2024 - the year of thriving democracy
Amelie Bamford, Client Executive
Political experts have predicted that 2024 is set to become the most significant election year in history – with 64 nations, and almost 4 billion people, due to go to the polls. The world will see some of the most powerful and wealthiest states, including the United Kingdom, the United States and India, in addition to some despotic nations cast their vote. However, there are some less obvious elections to watch this new year but whose results could leave dramatic changes to regional security. Big changes could be happening.
India, the world’s most populous democracy, could be facing an electoral turning point in their general election scheduled for May 2024, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi facing a surge of opposition from other political parties and voters. In an effort to stop the incumbent Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from winning the national elections for the third time in a row, more than two dozen opposition groups in India have united to run against Prime Minister Modi next year.
Consequently, the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), a coalition of 28 parties, declared in September that it will negotiate seat-sharing agreement in various states to prevent votes from being split in favour of Modi. The Alliance formed with the objective to challenge Modi’s party on its economic record, rising unemployment and on a number of internal issues, such as growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the country.
Modi’s party, the BJP, a Hindu nationalist party, has typically dominated in the predominantly Hindu regions of north and central India – however, support has recently faltered due to Modi’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as attacks by Hindu nationalists against minorities and a diminished space for dissent.
In Spring this year, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s five-year term as President draws to a close, sparking heated debates across the country over whether Ukraine must undertake its originally scheduled presidential election in March 2024. The possibility for an election has infuriated many Ukrainians, who worry that a vote may divert attention from the country’s fight for survival in its continuing conflict with Russia. Initially, tensions had eased after President Zelensky announced that it was “not the right time” to hold an election back in November. However, it appears that the uncertainty is far from resolved – sparking a political dispute unseen in the nation since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion.
Many experts and notable Ukrainian politicians have emphasised the difficulty and safety concerns of holding a free and fair election when the wellbeing and safety of its people cannot be guaranteed.
Surprisingly, many political experts have argued that US party politics has been a significant driving force in the Ukrainian election discussion – supposedly being pushed by a small faction within the Republican party in order to justify their demand to block military aid to Ukraine. As former President Donald Trump’s isolationist views gain greater influence in the Republican party, the issue of support for Ukraine becomes entangled in US domestic politics and party divisions.
Until recently, President Zelensky has not categorically rejected the prospect of an election, affirming that he “would like [to hold elections] within a year or whenever it’s required.” It appears that the majority of the nation’s political parties and groups accept that while the war continues to wage on with neighbouring Russia, they cannot afford to return to peace-time internal political disputes. However, maintaining this agreement will become more difficult as the war prevails – making developments on the subject worth keeping an eye on.
In October 2023, sitting Venezuelan government officials signed an historic agreement with the leader of the opposition delegation, Gerardo Blyder, to create the groundwork for 2024’s presidential election. This will allow all candidates access to public and private media, to guarantee their free and safe movement throughout the country, and for international observers to monitor the election likely scheduled for June.
Albeit the eligibility of candidates to stand for presidency has already been met with disagreement – with the leader of the government delegation, Jorge Rodríguez, asserting that candidates who were prohibited from running by President Maduro would not be welcomed to run in next year’s elections; meanwhile Blyde, invited opposition candidates who have been barred from holding office to “recover their rights”.
The Unitary Platform, the Venezuelan opposition, has united around candidate María Corina Machado – a self-described libertarian who cites former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as one of her political idols – ahead of the anticipated election. However, because of her support for Guaidó – a key figure in the controversy of the 2018 presidential election crisis – Machado was barred from holding office by Venezuelan authorities last summer for a period of fifteen years. Nevertheless, Maduro must permit Machado to run if he hopes to receive long-term sanctions relief from the US, as set out in an agreement signed between the two nations in Mexico City in October.
Machado has a likely chance of unseating Maduro in a fair and impartial election after she received almost 90% of the vote in the opposition primary. However, most recently, Maduro has called a referendum which overwhelmingly backed a move to make the Essequibo area a new Venezuelan state, rejecting the jurisdiction of the international court of justice (ICJ). The move—approved by 95% of voters but with disputed turnout—was widely perceived as an attempt to curry nationalist fervour ahead of the expected elections. After a notably difficult period in Venezuelan politics, this election could result in a significant result for Venezuela, ending over ten years of Maduro’s leadership.
Another seismic prospect for a political earthquake may occur in South Africa’s general election, scheduled for May 2024. Under pressure from rivals like the predominantly white Democratic Alliance (DA), the African National Congress (ANC) may lose its majority for the first time since Nelson Mandela and the end of apartheid 30 years ago, in 1994. The predicted likelihood will see a minority ANC victory, in a possible coalition with the left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
However, polls suggest that voters are turning their backs on the ANC for years of egregious corruption, leadership scandals, high rates of unemployment and crime, and its inability to provide a sustainable daily power outage. In addition to the mounting distrust, South Africa’s declining electoral turnout could very well seal the fate for the ANC, with political experts encouraging youths to break the circle of voter apathy. According to polls published by the Social Research Foundation in October, the ANC is now supported by just 45% of voters – experiencing a 7% slump of support when the polls were last conducted in March.
Political analysts are expecting next year’s election to result in a coalition – specifically an ANC-EFF partnership; nevertheless, re-elected leader of the DA, John Steenhuisen, has his eyes well and truly set on the leadership, promising to reshape the nation’s political landscape and lead the way in aiding the country’s struggling industries which have felt the economic aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Steenhuisen’s New Year’s address, he maintained his drive for the South African leadership, stating “for the very first time since 1994, the DA could have a new national government and the chance to rescue our country from the ANC... May 2024 be the year we unite as a country in the common interest of all of us and work together to bring in a new government of hope and prosperity.”
Yet, with race heavily remaining an important matter in South African politics – especially when more than 30% of the nation’s population living in poverty, while most of the wealth is controlled by the white minority – the ANC may well receive their kiss of life in the polls.