14 in 2014: Fourteen *more* elections to watch in 2014

2014

As if that weren’t enough!

If you’ve managed to stick with Suffragio through 14 world elections to watch in 2014, here are 14 more honorable mentions that you should probably also keep an eye on:

Thailand general election, February 2.thailand

Popular Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra called snap elections for February after the latest round of protests over a proposed (and ultimately tabled) amnesty bill.  The fights threaten to reopen a decade of polarization and political violence between the ‘red shirts’ that support Yingluck and her self-exiled brother Thaksin Shinawatra and the ‘yellow shirts’ who oppose them.  Popular support in Thailand’s north among rural voters meant that Yingluck and the Pheu Thai Party (PTP, ‘For Thais’ Party, พรรคเพื่อไทย) were headed for near-certain victory.  The decision by the opposition Phak Prachathipat (Democrat Party, พรรคประชาธิปัตย์) to boycott the election is a barely disguised plea for military intervention for an unelected ‘governing council’ instead.

El Salvador presidential election, February 2 (with March 9 runoff).el salvador

El Salvador, with 6.3 million residents, may be small, but it’s the third-most populous country in Central America.  As in neighboring Honduras, which went to the polls in November 2013, a preponderance of drug violence and a corresponding collapse in public safety is at the heart of the Salvadoran presidential campaign.  None of the three major candidates is expected to win an outright majority on February 2, but the learning candidate is vice president Salvador Sánchez Cerén of the governing Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN, Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front), a one-time guerrilla movement-that transformed itself into the country’s top center-left political party following the 1980s civil war.  Sánchez Cerén is hoping to succeed former journalist Mauricio Funes, who has served as president since 2009 and is limited to a single five-year term.

Though Sánchez Cerén leads polls with between 29% and 31%, two candidates are competing fiercely for second place with between 25% and 28% each — longtime San Salvador mayor Norman Quijano of the center-right Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA, Nationalist Republican Alliance), which governed El Salvador between 1989 and 2009, and former president Antonio ‘Tony’ Saca, who left ARENA to run for a second, non-consecutive term for an alliance anchored by Saca’s new populist, right-wing party, the Gran Alianza por la Unidad Nacional (GANA, Grand Alliance for National Unity).  The bottom line is that Sánchez Cerén will face a tough fight against the ultimate center-right candidate that emerges in the second round.

Costa Rica general election, February 2 (with April 16 presidential runoff).costa_rica_flag

Costa Rica is perhaps the most developed country in Central America. It is likely to open accession talks to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2015, making it the first Central American member of the OECD.  Its GDP per capita is nearly $10,000, which makes it virtually equivalent to Panamá’s, and Costa Rica doesn’t have the massive canal revenues that Panamá enjoys.  That is one of the reasons why the center-left Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN, National Liberation Party) seemed so likely to coast to a third consecutive term to the Costa Rican presidency, despite the massive unpopularity and corruption allegations against outgoing president Laura Chinchilla.  The longtime mayor of San José, Costa Rica’s capital, Johnny Araya, held a wide lead in polls throughout much of 2013.  But that’s changed as Araya’s missteps on the campaign trail have led to the impression that he’s aloof and out of touch.  José María Villalta, the sole lawmaker for the social democratic Frente Amplio (Broad Front) is now virtually tied with Araya in polls.

Rodolfo Hernández, the presidential nominee of Costa Rica’s traditional center-right Partido de Unidad Socialcristiana (PUSC, Social Christian Unity Party), dropped out in October after blasting his own party as corrupt — the PUSC suffered huge losses in 2006 after revelations of corruption in prior administrations and it has yet to recover.  Hernández’s withdrawal from the race means that the party will struggle further in the years ahead.  Otto Guevara, a four-time presidential candidate for the free-market liberal Partido Movimiento Libertario (PML, Libertarian Movement Party) is in third place, but polls show he’ll struggle to retain the 20% support that he won in 2010.  If no candidate wins 40% of the vote, the top two candidates will face off in an April runoff.  Costa Ricans will also elect all 57 members of the unicameral Asamblea Legislativa (Legislative Assembly).  

