What to watch for in 2016

Happy new year to all our readers!

As usual, there’ll be plenty of action this year in world politics. It looks like not being as big a year for elections as some we’ve seen recently; only four of the G20 countries are scheduled to vote, and two of those are just legislative elections in countries where then main action is with the presidency (Russia and South Korea). But the other two are the most important ones, at least from our point of view, namely Australia and the United States.

Reviewing which elections have happened is relatively straightforward; picking those that are going to happen is not so easy. There’s always the possibility of early elections (Italy would be one to keep an eye on this year) or unexpected postponements, and some of the dates are uncertain. But here’s my list of twenty interesting elections to expect in 2016. (For some other lists, check out Adam Carr, Wikipedia and the National Democratic Institute.)

Taiwan, 16 January. Presidential and legislative elections, with the incumbent Kuomintang expected to lose heavily. Our government doesn’t admit that Taiwan is a country, but it’s actually one of the most vibrant Asian democracies.

Haiti, 17 January. Second round of the presidential election that began in October, although there’s some doubt about when or if it will be held – it was originally scheduled for 27 December. Jovenel Moïse, backed by the current government, faces off against opposition candidate Jude Célestin.

Portugal, 24 January. Presidential election, and with a parliamentary system the president is mostly just a figurehead. But the process of forming a government after last October’s general election proved controversial, so it might be time to take the presidency a bit more seriously.

Iran, 26 February. Legislative election, where reformist president Hassan Rouhani will be hoping to get himself a more sympathetic legislature. The shadowy Assembly of Experts will apparently be elected at the same time.

Slovakia, 5 March. Centre-left prime minister Robert Fico will be seeking re-election and hoping to defy the anti-incumbent mood in Europe.

Ireland, 3 April. The last Irish election upended its party system; this time the government looks like being re-elected, but it’s possible that Sinn Féin will take over as the main opposition party.

Peru, 10 April. Presidential and legislative elections. It will be interesting to see if Latin America’s shift to the right continues, although Peruvian politics are always confusing. If no presidential candidate wins a majority, there will be a runoff a few weeks later.

South Korea, 13 April. Legislative election, with president Park Geun-hye’s conservatives at risk of losing their majority.

Macedonia, 24 April. Early parliamentary elections, which were agreed on to end a major political crisis last year. A transitional power-sharing government has been in place since October.

Philippines, 9 May. Presidential, legislative and regional elections, but the main interest is in the closely-fought contest to succeed president Benigno Aquino.

Mongolia, June. Despite its exotic character, Mongolia has made a successful transition to multi-party democracy. The centre-right Democratic Party will be seeking re-election.

Australia, September (?). The advent of Malcolm Turnbull has made the Liberal-National coalition a hot favorite for re-election. An early election is possible, but September or October are the most likely months.

Netherlands, September (?). Also of uncertain date, but September is the anniversary of the last election. A swing to the far right is expected, threatening the incumbent liberal/social democrat coalition.

Russia, 18 September. Legislative election, which is again expected to return a compliant majority for president Vladimir Putin, but there is still some scope for democratic opposition.

Zambia, 20 September. Presidential and legislative elections. An opposition victory in 2012 led to a peaceful transfer of power, something that is finally becoming less of a rarity in Africa.

Georgia, October. Legislative election. The broad “Georgian Dream” coalition that defeated the party of then-president Mikheil Saakashvili in 2012 will be seeking a second term of office.

Romania, November. Another very difficult party system, but this has been an electorally volatile part of the world for the last couple of years.

Nicaragua, November. Presidential and legislative elections. Another test for the right in Latin America, which will be trying to unseat aging leftist president Daniel Ortega.

Ghana, 7 November. Presidential and legislative elections. One of Africa’s most successful democracies; incumbent president John Dramani Mahama is expected to seek a second term.

United States of America, 8 November. The next few months will be spent choosing the two presidential candidates, but with extensive disarray in the Republican Party, Democrat Hillary Clinton is a strong favorite to be the next president.


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