'Year of elections': 2024 will see five crucial races that will shape global order

According to Bloomberg Economics, voters in these nations represent nearly 41% of the world's population and contribute $44.2 trillion or 42% of the planet's GDP.
(L to R) A collage of Former US President Donald Trump, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (FILE | AP Photo)
(L to R) A collage of Former US President Donald Trump, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (FILE | AP Photo)

Could Donald Trump make a comeback? Can anyone in Russia challenge Vladimir Putin? Will it be 'Teesri Baar Modi Sarkar' (Modi govt for a third time) in India? Only time will unveil the answers to these pivotal political questions in what will be a record-breaking year of elections.

Over three billion voters across 40-plus countries will elect their heads of state in 2024, starting with Taiwan's election in January and running all the way to the United States in November. Elections will also take place in India, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, Russia and South Africa, among others.

According to Bloomberg Economics, voters in these nations represent nearly 41% of the world's population and contribute $44.2 trillion or 42% of the planet's GDP. 

With the global economy facing successive challenges amid two intense conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine, persistent inflation, and elevated borrowing expenses, hindering the post-pandemic resurgence, the 2024 election cycle could act as the next potential source of disruption in this era of multifaceted crises.

With over 40% of the world heading to polls in 2024 here are five key elections to watch:

Trump-Biden rematch?

On November 5, tens of millions of Americans will choose a president in a contest that could keep incumbent Joe Biden in power until the age of 86.

Poll after poll shows that a majority of voters think the gaffe-prone Democrat is too old to be commander-in-chief, despite his likely rival, ex-president Donald Trump making similar slip-ups at 77.

Americans seem to agree on one issue underlying the 2024 elections — a worry over the state of democracy and how the outcome of the presidential contest will affect its future. They just disagree over who poses the threat.

A poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 62% of adults say democracy in the US could be at risk depending on who wins next fall. Majorities of Democrats (72%) and Republicans (55%) feel the same way, but for different reasons.

Biden's campaign suffered another blow after the Republican-led House of Representatives voted in December to open a formal impeachment inquiry into whether he profited unduly from his son's foreign business deals while he was vice president under Barack Obama.

Disinformation looks set to be a feature of the campaign, a hangover from the last foul-tempered contest which ended with Trump supporters storming the US Capitol to try to halt the certification of Biden's victory.  The first US Republican primary is only weeks away and former president Donald Trump, who is a master of populist techniques, commands substantial support, despite multiple criminal trials hanging over him.

A CNN poll reported on the website Real Clear Politics on November 8 put current US president Biden at 45% and Trump at 49% in such a contest. This lead of 4% is statistically significant, which means that it cannot be attributed to errors that can occur with all polls but represents a genuine lead of the former president over the current incumbent.

Putin eyes six more years

A newly-confident Russian President Vladimir Putin, energised by his troops' success in holding their positions in Ukraine two years into the war, is hoping to extend his 24-year rule by another six years in the March elections.

On December 8 he announced he is running for a fifth term, which would keep him in power until 2030.

In 2020, he had the constitution amended to allow him to theoretically stay in power until 2036, which could potentially see him rule for longer than Joseph Stalin.

With the war in Ukraine used to lock up or silence dissenters and opponents, there is little chance of anyone standing in his way. His long-time nemesis Alexei Navalny is serving a 19-year jail sentence.

Navalny has been behind bars in Russia since January 2021, when he returned to Moscow after recuperating in Germany from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin. Before his arrest, he campaigned against official corruption and organized major anti-Kremlin protests.

He has since received three prison terms and spent months in isolation in Penal Colony No. 6 for alleged minor infractions. He has rejected all charges against him as politically motivated.

At the national level, Russia’s political system is hermetic. There are no primary elections where voters can choose a candidate; political parties select their own contenders and then present them to the electorate.

The tight control over Russia’s political system that he has established during 24 years in power makes Putin's reelection in March all but assured. Prominent critics who could challenge him on the ballot are either in jail or living abroad, and most independent media have been banned.

Modi's great power play

Nearly one billion Indians will be called on to vote in April-May when the world's most populous nation goes to the polls in an election in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his nationalist BJP party are seeking a third term.

Modi's political career and success have been based on support from India's one-billion-plus Hindus and, critics say, stoking enmity toward the country's large Muslim minority.

Despite a crackdown on civil liberties on his watch, he goes into the vote the clear favourite, with his supporters crediting him with boosting his country's standing on the global stage.

Amnesty in its India 2022 report noted that arbitrary arrests, prolonged detentions, unlawful attacks and killings, internet shutdowns and intimidation using digital technologies, including unlawful surveillance as major concerns faced by minority groups, human rights defenders, dissenters and critics of the Union government.

The 'Democracy Index', prepared by The Economist Group's Economist Intelligence Unit, had downgraded India to a "flawed democracy" in its 2022 report due to the serious backsliding of democratic freedom under the Modi government.

Similarly, the US-based non-profit organization Freedom House had lowered India's standing from a free democracy to a "partly free" democracy in its global freedom and internet freedom ratings, while V-Dem Institute, a Sweden-based independent research institute, had classified India as an "electoral autocracy", as part of its 2022 Democracy report.

EU test for populists

The world's largest transnational poll in June will see more than 400 million people eligible to vote in the European Parliament election. More than 400 million voters will elect 720 members of the European Parliament across 27 member countries.

The vote will be a test of support for right-wing populists, who have the wind in their sails after the victory of Geert Wilders' anti-Islam, anti-EU PVV Freedom Party in November's Dutch elections and last year's win for Giorgia Meloni's far-right Brothers of Italy.

Brussels can take heart however from Poland, where former European Council president Donald Tusk has returned to power on a solidly pro-EU platform.

First Mexican woman president?

A leftist former mayor of the capital and a businesswoman with Indigenous roots are both vying to make history in Mexico in June by becoming the first woman president of a country with a tradition of machismo.

Former Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum is running on behalf of outgoing President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's Morena party.

Her outspoken opponent Xochitl Galvez has been selected to represent an opposition coalition, the Broad Front for Mexico.

According to the Center for American Progress (CAP), a prominent US policy institute, the erosion of trust in global elections is attributed to the emergence of political figures who undermine and reject election outcomes.

While safeguarding democracy is not solely the responsibility of the private sector, the substantial influence wielded by companies managing a few dominant social media platforms underscores their significant role in preserving digital democracy, remarks CAP in its report titled 'Protecting Democracy Online in 2024 and Beyond'.

Similarly, the CAP report says the rapid deployment of new AI tools to a massive user base, lacking clear guidelines for proper use, necessitates swift implementation of regulatory measures by these emerging companies and technologies to safeguard the integrity of elections.

(With inputs from AFP)

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express