13 in ’13: Thirteen world elections to watch in 2013

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Welcome back and a happy new year to all of Suffragio‘s readers.

With 2013 off and running, here are the 13 world elections that will undoubtedly make a difference to the course of world affairs this year — and a key number of them are coming very soon, too.

Israel parliamentary elections, January 22.

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Late in 2012, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud (הַלִּכּוּד‎, ‘The Consolidation’) teamed up with his then-foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu (ישראל ביתנו‎, ‘Israel is Our Home’), to form a merged ticket following Netanyahu’s announcement of snap parliamentary elections.  Since then, Lieberman has resigned under indictment for breach of public trust, Netanyahu’s defense minister (and former prime minister) Ehud Barak, has decided to leave elective politics, and the once-certain ‘Likud Beiteinu’ coalition is losing support in polls, set to win less than the 42 seats the two parties currently hold in the Knesset (Israel’s 120-member unicameral parliament).

The beneficiary of Netanyahu’s troubles has not been the center-left, however, but an even more conservative Jewish party, Bayit Yehudi (הבית היהודי, ‘The Jewish Home’), whose leader Naftali Bennett is a former chief of staff to Netanyahu.  The center-left opposition remains incredibly fragmented, featuring at least three major three groups — a bloc led by former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, the longtime leftist Labor Party (מפלגת העבודה הישראלית) led by Shelly Yachimovich, and a new centrist movement, Yesh Atid (יש עתיד), led by former news anchor Yair Lapid.  Although Netanyahu is very likely to return as prime minister, it remains unclear just which parties will join his governing coalition, which could range from an even more conservative coalition featuring both Bennett and Lieberman or a more centrist coalition featuring Livni.

Italy parliamentary elections, February 24-25.

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Italian politics in 2013 remains incredibly unstable, with the contours of Italy’s election unsettled with less than two months to go.  Polls show the center-left alliance, dominated by the Partito Democratico (PD, Democratic Party), will place first in the upcoming election, which means that it’s more likely than not that the PD leader, Pier Luigi Bersani, will become the next Italian prime minister.

But it’s a lot more complicated than that.  Outgoing ‘technocratic’ prime minister Mario Monti, who has ushered in budget austerity and economic reform in Italy since taking office in November 2011, has indicated that, while he won’t stand for election himself, he would be open to serving as prime minister again — and a handful of small centrist parties are running with that exact objective in mind, though Monti’s reforms have become increasingly unpopular among Italians weary of the dual impact of budget cuts and recession.

Meanwhile, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who left office in November 2011 amid a financial crisis and accusations of having improper sexual relation with underage girls, among other less salacious legal woes, has returned (after a few months of now-I’m-running-now-I’m-not worthy of Hamlet) to lead the center-right Il Popolo della Libertà (PdL, the People of Freedom).  Despite his continuing unpopularity — polls show the PdL far behind, with or without Berlusconi — with his money and his unique media empire, ‘il Cavaliere,’ as he is known in Italy, could well make enough of a comeback to wield at least a ‘kingmaker’ role after the election.

That’s very likely, because Beppe Grillo’s anti-austerity protest movement, Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S, the Five Star Movement), is currently winning more support than any other group than Bersani’s center-left alliance.  That alliance, if it manages to form a government, will be comprised of a wide mix of parliamentarians, ranging from pro-Vatican Christian Democrats to more radical — nearly communist — leftists.

Egypt parliamentary elections, expected in early spring.

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It’s been a controversial month for the Muslim Brotherhood-backed president of Egypt,  Mohammed Morsi, who implemented a controversial decree asserting extraordinary powers in late November, before pushing through a hastily called referendum on Egypt’s new constitution, which ultimately won with nearly 64% approval from voters in two rounds of voting on December 15 and 22.

Although Egypt’s liberal secularists continue to protest the way in which the constitution was passed, Egypt will now face elections within two months — the third such set of parliamentary elections since the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s government in February 2011.  If the upcoming elections are anything like the past ones, though, Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood (جماعة الاخوان المسلمين‎) will wield a nearly insurmountable lead — the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (حزب الحرية والعدال) won 235 out of the 508 seats in the elections in late 2011 and early 2012.  The more conservative, Salafist Al-Nour Party (حزب النور‎) won an additional 121 seats, and it seems likely that Islamists will widely outpace Egypt’s liberal secularists this time as well.