Paris mayoral election, March 23 (first round) and March 30 (second round).parisFrance Flag Icon

Bertrand Delanoë, Paris’s popular mayor since 2001 — and one of the first openly gay politicians in France or anywhere — is stepping down.  His likely successor is Anne Hidalgo, the Andalusia-born first deputy mayor of Paris (also since 2001), who is running as the candidate of the Parti socialiste (PS, Socialist Party).  Her opponent is Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (known by her initials, NKM), a rising star of the French right and the candidate of the center-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP, Union for a Popular Movement).  Kosciusko-Morizet, at age 40, served as the campaign spokesperson for the reelection campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 and as minister of ecology, sustainable development, transport and housing between 2010 and 2012.  Though NKM lags behind Hidalgo in polls, the gap’s not insurmountable given her national profile.  If Boris Johnson can become mayor of London, who knows what the future holds for Kosciusko-Morizet?  If she becomes Paris’s next mayor, she’s instantly become France’s top center-right officeholder.

Algeria presidential election, April.Algeria_Flag_Icon

Abdelaziz Bouteflika is the only president that Algeria has known since a brutal civil war in the 1990s between the government and more radical Islamist forces.  Despite the fact that Algeria neighbors Tunisia, where the Arab Spring revolts began, and Algeria itself was the site of significant protests in early 2011, most Algerians were content to stick with Bouteflika’s authoritarianism at the risk of another civil war — especially when Bouteflika seemed so likely to step down in 2014.  When he suffered a minor stroke last summer and spent weeks recovering in Paris, it seemed even more likely that at 76 years old, Algeria’s longest serving president would retire.  But he’s now considering running for a fourth term instead, perhaps to put the ruling Front de Libération Nationale (FLN, National Liberation Front, جبهة التحرير الوطني) on a steadier footing vis-à-vis the military when Bouteflika finally does leave office.

If Bouteflika bows out before April, former FLN secretary general Ali Benflis or Abdelmalek Sellal, prime minister since 2012, could represent Algeria’s ruling party instead.  Former three-time prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia, who until recently led the Rassemblement National Démocratique (RND, National Rally for Democracy, التجمع الوطني الديمقراطي‎), is close to the Algerian military and could also prove a strong candidate.  Algeria’s Islamists are likely to unite behind a single opposition presidential candidate, and former prime minister Ahmed Benbitour is already running on a mantle of rejuvenating a country that he says is decaying.  The winner will face same problems that many of Algeria’s 38 million people have faced for years — lack of housing, unemployment, economic malaise, and a dearth of political and civil freedoms.  Regardless of whether Bouteflika runs or wins, Algeria seems firmly headed toward the post-Bouteflika era. 

Swiss guaranteed income referendum, on either May 18, September 28 or November 30.swiss

In 2013, Swiss voters considered a couple of measures designed to address income inequality, despite the fact that Switzerland (like much of northern Europe) is among the world’s most economically equal countries.  Nonetheless, Swiss voters overwhelmingly approved in March 2013 a policy that would institute controls of executive compensation within Swiss public companies and give additional safeguards to public investors in Swiss companies.  But Swiss voters in November 2013 rejected a proposal that would have instituted a maximum salary set at 12 times the minimum salary of public companies.

At some point in 2014, Swiss voters will consider yet another measure that would require the Swiss government to provide a guaranteed income of 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,800) to each Swiss citizen.  Though similar policies have been considered before (and US president Richard Nixon in the 1970s considered a ‘negative income tax’ variant of the policy), Switzerland would be the first government to enact such a policy.  That means that economists and policymakers across the world will be watching to see if the Swiss support the ballot measure — and if so, how Switzerland implements the policy.

Portugal snap parliamentary election, perhaps in summer.portugal flag

Portuguese voters almost went to the polls in July 2013, when finance minister Vítor Gaspar resigned and caused a crisis within the governing coalition of center-right prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho.  Foreign minister Paulo Portas, the leader of the socially conservative Centro Democrático e Social – Partido Popular (CDS-PP, Democratic and Social Center — People’s Party) threatened to pull his party’s support from the government, leaving Passos Coelho without a working majority in the Portuguese parliament.

