experts say this predicted scenario can push the EU parliament to take a harder line on EU sovereignty and support for Ukraine. Surge of right wing parties in the EU parliament is likely to lead the European Union to take more assertive stances on its sovereignty.
However, this is not the mere scenario of EU parliamentary elections, the right-wing nationalist and conservative ideology has been increasingly popular in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections across Europe.
Rightward Shift of Austria Amidst Anti-immigration Sentiment
Austria, the heart of Europe, is expected to be the next EU nation to have a populist right-wing government. Theories like “The Great Replacement”, a white nationalist theory that purports that the majority of the populations in Europe are getting replaced by the non-European, and non-Western, are increasingly popular in the Alpine Republic. Despite the Ibiza scandal, a political scandal in Austria involving the leader of the Freedom Party (FPÖ), which occurred in 2019, FPÖ has been identified as one of the most popular political parties in the 2024 election. The Freedom Party and the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) are some of the popular right-wing political groups that are believed to be more appealing to the people who feel confused by the complexities of the challenges that Austria is currently going through. According to Professor Martin Kahanec, Department of Public Policy at the Central European University situated in Viana, the FPÖ are to baggage the insecurity of the general people regarding Austria’s economic challenges amidst the Ukraine-Russia war and the post-pandemic situation in order to regain their popularity. This political group is even accused of running a “long-term racist campaign” against Muslims across Austria. Hence, it will be less surprising if the immigrants face more challenges after the 2024 parliamentary election in the Alpine Republic, scheduled to be held in September.
The Intersection of Political Crisis and Right-wing Surge in Portugal
The Socialist Party, a center-left political party that is historically associated with European social democracy, has been facing increasing challenges following António Costa, Prime minister of Portugal and former Secretary-General of the Socialist Party, stepping down in late 2023. Portugal is currently experiencing a political crisis after its Prime Minster unexpectedly resigned from the position amid a corruption investigation against him and his government officials. To address the ongoing crisis in the Land of Fado, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Portugal’s president, announced 10th March 2024 for the parliamentary election. Portugal is one of the few countries that secured more than 50% of the energy required from renewable energy thanks to the successful policy under the watch of António Costa. The country’s Recovery and Resilience Programme with the European Commission emphasized climate and digital transformation associated with resilience. Costa’s government is set to invest more than $2 billion in the policy implementation by 2026. However, the rise of the center-right political group in 10th March parliamentary elections can create uncertainties in policy implications. Despite securing 41% of the vote in the 2022 elections, the Socialist Party’s share has already fallen to around 28% even before Costa’s resignation. According to experts, the Chega party, a far-right political group, is supposed to be a formidable political influence in the March parliamentary election, potentially creating barriers to Portugal’s liberal migration policy.
Stubb vs Haavisto: The War for Helsinki’s Presidency amidst the rise of Rightwing Populism
Finland, after joining NATO, has become the center of discussion and its leadership has attracted increased attention from global leaders. The Daughter of the Baltic marked its presidential election on 28th January where Alexander Stubb, a 55-year-old right-wing nationalist front-runner of the National Coalition Party, Pekka Haavisto, a 65-year-old center-left candidate, and Jussi Halla-Aho, a former Finns Party nationalist leader and the current parliament speaker, were the main contestants.
Alexander Stubb successfully secured his lead against his prime opposition liberal Green Party Pekka Haavisto leaving a sense of rising right-wing surge in Helsinki in the first round of presidential election. However, due to not receiving more than half of the votes, Stubb is set to face ex-foreign minister Pekka Haavisto, runner-up in the first round presidential election, in a runoff on 11th February. It is reported that Stubb led the first round with 27.2% followed by Haavisto who managed to secure 25.8% votes in the 28th January election. During Stubb’s position as Prime minister and foreign minister, he actively promoted economic cooperation with Russia despite its annexation of Crimea in 2014. He was one of the few officials who supported Nord Stream II, allowing Russia to set up a nuclear power plant project in Finland, and visa freedom for Russians in his country.
