The year 2017 is going to be one of crucial changes across the globe. From the Netherlands to Hong Kong, from France to Germany and from Iran to South Korea Many nations will go to polls and millions of voters will be choosing their representatives. Amidst a global wave of populism, these elections have got more importance and will be keenly observed by the analysts and political pundits.
In 2017, as many as 19 nations are electing their presidents whereas 21 countries are going to the polls to elect their representatives in parliament or in their respective legislative bodies. Could 2017 produce similarly surprising results? Let’s wait and watch!
1. The Netherlands (March 15)
General elections are planned to be held in the Netherlands on Wednesday, 15 March 2017 to elect all 150 members of the House of Representatives. As per the opinion polls, the anti-Islam leader of the Dutch far-right Party for Freedom (PVV), Geert Wilders, is on course to win the most seats. His election would be the latest blow for Europe’s liberal order in the wake of the Donald Trump’s victory and the Brexit vote. Mr Wilders has pledged to close the Netherlands’ borders, shut down mosques and leave the euro and EU if he gets into power. The PVV is gaining because Wilders adroitly used his just-concluded trial for hate speech – he was convicted but not punished on the lesser charge of inciting discrimination – to portray himself as a defender of free speech and a victim of political correctness run amok.
2. Hong Kong (March 26)
The election for Hong Kong’s chief executive, a position currently held by Leung Chun-ying, is scheduled for March 26. Hong Kong and China have coexisted for the past two decades in relative harmony under the “one country, two systems” framework. That harmony looks to be fraying. In 2014, Hong Kong students led the Umbrella Revolution protests, after Beijing moved to change the city’s electoral system to give it more say over who runs Hong Kong. The issue has split Hong Kong politics ever since. The incumbent, Leung Chun-ying, announced he will not seek reelection. With Leung out of the race, the new favourite is Regina Ip, Hong Kong’s former secretary for security and the current leader of the pro-Beijing New People’s Party.
3. France (May 7)
Is France going to be the next victim of populism? Three days after Donald Trump won the US presidency on an anti-elite, populist platform, Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right Nationalist Front, boasted that she will be France’s next president. Given the ‘fake job’ scandal that hit her main rival Francois Fillon, it seems she would be. Most French political experts think that she is surely to be one of the two candidates to make it to the runoff round. A Le Pen victory would upend French politics, energize far-right parties elsewhere in Europe, and leave Chancellor Angela Merkel as the only European leader forcefully advocating for a unified EU. But even in a loss, Le Pen could pull France further to the right as her opponents look to defang her tough talk on immigrants, terrorists, and the EU, by talking tougher themselves.
4. Iran (May 19)
Can Hassan Rouhani shock the world a second time? He first surprised the world back in 2013, winning the presidency in a landslide, defeating a slate of hard-line candidates. Critical of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he promised to improve ties with the West, revitalize the economy, and implement a civil rights charter. He negotiated a nuclear deal with the West, freeing Iran of many of the sanctions that it faced. But with Donald Trump’s victory, that success now looks precarious. At the same time, the Iranian economy continues to limp along, the relaxation of sanctions has yet to generate tangible results, and the civil rights charter has received mixed reviews. Fortunately for Rouhani, Iran’s hard-line faction has yet to coalesce around a popular alternative.
5. Germany (October 22)
The incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced to run for a fourth term for the post she has held since 2005. In her 11 years on the job, she has put her personal stamp on European politics and economics. She has pushed austerity measures to deal with the eurozone’s debt crisis, welcomed more than one million refugees to Germany, and led Europe’s effort to present a unified front against an aggressive Russia. The wild card in the election is the Alternative for Germany Party, the right-wing, anti-immigrant, anti-Islam, Eurosceptic party. It has done surprisingly well in Germany’s state and local elections—it upset the Christian Democrats in Merkel’s home state back in September—and it is up to 13 percent support. If the unthinkable happens and Merkel loses, the EU could be in big trouble.
6. China’s Politburo (October or November)
In October or November, China will hold its 19th Party Congress. It’s not an election in the truest sense—the Chinese people do not get a vote—but at this closed-door meeting, officials will appoint some of the country’s top leaders. This Congress is more important than most. Five out of the seven people who currently sit on China’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee are set to be replaced, while about half of the 18-member-strong Politburo are also outgoing. There is some certainty—President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang will remain on the Committee, serving out their terms until 2022. But their eventual successors will be chosen from the committee, meaning that whoever makes it on this year, could be the future leader of China.
7. South Korea (December 20)
South Korea is in turmoil after the country’s parliament voted, in December 2016, to impeach President Park Geun-hye over her close friendship with Choi Soon-sil, a woman accused of exerting undue influence on Park. It’s up to the country’s constitutional court to decide her fate. If it’s bad news for Park—which looks likely—an election must be held within 60 days, considerably earlier than the planned December 2017 date. Even if Park keeps her post, she is constitutionally barred from running again. Among those hoping to succeed her, Moon Jae-in, who lost the presidency to Park in 2012, is the one leading the polls. Another contender is Lee Jae-myung, who has been nicknamed “the Korean Trump”. However, until election day, South Korea’s presidential race could still see plenty of more ups and downs.