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Power Shifts and Ballot Boxes: How Elections in 40 Countries Could Shape the World in 2024

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2024 is a critical year for democracy in the world. According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance’s (IDEA) annual report, democracy remains fragile, stagnant at best, and declining across every region in the world. This new year offers an unprecedented opportunity for dramatic change. 

In 2024, 3.2 billion people, across 40 countries, will have the chance to elect a new leader.  

The current geopolitical tension across various regions has the potential to be diffused or further intensified depending on how 41% of the world’s population votes this year. These 40 countries represent approximately 50% of the global GDP, making the 2024 election outcomes consequential to the already precarious international political landscape. Elections will be taking place across influential countries of all regions, from resource-rich countries including Venezuela and Indonesia, to geopolitical hotspots like Taiwan and Pakistan. 

There are several key upcoming general elections to keep an eye on in the run-up to the votes: Taiwan, Indonesia, India, South Africa, the EU, the US and the likely general election in the UK. Changes in government will influence the state of global markets, regulations, policies and interest rates.  With the potential for the subsequent wave of new policies, current ruling parties will be looking to align themselves strategically. 

Supporters of Taiwan's opposition party at a Kuomintang (KMT) rally.

taiwan & Indonesia

Kicking off with elections in January, Taiwan’s outcome may have an impact on the tone for the currently tense US-China relations, potentially dictating China’s negative involvement in US elections later in the year. 

Indonesia faces the largest single-day election of the year in February to elect a president, vice president as well as legislators and councilors at both national and regional levels. The total number of voters expected accounts for 74% of the total population, up to 205 million people, in Southeast Asia’s largest economy. 

India's PM Narendra Modi celebrating India's Independence Day at a rally in 2022. He wears a white turban with a green and orange pattern and is waving to the crowd. He stands in front of a mint green wall. The crowd wave back and hold orange placards, they wear orange and yellow.

India

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has held the position since 2014, runs the danger of alarming investors with his anticipated reelection in a country that the US and its allies rely on to act as a check on China’s military and economic strength. According to Morning Consult, 78% of Indians surveyed in late November approved of Modi’s current job performance. Nonetheless, India’s opposition alliance, the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), have presented the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with a fight ahead of this year’s elections. Some issues to watch for leading up to the 2024 election will be the emergence of foreign policy as a mass issue and the challenge of opposition coordination.  

Two ANC supporters wearing African National Congress party T-shirts wave a large flag, obscuring their faces. One has a ANC flag draped over their shoulders. In the background more ANC supporters wearing party colours stand at a distance.

south africa

In South Africa, the ruling African National Congress faces the possibility of losing its overall majority for the first time, opening up the political possibility for another party to govern under a coalition government. The ANC’s policy of international nonalignment on issues like Russia-Ukraine has put ties with the US and EU under strain, which could have consequences for bilateral trade relations including SA’s access to the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Not including oil exports, SA remains the largest beneficiary from AGOA, exporting $2.7bn worth of goods in 2021.

In the foreground participant wears a flag of the European Union during a pro-European Union rally, he has short brown hair and is seen from behind. Other participants stand a short distance away holding blue balloons.

the eu

On June 6, 2024, voters in 27 EU member states head to the polls to elect national party representatives. The European Parliament that emerges from the elections, essentially 27 elections rolled into one, will play a crucial role in the appointment of the 27 European Commissioners for the term of office 2024-29.

It is currently anticipated that the parties opposed to immigration will gain ground and the center of gravity is set to shift to the right. Electoral participation is a topic that will have a significant impact on public discourse surrounding EU integration during the next five years. The new left-right power dynamics and their implications for major long-term policies like the Green Deal and EU strategic autonomy are taking centre-stage in EU politics. With the wave of nationalist populist far-right resurgence in regional and general 2023 elections across European countries such as Italy, Poland, Germany and the Netherlands, the pull between national security and human rights continues to fuel debate.

There remains a real demand for protection and control in the face of growing political uncertainty, however balancing these fears against the demand for policies on a green transition, immigration, LGBTQ rights, abortion and support for Ukraine will be a critical task for center-left party leaders – one that will have broader consequences for international political consensus on democracy.  

President of the USA, Joe Biden, speaking to the camera. He is wearing a dark suit and blue tie. He stands in front of a dark blue background with US flags either side of him.

usa

According to a recent poll by Bloomberg News, former President Donald Trump is leading in important swing states in the US. And while there may be questions of the methodology of this poll, the prospect of his victory raises new questions about US policy, including those pertaining to trade, NATO, China, and Russia. The most crucial period for a president running for reelection is from now until the end of the second quarter of this year; Biden will need to act now to highlight the achievements of his policies. The voting process and campaign building up to the 2024 election could further deteriorate American democracy, even if Donald Trump is not elected president. Additionally, Trump’s election could have massive consequences across a huge portion of the globe.

Rishi Sunak, UK prime minister, outside 10 Downing Street

uk

If the UK conference season didn’t signal the start of the 2024 election campaign, then November’s autumn statement certainly did. According to pundits, Jeremy Hunt’s announcements presented a classic pre-election strategy of “live now, pay later,” designed to allure voters and put the opposition in an uncomfortable position. In response, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has shifted the focus beyond Mr. Hunt’s recent offerings, highlighting 13 years of Conservative economic management. She succinctly framed the upcoming election’s key questions: Are people better off than they were 13 years ago? Only the election will tell how UK voters feel about that question. 

As geopolitical tensions escalate and international economic policy on critical matters such as climate change and post-pandemic recovery agendas continue to keep voters in anticipation, it becomes clear that this year will be pivotal for democracy across the globe.  

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