Global Election Celebration: 2024 will be a historic election year, with elections in approximately 70 countries, including the United States, India, Mexico, and South Africa. More than 3.7 billion people will cast ballots, and the results could have global ramifications.
This year will be a watershed moment for democracy and democratic institutions around the world.
The world’s most powerful country (the United States), the most populous country (India), the largest trading bloc (the European Union), the largest Muslim country (Indonesia), the largest Spanish-speaking country (Mexico), and the most contentious territory between the two superpowers of the twentieth century (Taiwan) will all hold elections in 2024.
In the coming year, more than 3.7 billion people in 70 countries, or nearly half of the world’s population, will vote in presidential or legislative elections.
The results of these polls could have far-reaching consequences for people’s lives and for a world in turmoil, with ongoing brutal wars in Ukraine and Gaza and the West appearing to be in decline with no clear alternative.
On a geopolitical level, this election may have a significant impact. The return of Donald Trump to the White House, a third consecutive victory in Taiwan by candidates considered hostile by Beijing, or a consolidation of the extreme right in the European Union could all have far-reaching consequences.
Other elections to keep an eye on include potential presidential elections in Venezuela and Ukraine, as well as elections in Indonesia, South Africa, and Mexico, in addition to the UK, where no significant change of course is expected regardless of the outcome.
Democracy is put to the test.
However, the litmus tests that democracy will face may be the most concerning aspect of these elections. Surveys conducted by various international think tanks and institutes reveal dissatisfaction with the current functioning of democratic institutions, a sentiment shared by the nations of the west, namely the United States and Europe, despite their view of themselves as democracy’s home ground. According to a recent Ipsos opinion poll in Western countries, most people believe that current democratic systems Favor the wealthy and powerful while ignoring everyone else.
The Global Freedom Index fell for the 17th consecutive year, according to Freedom House, an independent US-based watchdog. The principle of free expression, which is necessary for a fully functioning democracy, is also under attack.
This unprecedented vote-fest comes at a time when authoritarians and dictators such as China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, far-right nationalist-populist parties such as those in Austria, Hungary, and Scandinavia, and military coup plotters and Islamists from Venezuela to Chad are all under attack.
Despite this, the report stated that while 35 countries saw declines in political and civil liberties, 34 saw overall gains. Autocrats were neither unbeatable nor invincible.
The geopolitical and economic consequences of so many ballot box battles taking place at the same time, for better or worse, may combine to further destabilize an already unstable world.
The emergence of the far right
In June, elections will be held in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, and Finland, as well as for the European Parliament.
The widespread fear is that they will hasten the rise of nationalist-populist, anti-migrant, xenophobic far-right parties similar to those seen recently in Italy, the Netherlands, and Slovakia. The outcomes will shape the new chamber, with possible new legislative majorities influencing EU leadership. One wonders how far the far-right wave will go.
The average of polls compiled by Politico magazine shows that support for the two far-right blocs is increasing while support for traditional European conservatives, social Democrats, liberals, and greens is decreasing. Nonetheless, the latter groups may maintain a comfortable majority. The crux of the issue is whether a future coalition of populist and far-right groups could form an alternative majority. In Politico’s seat projection from early December, the gap between extremists and moderates was only about 20 seats out of a total of 720.
India and its adjacent countries
India, which will hold general elections in which incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to win a hat trick, will closely monitor elections in its neighbouring countries, namely Pakistan and Bangladesh, which could have a significant regional and strategic impact.
Pakistan is suffering from a severe economic crisis as well as high political tensions, including the arrest and attempted assassination of political leaders. Following the dissolution of Parliament in August, elections were supposed to be held within 90 days, but they were postponed twice. They will now take place in February.
With 240 million people, the country has enormous strategic depth, not only because of its nuclear arsenal but also because of its close relationship with China. New Delhi’s main concern is the Beijing-Islamabad axis.
The first 2024 election could be one of the most contentious. For the past fifteen years, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the ruling Awami League have dominated Bangladeshi politics. They have gradually eroded Bangladesh’s democracy over time. According to Freedom House, the Islamic State (IS) “has consolidated political power through sustained harassment of the opposition and those perceived to be allied with it, as well as of critical media and voices in civil society.”
For months, the US has pressed Sheikh Hasina to hold free and fair elections, but the pressure has yet to bear fruit.
Globally, the US and EU elections may have a significant impact on India’s foreign and defense policies, with some overlap in internal politics as well.
The presidential elections in the United States in November have enormous disruptive potential. It is still possible that Trump will be the Republican nominee and return to the White House. A Trump re-election would cause significant upheaval, with attendant risks. It would be a step toward American isolationism at a time when rival powers are questioning Washington’s creation of the world order.
Trump represents a departure from the ‘America for the World’ scenario; his “America first” doctrine entails limiting efforts and expenditures to distant horizons. It’s unclear whether he would commit to supporting Taiwan if it is attacked or whether he would keep the financing and security guarantees he gave Ukraine and NATO. New trade wars are likely, as is a withdrawal from climate change commitments.
Furthermore, the elections in 2024 will highlight how our lives have become slaves to social media, which will have an impact on the election processes as well. According to Kay Spencer, program director of elections at the Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI), 2024 will be a big year for social media platforms, and it will be important to watch how they manage all of the upcoming elections.
Indeed, 2024 may prove to be a year that either consolidates or erodes liberal democratic principles and institutions.