Despite the strength of Islamists, and especially the Muslim Brotherhood, which has now firmly taken control over the reins of government and even seems to have reached a cozy understanding with the Egyptian army, the opposition has united under the National Salvation Front (جبهة الخلاص الوطني) — led by former International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei, the coalition brings together around 20 various Egyptian parties and myriad leaders, including former Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa and the nationalist, neo-Nasserite Hamdeen Sabahi, who finished a very narrow third place in the first round of Egypt’s presidential election in May 2012.

Former members of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party are running under the ‘Coalition of the People’s Representatives’ and the Egyptian Patriotic Movement of Ahmed Shafiq, the former Air Force commander who narrowly lost the June 2012 presidential runoff against Morsi, will also contest the elections.

Kenya general election, March 4.

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Kenyans will select not only a new president to succeed Mwai Kibaki, after 11 years in office, but also the 224 members of Kenya’s National Assembly as well as a new upper house created by referendum in 2010, the Senate, which will have 60 members.

Ethnically charged violence marred the previous 2007 presidential election after Raila Odinga, who narrowly lost race, refused to accept the results.

Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) controls the (still unicameral) parliament, and he’s served as prime minister of Kenya since 2008 in a tense split government, and Odinga will lead the ODM in the election as presidential candidate.  Deputy prime minister Uhuru Kenyetta and William Ruto, minister of higher education, have joined forces under the Jubilee Alliance — both have been notoriously indicted by the International Criminal Court for the roles that they played in inciting violence during the aftermath of the 2007 election.

Kenyetta and Odinga remain the frontrunners — if Kenyetta, son of Jomo Kenyetta, the first president of Kenya from 1964 to 1978, wins in March, it could make Kenya an international pariah, but that would pale in comparison to another round of post-election violence.  Kenya, a multi-ethnic country of 43 million people, has achieved decent, if not breakneck, economic success since 2007 (4.5% GDP growth in 2011), and fresh violence could destabilize those fragile gains.

Current deputy vice president Musalia Mudavadi may run, after leaving the ODM and then after leaving the Jubilee coalition when Kenyatta refused to step down in favor of Mudavadi.  Vice president Kalonzo Musyoka may also run, if he doesn’t continue to run on the same presidential ticket as Odinga.

Paraguay general election, April 21.

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Last June, the Paraguayan chamber of deputies impeached and removed Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo after a deadly clash between police and a rural land squatter, leading to the country’s suspension from Mercosur and widespread international opprobrium.  Although the impeachment was legal, it was largely seen as a peaceful coup against Lugo, the leftist former Catholic bishop whose election victory in 2008 ended the 61-year rule of the Partido Colorado.

But his replacement, former vice president Federico Franco of the center-right Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico (the “Authentic Liberal Radical Party” or PLRA), a one-time Lugo ally, has worked hard to restore Paraguay’s image, passing laws that have accomplished much of Lugo’s platform by granting land to squatters and otherwise buying land to redistribute to Paraguay’s landless, passing Paraguay’s first income tax and initiating the country’s first international bond offering.  Franco, however, cannot run for reelection.

Instead, the PLRA’s candidate will be Efraín Alegre, a senator and former minister of public works and communications in the Lugo administration.  He has a slight lead in the polls against the Colorado candidate Horacio Cartes, a former tobacco businessman and a relative newcomer to politics, who joined the Colorados only in 2009.

Lugo himself will run for a Senate seat in the parliamentary elections.

Philippines parliamentary elections, May 13.

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The Philippines will hold a midterm parliamentary elections for 12 (one-half) of the members of its Senate (Senado ng Pilipinas) and all 229 members elected by single-district vote to its House of Representatives (Kapulungan ng mga Kinatawan ng Pilipinas).

The Philippines, once an economic and political backwater within the Asia/Pacific region, is set to have a breakthrough year in 2013.  Even as Japan’s economy remains stalled and the rapid-fire standout growth in both China and India sputters, the Filipino economy is finally pushing forward — with GDP growth of upwards of 5% and a stock market that’s made gains of over 30% in 2012 — and the country is becoming ever more strategic to the United States as the Pacific region becomes increasingly the theater in which geopolitical maneuvering will take place.

Benigno Aquino III, president since 2010, is hoping that his Liberal Party (Partido Liberal ng Pilipinas) can extend its leading position in control of the House, in opposition to a number of shifting right-wing parties.

Pakistan parliamentary elections, expected in April or May.

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In one of the most corrupt and unruly nations on the globe, it will be somewhat of a milestone for Pakistan if it can see through a set of elections that results in a peaceful transfer of power, without a military intervention of some sort.

