26 June 2018

Three Elections to Watch in July

July is normally a quiet month when it comes to elections as it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere and few major elections take place during the height of summer.  However, this year, there are six national elections taking place in the month of July, and while the upcoming elections in Cambodia, Mali and Togo are each interesting in their own right, it is the national elections next month in Mexico, Pakistan and Zimbabwe that are attracting the most attention.  Each of these three countries have suffered from a great deal of unrest, turbulence and economic troubles in recent years, and all of these countries are undergoing political shifts that are leading to major changes in the balance of political power within each country.  Here is a closer look at each of these three countries’ upcoming national elections.

Mexico: The upcoming presidential and congressional elections in Mexico appear likely to result in major political and economic changes in that country.  In recent years, Mexico has suffered from extremely high rates of crime and corruption, while that country’s economic performance can best be described as disappointing.  Meanwhile, since the Trump Administration took power in the United States, Mexico has been faced with an increasingly hostile government in its giant northern neighbor (and its dominant trade partner).  Now, voters in Mexico appear likely to elect the left-wing populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as the next president of their country.  According to recent polls, AMLO, as Mr. Lopez Obrador is widely known, is expected to win nearly 50% of the vote, while his nearest challenger, the center-right candidate Ricardo Anaya, is polling around 27%.  While AMLO’s policies remain rather vague, due in part to the large and disparate coalition behind him, it has been his staunch opposition to US President Donald Trump that has allowed him to remain atop the polls in Mexico in recent months.  As such, should he win July’s presidential election, US-Mexican relations could become even worse in the months ahead.  Meanwhile, a Lopez Obrador victory would be a rare piece of good news for the political left in Latin America, which has suffered a series of setbacks in recent years.

Pakistan: Later next month, National Assembly elections will take place in Pakistan, one of the world’s most volatile countries.  Last year, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was forced to resign after that country’s Supreme Court disqualified him from holding that position.  Since then, the former prime minister has been involved in a war of words with Pakistan’s armed forces, whom he accuses of being behind his ouster.  Despite this controversy, Mr. Sharif’s PML-N party has made major gains in the polls and appears to be headed for a clear victory in next month’s parliamentary elections.  In fact, the only party left in a position to challenge the PML-N is former cricket star Imran Khan’s PTI, a party that supports the creation of a welfare state in Pakistan, and one that has also seen its level of support rise ahead of the country’s upcoming elections.  Regardless of the outcome, Pakistan’s next government is likely to have strained relations with that country’s powerful armed forces.  Furthermore, it will have to deal with the continuation of violence and unrest in many areas of that country, while trying to improve the economic situation for the country’s 213 million inhabitants.

Zimbabwe: Late next month, voters in Zimbabwe will go to the polls to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections, the first such elections since long-time President Robert Mugabe was forced out of office late last year.  In fact, these will be the first elections to take place in Zimbabwe since the country gained its independence in 1980 in which Mr. Mugabe will not be taking part.  In addition, these elections will also not include long-time opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who died earlier this year.  Instead, the long-dominant Zanu-PF party will be led by new President Emmerson Mnangagwa, while the opposition MDC party will be led its young new leader, Nelson Chamisa.  According to recent polls, President Mnangagwa is the favorite to win the presidential election, as he holds an 11% lead over Mr. Chamisa in terms of support among likely voters.  What will be watched closely will be whether or not these elections are both free and peaceful, as elections during the Mugabe era where often accompanied by widespread violence and electoral fraud.  If these elections can pass peacefully, it may be a sign that the situation in Zimbabwe is improving after decades of unrest and economic decline.

While each of these three emerging markets are located in different areas of the world and are at different stages of economic development, they also have much in common.  Mexico, Pakistan and Zimbabwe all have suffered from very high levels of crime and corruption in recent years, leading to voters looking for alternatives to their countries’ long-time power brokers.  Likewise, each of these countries suffers from major internal divisions that have contributed to the higher levels of instability that each has faced throughout their histories.  Each country also has an economy that has disappointed in recent years, resulting in a failure to lift the living standards of large shares of voters in each country.  At the same time, each of these three countries have a much larger neighbor (the United States, India and South Africa respectively) with which they have had very difficult relations.  Should each of these three countries hold free, fair and peaceful elections, this could go a long way towards improving their near-term political and economic outlooks and could promote a higher degree of stability in each country.  However, should these elections unleash more unrest in these countries, they will face yet more instability and economic disappointment.  As such, July will be one of this year’s most important months for elections and this could have a major impact on the stability of many areas of the world.