2 October 2018

Four Elections to Watch in October

With a few exceptions, the past two months have been relatively quiet in terms of major elections.  However, that is about to change as, over the next six weeks, there will be a series interesting elections that will culminate in the eagerly-anticipated mid-term elections in the United States.  Until then, there will be a series of national elections taking place this month, a majority of which will take place in emerging markets that are currently experiencing a great deal of political or economic instability.  In fact, these upcoming elections will go a long way towards determining whether or not the countries holding these elections will be able to stabilize their political, security or economic situations, or whether even higher levels of instability can be expected.  Of course, given the political climate in the world today, populism is certain to play a major role in most, if not all, of these major elections later this month.

Here are the four elections coming up this month that the world should be watching closely:

  • Brazil - Presidential and Congressional Elections: While there have been many hard-to-believe election campaigns and results in recent years, Brazil’s upcoming presidential election might be the most far-fetched.  First, the front-runner in this election, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was disqualified from taking part in the election as he was given a 12-year prison sentence for corruption just a few months before the election.  Then, the ultra-conservative candidate Jair Bolsonaro, a fan of Brazil’s former military dictatorship, was stabbed at a campaign rally, resulting in his support levels soaring as he campaigned from his hospital bed.  All eyes will be on Mr. Bolsonaro as he appears certain to reach the run-off election for the presidency, where he is likely to face former President Da Silva’s chosen replacement, former Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad, in what is likely to be a very close battle later this month.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina – Presidential and Parliamentary Elections: As ever, Bosnian politics remains deeply divided, with each of the country’s three main ethnic groups contesting what are mostly distinct election campaigns.  While nationalism remains a potent topic in Bosnia, particularly in Serb areas of the country, this year’s election campaign has focused much more on economic and social issues than any previous election in Bosnia.  Likewise, many parties and candidates have focused on the issue of corruption, an issue that remains a major stumbling block for Bosnia’s efforts to move closer to membership in the European Union.
  • Cameroon – Presidential Election: President Paul Biya has ruled Cameroon since 1982, making him the world’s longest-serving non-royal leader.  Furthermore, at the age of 85, President Biya is also the world’s oldest political leader, and his advanced age is leading to speculation as to how much longer he will be able to remain in office.  Given the divided nature of Cameroon’s political opposition, there is little doubt that President Biya will win re-election this month.  However, the issue to watch is the growing unrest within English-speaking areas of Cameroon, a region where there has been widespread unrest in recent years and one which could see calls for independence from Cameroon rising in the coming months and years, especially if President Biya uses more repression in a bid to remain in power.
  • Afghanistan – Parliamentary Elections: Finally, the last major elections to take place this month will be Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections that will be held after a series of delays lasting more than three years.  As always, elections in Afghanistan are accompanied by widespread violence and unrest, and there have already been a number of election-related deaths in recent weeks.  Furthermore, these elections will take place at a time when Taliban militants have scored a number of successes on the battlefield against Afghanistan’s armed forces. Should the level of violence rise to higher levels, or should the election process be disrupted, it could result in Afghanistan’s next presidential election, which is currently scheduled for July 2019, being delayed, a development that would be disastrous for democracy in that country.

Given the size of the country and the nature of the campaign thus far, Brazil’s presidential election will dominate the headlines this month.  Meanwhile, the national elections in Bosnia, Cameroon and Afghanistan will go a long way towards determining the level of stability that each of those highly-divided countries will be able to attain the coming months and years.  Also this month, there will be smaller national elections taking place in seven countries, including:

  • Latvia (parliamentary elections)
  • Gabon (parliamentary elections)
  • Sao Tome and Principe (parliamentary elections)
  • Luxembourg (parliamentary elections)
  • Bhutan (National Assembly elections)
  • Ireland (presidential elections)
  • Georgia (presidential elections)

When this busy election month finally comes to an end, attention will shift to the United States, where the Democrats expect to win control of the House of Representatives, and have a shot at taking control of the Senate, in next month’s mid-term elections in the US. What is certain is that, over the next six weeks, there will be a series of riveting elections that will go a long way towards determining the directions of a number of countries.  For a political system that is under pressure, democracy will surely be tested during these next few weeks.