The urban-based center-left Pakistan People’s Party (اکستان پیپلز پارٹی, or the PPP) will be fighting to retain control of the 342-member National Assembly, 272 of which will be up for election sometime this spring — the National Assembly’s current term will expire on March 18.  The rural-based conservative Pakistan Muslim League (N) (اکستان مسلم لیگ ن,  or the PML-N) leads the PPP in most polls, making it likely that Nawaz Sharif, the longtime PML-N leader, will return as Pakistan’s prime minister.  Sharif served as prime minister from 1990 to 1993 and again from 1997 to 1999, when his government was ousted in a coup led by Pervez Musharraf.

Although the PPP remains an underdog, it remains unclear who would become prime minister if the PPP wins — the current prime minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, took office only after the Supreme Court retroactively disqualified former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani over his refusal to cooperate with graft charges against Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari. Zardari’s son, the 24-year-old Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, also the son of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto (who was assassinated upon her return to Pakistan in 2007), emerged just last week in what’s seen as his first major political speech.  Despite his pedigree, it remains unclear if he is experienced enough to become prime minister just yet, though he would certainly play a large role in any PPP government.

Several other smaller parties are vying for seats, including the secular, liberal anti-corruption Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice or PTI, پاکستان تحريک), led by former cricket icon Imran Khan, who made global headlines last year with a ‘peace rally’ against U.S. drones in Waziristan.

Tunisia presidential and parliamentary elections, June 23.

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Although with just over 10.5 million people, Tunisia is not the largest country in the Arab world, it holds a special place in recent history as the first country whose regime fell during the 2011 ‘Arab spring.’

As such, perhaps the clearest test of the Tunisian revolution will come when its voters select both a new president and a new parliament, as organized by the interim government led by the Islamic Ennahda Movement (حركة النهضة‎), which itself was elected in 2011.

Polls show Ennahda, a moderate Islamist party, would likely win the elections, although a new secularist party, Nidaa Tounes, or Call for Tunisia (حركة نداء تونس‎), is closing the gap.  Nidaa Tounes brings together liberals and nationalists of all secular stripes with elements of the former administration of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted in January 2011, and it has supplanted the Congress for the Republic (لمؤتمر) as the main secular opposition.  The leftist, secular Tunisian Workers’ Party (حزب العمال‎) is also likely to win a solid number of seats.

Béji Caïd Essebsi, the leader of Nidaa Tounes, a former foreign minister in the 1980s, and the prime minister from February 2011 to December 2011 after the Tunisian revolution, is a frontrunner to win the presidential election, which would proceed to a runoff on July 7.  Ennahda’s candidate is likely to be either current prime minister Hamadi Jebali, who succeeded Essebsi after the interim 2011 elections, or longtime Ennahda leader Rashid al-Ghannushi.  Interim president Moncef Marzouki, of the Congress for the Republic, and a longtime human rights activist, may also run.

Japan House of Councillors elections, expected in July.

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Although Shinzō Abe (安倍 晋三) and the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP, or 自由民主党, Jiyū-Minshutō) have now returned to power after their overwhelming victory in the December 16 elections for the House of Representatives, the lower house of Japan’s parliament, the Diet, they will face their first electoral test from Japan’s finicky voters in at least six months from today, when Japan must hold elections to the upper house, the House of Councillors.

Given that the December elections were a statement of rejection against the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ, or 民主党, Minshutō) rather than any enthusiasm for the LDP, Abe’s government could well face a rebuke if he’s not seen to be making progress in boosting Japan’s economy, despite a promise to engage in massive public spending programs and to pressure Japan’s central bank into setting a higher inflation target.  Abe, who wants to revise Japan’s constitution to allow for a stronger defense force or even for a full-fledged army, faces increased tensions with both the People’s Republic of China and South Korea, and voters might punish the hawkish Abe for any escalation in East Asia.  Abe’s government, too, seems unenthusiastic about rolling back Japan’s nuclear power program, and nuclear power remains incredibly unpopular in Japan following the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima power plant.

With its allies, the LDP holds a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives, which means that it can override a veto by the House of Councillors, where the DPJ remains the largest party.  If Japanese voters decide to punish the LDP this summer, however, it may be less to the DPJ’s benefit than to the newly-formed Japan Restoration Party (日本維新の会, Nippon Ishin no Kai), a conservative party founded in 2012 by Osaka mayor Tōru Hashimoto (橋下徹) and former Tokyo mayor Shintaro Ishihara (石原慎太郎), which won nearly as many seats as the DPJ in the December elections.

