What’s on for 2023

A large number of middle-ranking powers are scheduled to vote this year, although only two of them (Argentina and Turkey) are members of the G20. As always, there’s also the possibility of an unexpected early election somewhere – the United Kingdom is one that will do doubt attract some speculation.

So as promised, here’s my list of the top ten significant elections to watch out for, in expected chronological order (although several dates are only approximate).

Nigeria (president & parliament, 25 February). Africa’s biggest election will choose a new president, since incumbent Muhammadu Buhari has reached his limit of two terms. A close contest is expected, with three candidates enjoying significant levels of support, all representing distinct ethnic groups. Other notable elections on the continent include Mauritania, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe.

Bulgaria (parliament, March?). Bulgaria has held four elections in the last two years, but looks set to return to the polls early this year after its politicians failed to agree on a new government. It’s not clear that the voters will have any fresh ideas. As noted yesterday, this is somewhere where the Ukraine war has disrupted the already fraught local politics.

Thailand (parliament, 7 May). Last year’s opposition victory in neighboring Malaysia could be a bad omen for the Thai military government, already trailing badly in the polls. Repeated military interventions have failed to make much difference to underlying voting patterns. Neighboring Cambodia will be voting as well, but its days of democracy appear to be over.

Turkey (president & parliament, 18 June). There is some life still in Turkish democracy, with autocratic president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan trailing in the polls; he has used legal subterfuge to try to keep his main rival off the ballot, and there may be more dirty tricks still to come. An opposition victory would be a game-changer in the region.

Pakistan (parliament, July/August?). Imran Khan became prime minister after the last election but was unseated mid-term in a vote of confidence. The coalition that replaced him looks unsteady, but it will be difficult for Khan to make the jump from a plurality to an actual majority. Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) will also go the polls, although its democracy is not in good shape.

New Zealand (parliament, September/October). Labour under Jacinda Ardern won an absolute majority last time, the first under proportional representation, but defending it after six years in power will be a harder task. The centre-right opposition will be led by a political newcomer, the former head of Air New Zealand.

Poland (parliament, October?). With the Ukraine war on its doorstep, Poland will have to choose between its authoritarian but anti-Putin government and a broad and fractious opposition. Defeat for the government would leave Hungary much more isolated within the European Union. In eastern Europe, Finland, Greece and Estonia will also hold elections.

Switzerland (legislature, October). Switzerland’s odd constitutional structure means that elections only obliquely influence the composition of the government. A big swing to the Greens last time failed to win them a place in the executive; it will be interesting to see how the voters respond.

Argentina (president & legislature, 29 October). Left-Peronist president Alberto Fernández is expected to seek re-election, but his tenure has not been a great success; there are signs that South America’s recent trend to the left may be petering out. An early election in Peru is also a distinct possibility.

Spain (parliament, December). Socialist prime minister Pedro Sánchez, in office since 2018, looks to be facing an uphill task, but Spanish voters may be reluctant to embrace a government dependent on the far right. The country’s liberal party, Citizens, is on track to be wiped out, leaving a vacancy in the middle of the spectrum.


5 thoughts on “What’s on for 2023

  1. Behind a civilian facade, the military has ruled Pakistan since independence. It has never been a real democracy.


    1. The military has certainly always been powerful, and has always asserted (& sometimes exercised) the right to step in if necessary to protect its interests. But I still think there’s an important difference between the periods of actual military rule and those where civilian politicians have been responsible to an elected parliament. Far from a perfect democracy, since those politicians have always had to be sensitive to the wishes of the military, but better than no democracy at all.


  2. Whenever a progressive here in Oz suggests something eminently sensible for the USA like allowing US youth to stand for Congress at 18 just like they can vote there at 18, i point out that such a constitutional change would need 38 states to happen but only 13 states to not happen. Hence why the paedophobia in the US constitution is still there and you cannot stand for Congress until you are 25 and cannot stand for the Senate until you are 30.


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