Why you should care
Because if you don’t follow these elections, you might miss market-shaking changes in the world.
In the year ahead, much ink will be spilled on the glories and gaffes of America’s 2016 presidential contenders. But what of the rest of the world? Voters may determine Britain’s future role in Europe. In Africa, democracy stands trial. Can Nigeria stay the path of progress? Will the Arab Spring give way to a revolutionary autumn in Libya?
Prime Minister David Cameron probably won’t reap a majority when voters turn out in May. Cameron’s party must woo back voters from the new kids on the block: the increasingly popular Euroskeptic UK Independence Party — aka UKIP — under Nigel Farage.
Known for being right of center, anti-Europe, anti-immigration and anti-establishment, UKIP stands to win 17 to 20 percent of the vote. Farage and his colleagues appeal to disgruntled Tories who wish the Conservative Party would lean further right, as well as to working-class residents of small towns who don’t relate to the Labour Party’s preoccupations. Both mainstream parties have everything to lose.
And then there are nationalist parties like Plaid Cymru in Wales and the Scottish National Party. Alex Salmond promises to wrestle more power for Scotland’s separatist agenda.
This is a big year for the world’s second-largest continent, with 15 countries voting. So which will prevail: democracy or strong-arm governance? Worryingly, a few of the countries — including the continent’s most populous, Nigeria — risk succumbing to violence in post-electoral protests. Some 800 Nigerians died after the 2011 elections; this February, amid growing frustration with government inefficacy against Boko Haram terrorists, the country is holding both a general and a presidential election. Leaders in Burundi and Togo are chasing a third term. Attempts to pass a constitutional amendment could lead to chaos in Tanzania, while Ebola might postpone Guinea and Liberia’s elections. Plus, Ansar al-Dine Islamists will probably try to divert attention away from municipal elections in Mali this April.
And then there’s the former hotbed of the Arab Spring, Libya, where voters are judging the constitution amid a spaghetti tangle of players, two competing governments — really — and Islamists.
The ever-controversial Benjamin Netanyahu surprised many in early December when he dissolved parliament and called for early elections less than halfway through his four-year term. The U.S. is growing increasingly fed up with the Likud party’s support for the expansion of Jewish settlements, not to mention moves trying to turn Israel into a Jewish state, which would officially make non-Jews second-class citizens.
For Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, it’ll be no smooth ride leading up to June’s parliamentary election. Argentines are eager to replace President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner this year. Her approval rating hovers around just 30 percent. In June, the vice president was charged with corruption, and in July, the country defaulted.
So, who says all politics is local? Stay tuned.