Germany parliamentary elections, expected between September 1 and October 27.

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Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel and her center-right Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands (CDU, Christian Democratic Party) look more likely than ever to win the next federal elections to the Bundestag, the lower house of Germany’s parliament, with polls showing them widening their lead over the center-left Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD, Social Democratic Party), even though Germany is headed into recession and Merkel’s been pressed with the thankless job of balancing German and European interests in trying to resolve the ongoing eurozone financial crisis.

Merkel’s top challenger this autumn will be the SPD’s Peer Steinbrück, a largely charmless centrist who served as finance minister in the first Merkel-led government, the ‘grand coalition’ between the CDU and the SPD.  Given that Steinbrück differs little with Merkel on the substance will be hard-pressed to draw a contrast against Merkel.

Merkel’s current coalition partners have not been nearly as lucky as the CDU, however — the Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP, Free Democratic Party), which won 15% in the 2009 elections, may well receive under 5% in the upcoming election, the threshold for winning seats in the Bundestag.  That means Merkel and Steinbrück would be forced to join hands again in yet another ‘grand coalition’ government.

France center-right UMP leadership election, expected before October.

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Despite the continued unpopularity of French president François Hollande and the government of prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, the center-right Union pour un mouvement populaire (UMP, Union for a popular movement) is currently in the middle of a civil war after an acrimonious election in November 2012 to choose its general secretary — widely seen as the first step to securing the UMP’s presidential nomination in 2017.

Although former president Nicolas Sarkozy hasn’t yet ruled out a run in 2017, the fiercely-fought contest essentially resulted in a tie, with the more stridently right-wing Jean-François Copé very narrowly edging out Sarkozy’s former prime minister, François Fillon, who remains much more popular among the French electorate than Copé.

Fillon challenged the result’s validity and promptly pulled his supporters out of the UMP in the French parliament, thereby splitting the party between the UMP and Fillon’s Rassemblement-UMP.  In December, however, the two agreed to hold a new election in 2013 and to reunite the two factions — the election must be held before next October, when the Assemblée nationale reassembles.

That means that throughout much of 2013, with Sarkozy still away from frontline politics, the UMP will remain far from united and in a less-than-optimal position to take advantage of disillusionment with Hollande and the Parti socialiste (PS, Socialist Party).  Marine Le Pen, the far-right nationalist leader of the Front national (FN, National Front) is also likely to take advantage of the vacuum as well.

Australia parliamentary elections, expected November 30.

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Pity Julia Gillard.

Although she’s been Australia’s prime minister and leader of the center-left Labor Party since 2010, when she and her colleagues toppled then-prime minister Kevin Rudd, and she thereupon Labor to a narrow victory thereafter, Gillard only vanquished Rudd in February 2012 when, from his perch as Australia’s foreign minister, he mounted a comeback campaign to wrest the Labor Party leadership from Gillard.

Rudd failed in his attempt, but none of the infighting did much good for Gillard, who managed to pass a climate change bill and a mining tax with only a narrow majority in her first full term as prime minister.  The country’s slowing economy will largely factor as the main issue in the election.

Labor will be an underdog headed into the parliamentary elections, with polls showing a steady lead for the center-right Liberal/National Coalition led by Tony Abbott, who despite his party’s advantage, remains relatively unpopular.  Just as Rudd remains one of the most popular politicians in the country — far more popular than Gillard, Abbott too faces an internal threat in former Coalition leader Malcolm Turnbull, who similarly outpolls Abbott in favorability.

Venezuela presidential election (possible anytime in 2013).

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If ailing president Hugo Chávez’s health takes a turn for the worst — and it already seems unlikely that he will make it back to Venezuela from Cuba, where he’s recovering from surgery, for his inauguration on January 10, we could see yet another presidential election in Venezuela.  Despite Chávez’s nine-point win over opposition candidate Henrique Capriles in the October 2012 presidential election that ostensibly extended his rule into January 2019, if Chávez dies in office, it would mean a snap presidential election within 30 days.  That election is likely to be fought between Capriles (again) and Chávez’s newly appointed vice president and anointed successor, Nicolás Maduro, on behalf of the chavista Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV, or United Socialist Party of Venezuela).

Capriles, who was recently (albeit narrowly) reelected as the governor of Miranda, Venezuela’s second-most populous state, is the highest-ranking official from within the broad opposition coalition, though the governor of Lara state, Henri Falcón, himself a former chavista, might also emerge as a potential challenger, though with such a short presidential campaign, Capriles has more national name recognition and the ability to mobilize a rapid campaign team.

