After a big electoral year last year, there’s less activity expected in 2020. Remarkably enough, only two of the G20 countries are scheduled to hold elections (last year there were eight) – one of those, however, is the richest and most powerful of the lot, and its drawn-out electoral process will dominate the year.
But that doesn’t mean there’ll be nothing else of interest happening. A number of mid-ranking countries are holding elections, some of which will showcase important issues. And there’s always the chance of political crisis producing an early election elsewhere: Italy, as usual, is one possibility, but there’s much talk of it in Germany as well.*
So here, in chronological order (although some dates are uncertain), are my top ten elections to watch for this year:
Taiwan (11 January). Current president Tsai Ing-wen is seeking a second term, and a year or so ago looked to be in a lot of trouble. Since then, however, the protests in Hong Kong and concerns about China’s overreach have boosted her position and she now enjoys a commanding lead in the polls.
Israel (2 March). An unprecedented third attempt to settle on a government will be dominated by the indictment of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Having lost ground in the second of 2019’s elections, he doesn’t seem likely to recover it this time.
Singapore (March-April). Not really an exercise in democracy, but Singapore’s elections are worth watching for signs of public discontent with the authoritarian regime. Prime minister Lee Hsien Loong is seeking re-election for what is expected to be his final term.
Bolivia (March-April). Last October’s election was annulled after protests forced the resignation of president Evo Morales. The interim government that replaced him has promised fair elections; if they keep that promise, it will be interesting to see how well Morales’s party can do in his absence.
South Korea (15 April). President Moon Jae-in’s term runs until 2022, but this year’s legislative elections will help determine how much he can achieve in the next two years. A new and more democratic electoral system has created controversy, although it’s far from clear who will benefit.
Serbia (26 April?). Most opposition parties have promised to boycott the election due to concerns about government control of the media. European mediators have been trying to broker a compromise, but it remains uncertain whether the election will be held on schedule. It’s a big year in the Balkans, with North Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Croatia also expected to vote.
New Zealand (September). Prime minister Jacinda Ardern, who governs with the support of both the far right and the Greens, has lost ground in the polls since early 2019 but is still favored to win re-election. New Zealand politics remains notable for its moderation, which a number of other countries could usefully emulate.
Lithuania (11 & 25 October). One of Europe’s more chaotic party systems will again be put to the test. Last time, the Farmers & Greens Union won government, but prime minister Saulius Skvernelis will need new allies in order to win a second term.
United States (3 November). This is the big one; the election itself will determine the fate (assuming he survives impeachment) of president Donald Trump, but equally important will be the primary elections, held in the first half of the year, to select his Democrat challenger from a large but undistinguished field.
Ghana (November-December). One of Africa’s most successful democracies is expected to again see a contest between John Mahama, who won the presidency in 2012, and Nana Akufo-Addo, who beat him in 2016. The peaceful alternation in power is impressive, but it does look as if Ghana could do with some new blood.
And if you want to review the highlights of 2019 again, and see how poorly some of my predictions fared, you can check out last year’s preview in Crikey here.
* If there are no early elections, it will be the first year in living memory without a single election in western Europe.