The President of Finland leads its foreign and security policy and also represents Helsinki at NATO’s meetings. If Stubb succeeds as the next president of Finland, and implements his historical political ideologies, then Finland may establish close ties with Russia which could put its NATO membership at stake.
2024 US Presidential Elections: The Value It Holds For The World
‘I don’t think Iowa means anything,’ replied President Biden when he was asked about the landslide victory of former President Donald Trump in the Iowa Caucus of January 2024. Trump received a staggering 51.0% vote, leaving behind other potential Presidential Nominees from the Republican Party. Presidential Primaries or Caucus are the initial stages of the Presidential Election, where each state gets to choose their preferred presidential nominee from each party. While most primaries are scheduled for the Super Tuesday, a day when primaries are held in most states, the initial primaries are held at an earlier date and are generally perceived to mirror the final anticipated results. Following the Iowa Caucus, Trump further reasserted his electoral stronghold in the New Hampshire primary on 23rd January where he won 54.4% of the votes. He defeated Nicky Haley, the second most probable republican candidate who ran a major prolonged campaign in New Hampshire. What makes these elections all the more flabbergasting is that, unlike any other president in US history, Trump is currently facing 91 court cases, any of which can potentially result in a prison sentence, but his growing popularity is seemingly unbeatable.
Challenges Awaiting Biden
An incumbent party reasserting its vivid presence in the senate after the midterm election is a rare event in American Politics. However, President Biden, brought an exception during the 2022 midterm elections. Will that reciprocate the results of 2024 Federal Elections? The recent approval rating for the incumbent president predicts a different future. The geo-political scenario has altered greatly since the latest US presidential election of 2020. US foreign policy is fueling the ongoing Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas Wars, with the US government constantly monetizing and advocating for Israel and Ukraine. During the recent UN gatherings, the majority of countries have called for a ceasefire in President Netanyahu’s directed act of genocide in the Gaza strip. The US and its few allies vetoed with Biden saying, ‘We’re not going to do a damn thing other than protect Israel in the process.’ His desperate stance has induced significant controversy as educated American young adults flocked the streets of capitals, demanding Palestinian freedom. As a result, polls suggest that Muslim Americans and young voters (under 35) are less likely to vote for President Bident as they await to fill the ballot in November this year. Moreover, Biden is also struggling to sway Black and Hispanic voters who had previously backed him in 2020.
In 2023, Bidenomics became a significant driving force behind the US economy with its increasingly relevant Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act which aim to increase jobs, reduce supply chain dependency, improve infrastructure and promote green energy. Under these policies, the government is relocating and subsidizing strategically important industries from the East, mainly Taiwan and China, back to America. However, such robust policies require huge injections i.e. investments and government spending into the economy; which is unfeasible with the current government hitting the debt ceiling last year and sending blank cheques to fund wars overseas. Given the dire financial prospects, states of such injections are now at stake. Moreover, reallocation of industries will leave the global south vulnerable as the economy of such countries relies on foreign demand mainly, from the US and the EU. A relocation will pose a threat to such economies. It might trigger a retaliation from Eastern Powers as China and India are increasingly choosing to trade in their respective currencies diminishing the monopoly power of the US dollar in international trade.
Health and Controversies surrounding son Hunter Biden
President Biden, currently 81 years old, is expected to turn 86 at the end of his anticipated second term, becoming the oldest person to win the US Presidency. Politicians and citizens have raised concerns regarding his health and cognitive abilities. These concerns leave the most important institutions unstable as its possibility of collapse is just a medical incident away.
Moreover, although his counterpart is being infamously charged with a staggering number of court cases, Biden is not absolved of his fair share of criticisms. Recently, he has received backlash in regards to his son Hunter Biden, who, at 53 years of age, is facing several criminal cases on charges of federal tax evasion, gun offenses and foreign lobbying.