* * * *

Those 13 elections hardly exhaust the 2013 agenda, of course, and there are certain to be many additional unexpected surprises along the way in the form of snap elections and other events that transform world events in 2013, including the final transition of power, expected sometime in March, from Hu Jintao (胡锦涛), the president of the People’s Republic of China, to Xi Jinping (习近平), who’s already taken over as the new general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (中国共产党).

Here are 13 more honorable mentions that you should probably also keep an eye on:

  • Ecuador general election, February 27.  ecuador flag icon newLeftist president Raphael Correa — probably most well-known for offering asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in Ecuador’s embassy in London — is running for reelection to a third term, and he’ll likely win it outright, without advancing to a runoff scheduled in April.  The opposition is relatively dispersed, and none of Correa’s opponents — banker Guillermo Lasso, former Lucio Gutiérrez or former Correa minister Alberto Acosta — seem likely to form a united front.
  • Falkland Islands referendum, March 10-11.  falklandsThe Falkland Islands will hold a referendum on whether to continue their status as an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, despite Argentina’s continued claim of sovereignty over the islands.  UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher famously sent the British Navy to the Falklands (called the Islas Malvinas by Argentina) to defend them against an Argentine invasion.  Argentina continues to claim the islands, refusing to allow that the referendum will affect its claim.  Current UK prime minister David Cameron, however, has vowed to respect the result.  That tells you all you need to know about the outcome, which is expected to support overwhelmingly the current UK status.  The last such referendum, in 1986, found 96% support for British sovereignty.
  • Zimbabwe elections, maybe in Marchzimbabwe new iconIt’s not exactly clear if longtime Zimbabwe ruler Robert Mugabe intends to hold elections at all, but most believe they will be conducted on March 31.  Or maybe not.  Zimbabwe was expected to draft a new constitution before the 2013 elections, but that process has stalled — it seems likely that the old constitution will govern through the 2013 election at this point.  After Mugabe officially lost the first round of the 2008 presidential election to Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Tsvangirai withdrew from the presidential runoff on the grounds that it would not be free or fair, arguing that he had actually won the first round outright. Mugabe’s ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) is probably more popular today than it was in 2008, and Tsvangirai himself has been prime minister of Zimbabwe since 2008 in a unity government, so it’s unclear how a new election would turn out.
  • Canada Liberal Party leadership race, April 14.  Canada Flag IconIt’s a key year for revamping the Liberal brand in Canada.  The federal Liberal Party, which has gone from a governmental majority to just 35 seats in Canada’s House of Commons, seem likely to elect as its new leader Justin Trudeau, a MP from Montreál since 2008 and the son of the much-beloved former prime minister Pierre Trudeau from the 1970s and 1980s.  Polls show that Trudeau could reverse the Liberals’ poor standing in polls, vaunting them from third place to nearly tied with the governing Conservative Party, and eclipsing the progressive New Democratic Party.  Trudeau’s chief competitor is former astronaut (and fellow Quebéc MP) Marc Garneau.  Although Garneau is very popular, the race is clearly Trudeau’s to lose.
  • Ontario Liberal Party leadership race, January 27.  ontarioMeanwhile, in Ontario, where premier Dalton McGuinty is stepping down after a decade in office, the Liberal Party in Canada’s most populous province will choose a new leader (who will thereupon become premier) on January 27.  Gerard Kennedy, who’s been both a federal Liberal MP and minister of education in Ontario, holds a narrow edge, but will face stiff competition from provincial minister Kathleen Wynne and Sandra Pupatello.
  • Quebéc Liberal Party leadership race, March 17Quebec Flag IconpngNext door in Quebéc, where longtime premier Jean Charest lost his bid for a fourth consecutive government in October to the Parti québécois, Quebéc’s Parti liberal du Québec will choose a new leader on March 17.  Former provincial health minister and neurosurgeon Philippe Couillard is the frontrunner in that race.
  • Lebanon parliamentary election, June 9.  LebanonElections in Lebanon are incredibly complicated, with essentially guaranteed numbers of seats from each confessional (religion) within the country, and so they are very highly choreographed affairs.  Nonetheless, there remains a good chance that the more pro-Western (and originally anti-Syrian) ‘March 14′ coalition could return to power under former prime minister Saad Hariri, supplanting the Hezbollah-backed (originally more pro-Syrian) ‘March 8′ coalition.  These days, most politicians in Lebanon have moved far away from supporting either the beleaguered regime of Syrian autocrat Bashar Assad or the rebels fighting against him, lest it encourage the spread of sectarian violence in Lebanon.  The eventual outcome will likely depend on longtime Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who caused Hariri’s ‘March 14′ government to fall in 2011 when he switched his allegiance to the ‘March 8′ coalition instead, which now governs under prime minister Najib Mikati.
