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Nations Go to Polls in 2018

Nations Go to Polls in 2018

Elections to look out for this year

In the year 2017, the French elected Emmanuel Macron as their president, while South Koreans elected Moon Jae-in to replace Park Geun-hye who was ousted in a corruption scandal. In the same year, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani won re-election with a much wider margin of support than his first term while Turkey voted to expand President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s constitutional authority. In Britain, Theresa May gambled but lost her parliamentary majority whereas Japan’s Shinzo Abe came away with a resounding victory in the parliamentary elections and in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel led her party to a first-place finish. On the other hand, a disputed independence referendum in Catalonia triggered a constitutional crisis in Spain, and a similarly controversial independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan raised political tensions in Iraq. The Year 2018 will see equally important and consequential elections. 

If 2017 was the year of botched independence referendums, the 2018 will see strongmen (and no women) around the world seek re-election and some jaded old-timers stage unlikely comebacks. Here are some important elections to look out for in 2018:

1. Italy – March 04

Italians must love government; they have had sixty-five of them since Italy became a republic in 1945. The Italian parliament was dissolved on December 28, 2017, and a new election will be held on March 4, 2018. As Italian voters mull over government number sixty-six, polls show the 5 Star Movement is neck and neck with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni’s center-left Democratic Party. Could a right-wing, Eurosceptic, populist party do surprisingly well, as has happened elsewhere in Europe recently? It’s possible. The ingredients are there. Italians are upset over high unemployment, large government debt, and the ongoing refugee crisis. The Five Star Movement casts itself as a populist party. As in the last election in 2013, the anti-establishment mood is likely to favour the Five-Star Movement of comedian Beppe Grillo, while the continuing migrant crisis is playing into the hands of the hard-right, anti-EU Northern League. All of which points to a highly unpredictable contest.

2. Russia – March 18

There will be no such uncertainty in Russia, where Vladimir Putin is bidding to extend his 18-year iron grip on power (including two stints as prime minister). Opposed only by token candidates, Putin is widely expected to win a fourth term in the March 18 poll – his only prominent opponent, Alexei Navalny, being barred from running due to an embezzlement conviction. Moreover, polls have shown that 80 percent of Russian people trust current President Vladimir Putin, who signed up as an independent candidate on December 27. Observers believe that Putin’s re-election is highly likely, with a stable governance foundation, high rate of public support and a weak opposition. The main challenge facing Putin is not the election, but figuring out how to lead the country to solve thorny domestic and diplomatic problems in the next six years. The opposition leader has called for a boycott of the vote, mindful that a low turnout would be seen as a setback for the president and embolden his critics at home and abroad.

3. Egypt – March 26-28

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power in July 2013 after ousting his predecessor, Mohammed Morsi, in a military coup. Sisi was then elected president in May 2014 with roughly 96 percent of the vote – a suspiciously high turnout for a free-and-fair election. The Egyptian president’s term is up for renewal sometime between February and May, and el-Sisi has made no mystery of his plans to carry on. Odds are good that el-Sisi will enjoy continued electoral success, even though he has failed to deliver on his promises to jumpstart economic growth, has been accused of widespread human rights abuses, and has had Egyptians living under a state of emergency since April 2016. It is still not clear who will be allowed to run against him. When Ahmed Shafiq, a former prime minister, announced his candidacy from the United Arab Emirates, he was promptly expelled to Cairo, where he soon said he was pulling out of the contest. In December 2017, army colonel Ahmed Konsowa was sentenced to six years in prison for violating military rules after he announced his intention to challenge el-Sisi. Another candidate, prominent rights activist Khaled Ali, has also thrown his hat in the ring. Hanging over his bid, however, is a September conviction for allegedly making an obscene hand gesture the day he won a court case against the government’s decision to transfer two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

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