Nonetheless, amidst all the complex geo-political and domestic challenges, the Biden administration assures to deliver the same campaign strategy against the MAGA (Make America Great Again) Republican candidate. It should be remembered that unlike his republican counterpart, President Biden, now 81, is not a businessman in politics. Instead, he served the Senate back in 1973. At times when the US is on the verge of losing its exclusive monopoly power in world politics with US backed institutions failing to deliver its mandate, experienced politicians are required to reassure the country’s stance on the macro-level.
The Trump Campaign
Donald Trump rose like a phoenix after his exit following the January 7 US Capitol Attack. Although he declined to participate in any of the Republican Party presidential debates, his landslide victory in the first two primaries suggests, among the American voters his popularity is unbeatable.
During his recent speech at New Hampshire, Trump took a different stance with his foreign policies on war. Being the only president in US history who chose not to initiate war and bring back the longstanding American troops from Afghanistan, this time he promises to end the Russia-Ukraine War (although he fails to answer how). Moreover, senators say none of the republicans will agree to offer a blank cheque to Israel, thus gaining the support of incumbent Muslim voters. But as a president, Trump was criticized in the Muslim world for their anti-muslim sentiments. The former president also bluntly admitted today’s world is on the verge of WWIII, however, depending on the US government’s stance against war, the nation may be able to provide a different future for the world.
Heap on the Climate Policies:
A former advisor from the Trump administration suggests Trump is likely to withdraw from the Paris Climate accord again like he did in 2017. Trump has allegedly called Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) the ‘biggest tax hike in history.’ So, another Trump term is expected to halt Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which aims to decarbonize the US economy by heavily subsidizing green energies. Furthermore, his administration is said to boost the fossil fuel industry and reopen federal sites restricted to oil drilling. As suggested by EU critics, subsidies and protectionist policies on green energy are said to drive up energy prices and inflation and disrupt global supply chains. While it can be a quintessential argument against the IRA, simultaneously, with the world suffering from the growing climate crisis, the Trump administration’s take on the climate economy can push the US and the world back from the targeted net zero.
Trump’s core policies to keep ‘America First’ also include strict immigration laws which include detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants. This might take back his support from immigrants.
Taylor tailoring the fate of election:
Surprisingly, the US Presidential election is said to be heavily influenced by the whims of a non-political celebrity, Taylor Swift. With more than six million followers on social media, 18% of Americans say they are willing to vote for a candidate endorsed by Swift. Republicans suggest the Super Bowl, the most hyped American sporting event, is likely to be rigged. Thus, the Chiefs of Kansas City will take the stage with Taylor endorsing her preferred candidate- President Biden. Taylor has always been pro democrat with her strong support for climate issues, gay rights, and women’s rights for abortion. However, her stance on the ongoing genocide in the Gaza Strip is still unclear. Recently, Omar Suleiman, a Palestinian Islamic scholar residing in the US, questioned the mandate of democracy which leaves the public to make a choice between Trump and Biden.
In a world ravaged by two ongoing wars, climate change, and a shift from free trade, the radically different domestic and, more importantly, foreign policies of the two parties will propose different conclusions. The eyes of the world are now pinned on the 2024 United States presidential election.
As 2024 unfolds, it will be crucial for the world to witness how the elections of this year will shape the political landscape and the future of democracy on a global scale. However, every election this year will not result in a significant shift in government or policy, nor will it necessarily lead to the end of democracy. But the overall outcomes of these elections will surely affect the globe, especially in light of heightened bloc rivalry between the West and China, a rise in right-wing nationalism across Europe, and continuous violent conflicts between Israel and Hamas, as well as Russia and Ukraine.
Apprentice, Governance Apprenticeship Program &
Jaiyana chowdhury, Suprio Labonno Poroma, Shamim Ahmed, Bipul Shahriar,
Associates, Foreign Policy Team,
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