  • Iran presidential election, June 14.  Iran Flag IconMahmoud Ahmadinejad will step down after eight years in office as Iran’s quite visible but relatively powerless president.  He was reelected in 2009, despite a strong challenge from reformist candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, whose loss prompted the so-called ‘Green Revolution’ protests in Iran, the largest political protests since 1979 in the Shi’a country of 75 million.  Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has soured increasingly on Ahmadinejad, will likely try to install a conservative considered trustworthy to the regime, rather than a populist like Ahmadinejad or his chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei or a reformer like Mousavi or former president Mohammad Khatami, who preceded Ahmadinejad.  Polls and political discussion favor either Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign minister from 1981 to 1997, who is close to Khamenei, or parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani.
  • Georgia presidential election, October.  Georgia Flag IconAfter constitutional reforms passed in 2010, real political power will pass from the presidency to the Georgian parliament.  That means that when Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili leaves office, power will flow to Bidzina Ivanishvili, the leader of Georgian Dream — Democratic Georgia party (k’art’uli ots’neba–demokratiuli sak’art’velo, ქართული ოცნება–დემოკრატიული საქართველო), the coalition that won the country’s parliamentary elections in October 2012. It’s less important who wins this year’s presidential election than that Saakashvili and Ivanishvili work together in a way that provides both free and fair elections and a seamless transition of power.
  • bavarian_flag_iconBavarian state elections, expected in September.  Bavaria, with 12.5 million people, is Germany’s second-largest state, and with its own distinct culture, somewhat like the ‘Texas’ of Germany.  Merkel’s governing CDU partners for national elections with the Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern (CSU, Christian Social Union) in Bavaria.  Elections must be held ever five years for the Landtag, Bavaria’s unicameral legislature, and the last election took place in September 2008.  The CSU, currently under minister-president Horst Seehofer, has held power in Bavaria since 1957, and will likely continue to do so after the next election, though it may come with some embarrassment to Merkel — CSU president Alexander Dobrindt and Bavarian finance minister Markus Söder have been some of the loudest critics of continuing European (and German) financial bailouts of Greece and other countries in the eurozone’s periphery.
  • Argentina parliamentary elections, expected in October.  argentinaAlthough Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was only reelected in 2011, the upcoming parliamentary elections will be vitally important in her bid to achieve the two-thirds vote in favor of amending Argentina’s constitution to allow her to run for reelection in 2015 (currently, the president is limited to two consecutive terms).  Kirchner even pushed through a law lowering the voting age to 16 (as in neighboring Brazil), widely seen as a boost to Kirchner and her peronista allies.  Her Frente para la Victoria (FPV, Front for Victory) and its allies currently control just 115 seats in the lower house of Argentina’s bicameral parliament, though the opposition remains largely divided.
  • Chile president election, November 17.  chileAlthough presidents in Chile cannot run for reelection, they can serve more than one non-consecutive term.  That means that while incumbent Sebastián Piñera, the first center-right president in two decades, cannot run for reelection, former president Michelle Bachelet, who left office in 2010 with astronomically high approval ratings, can.  She has not yet decided whether to run for another term, but would instantly become the frontrunner to lead the Concertación, a coalition of center-left parties that has traditionally supported one candidate for president since the return of democracy in 1990.  The center-right’s candidate will be the popular former mining minister Laurence Golborne, who’s since also served an energy minister and public works minister — Golborne’s popularity springs from his successful efforts to rescue all 33 miners trapped at the Copiapó mine in 2010.
  • Honduras general election, November. honduras flag icon Finally, in Central America, Honduras will face presidential and parliamentary elections, where the reverberations from the 2009 constitutional crisis and coup that ousted leftist president Manuel Zelaya in 2009, with Porfirio Lobo of Honduras’s conservative Partido Nacional de Honduras (National Party) winning the 2009 presidential election that soon followed.  In 2013, the National Party’s Juan Hernández will face not only the candidate of the other major traditional Honduran party, the center-right Partido Liberal de Honduras (Liberal Party), Mauricio Villeda, but also Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, the wife of the former president, who is running as part of a wider, leftist Zelayista movement.

Image credit to scanrail / 123RF Stock Photo.

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