11 July 2017

Three Elections to Watch Later This Year

2017 has not seen as many major international elections as the previous three years, but nevertheless, there have been some interesting votes this year, with a few more to come.  Of course, 2014 was famously the year in which more people voted around the world than in any other year in human history, while 2015 was the year of the repeat elections, with Greek voters going to the polls three times and Turkish voters twice, while other major elections took place in Britain, Canada, Nigeria and Spain.  Last year was the year of the surprise election results such as Donald Trump’s shock victory in the United States’ presidential election and the decision by British voters to leave the European Union.  This year has not seen as many high-profile elections as the previous three years, although the elections in Britain, France, Iran and the Netherlands have all had an impact on those regions where those elections took place.  As for the remainder of this year, there are at least 20 presidential or parliamentary elections still to come, but only a few of these will have a significant impact outside of their home countries.  Here are three national elections that are worth watching later this year.

Kenya: The next significant elections that will take place this year are in Kenya, where presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in August.  Here, President Uhuru Kenyatta will seek a second term in office, and he is the clear favorite to win the upcoming presidential election in Kenya.  His main challenger will be former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is seeking to end a streak of three consecutive presidential election defeats, and this time he has the backing of an alliance of opposition parties known as the National Super Alliance (NASA).  While the elections themselves are interesting, it is the situation surrounding the election that bears watching.  This is due to the fact that Kenyan politics are deeply divided along ethnic and religious lines, and these elections are once again spurring ethnic and religious tensions in Kenya.  One need only remember the violence between rival ethnic groups that accompanied 2007’s elections in Kenya, in which more than 1,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands were driven from their homes.  As Kenya is considered the lynchpin of East Africa, the region with the highest rate of economic growth in Africa, it is imperative that peace be maintained so that the continued integration of this region can proceed.

Germany: The next important national elections to take place later this year will be in Germany, where Europe’s most important election of 2017 will take place in September.  Of course, Britain and France both held notable elections earlier this year, but there is no doubt that Germany is now the driving force in Europe, making this election crucial for that region’s future.  Moreover, German Chancellor Angela Merkel remains Europe’s most important political leader by a wide margin, and her popularity within Germany remains very high.  This is evidenced by recent opinion polls, which show the chancellor’s center-right CDU-CSU alliance well ahead of all of its rivals with the support of nearly 40% of German voters.  Their current grand coalition partners, the center-left Social Democrats, had surged in the polls earlier this year, but have faded to less than 25% support today.  This means that the CDU-CSU is likely to have the opportunity to lead another coalition government, but with four other parties (the far-left Left Party, the center-right Free Democrats, the right-wing Alternative for Germany and the left-wing Greens) likely to qualify for representation in the parliament, there are a number of possible coalitions that could be formed.

Chile: One other country that is holding elections this year that bear watching is Chile, where presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place in November.  Here, presidents are barred from seeking re-election immediately after their current term, so President Michelle Bachelet is unable to seek re-election for a third non-consecutive term in office.  Instead, a former center-right president, Sebastian Pinera, is the favorite to return to the presidency.  This is due both to his own popularity as well as the deep divisions that have emerged between Chile’s leading left-leaning political groups.  These divisions have divided the left into two major alliances, weakening the chances of a left-leaning candidate winning the presidency.  However, there are still four months to go before Chileans go to the polls, so much can change ahead of these elections.  As South America’s most stable country in recent decades, Chile is seen as a model for other countries in the region to emulate, so a peaceful transition of power in Chile would stand in stark contrast to the political chaos that has damaged the standing of many other South American countries in recent years.