Portugal’s president, Aníbal Cavaco Silva, himself a former center-right prime minister, forced Portugal’s major political parties into negotiations.  Ultimately, Passos Coelho and Portas reached a deal to continue the coalition government through the end of the €78 billion bailout package in June 2014.

But Portugal will almost certainly require a second bailout package, which will prove controversial.  The first bailout package, adopted by former prime minister José Sócrates, precipitated the most recent June 2011 elections, when Passos Coehlo’s Partido Social Democrata (PSD, Social Democratic Party) swept into power.  An unpopular austerity program has only exacerbated the government’s unpopularity.  In Portugal, GDP contracted by 3.2% in 2012 and is expected to contract another 2% in 2013.  Though unemployment dropped from its 17.6% peak in early 2013 to about 15.7% today, the labor market remains incredibly distressed.

Polls show that the center-left Partido Socialista (PS, Socialist Party) is leading the Social Democratic Party by double-digits, and two far left parties/coalitions would also stand to gain seats in snap elections, all of which may lead to the election of the new Socialist leader António José Seguro as Portugal’s third prime minister in four years.

Sweden parliamentary elections, September 14. 

Sweden After eight years of center-right government, Swedish voters seem ready to turn power back to the historically dominant center-left later in 2014.  Since becoming the leader of the Sveriges socialdemokratiska arbetareparti (SAP, Swedish Social Democratic Party) in early 2012, Stefan Löfven has transformed a dead heat into a double-digit polling lead for the ‘Red-Green’ coalition that includes the SAP and the Miljöpartiet de Gröna (Green Party).  If that holds up in September, the Moderata samlingspartiet (Moderate Party) of prime minister Frederik Reinfeldt will return to the opposition.  But Löfven, previously a trade union leader, would pursue a relatively moderate agenda — he’s called for tightening immigration laws and is nearly as fiscally conservative as Reinfeldt.  Löfven’s approach is a testament to how Reinfeldt, the first modern center-right prime minister to win reelection, has pulled Swedish politics to the right.  Though Reinfeldt remains a popular figure, GDP growth is lower (and unemployment higher) than when he won reelection back in 2010, basking in the Swedish economy’s post-crisis bounce.

Bosnia and Herzegovina general election, expected in October.Bosnia-Herzegovina

For the first time since the 2013 attempt to conduct the country’s first postwar census, Bosnia and Herzegovina will go to the polls at the end of 2014 in a series of elections that make Lebanon’s politics look simple.  Following the 1995 Dayton accords, the country elects three presidents, one each from the Bosniak, Croat and Serb communities, who each serve a four-year term, with the presidency’s chair rotating every eight months.  That means that the country will face three separate presidential elections, each of which will be contested by varying political parties.  Legislative elections are no less complicated in the country’s two regions — the semi-autonomous Republicka Srpska will elect members to its own presidency and national assembly, and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina has its own parliament, with a House of Representatives and a House of Peoples.  The country’s national parliament also has two houses — also a House of Representatives and a House of Peoples.

The result is an incredibly fragmented, nearly unworkable government.  In the national House of Representatives, 14 seats are allocated to the Republicka Srpska and 28 are allocated to the Federation — no party holds more than eight of the total 42 seats.  The largest Croat party is currently the Socijaldemokratska Partija Bosne i Hercegovine (SDP, Social Democratic Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina), the largest Serb party is currently the Savez nezavisnih socijaldemokrata (SNSD, Alliance of Independent Social Democrats) and the largest Bosniak party is currently the Stranka Demokratske Akcije (SDA, Party of Democratic Action).

Toronto mayoral election, October 27.torontoCanada Flag Icon

Though Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s crack-smoking saga dominated 2013 headlines about Canada, it’s incredibly unlikely that Ford can win reelection in 2014.  That’s not to say that Ford won’t command a significant amount of support if he does run for a second term of Canada’s most populous city, due to his longstanding support among conservative ‘Ford Nation’ supporters within the suburbs that comprise much of the amalgamated greater Toronto municipal area.  Olivia Chow, should she decide to run, is most likely to become Toronto’s next mayor.  A city councillor between 1991 and 2005, and currently a member of Canada’s House of Commons for the progressive New Democratic Party (NDP), Chow is the widow of the late beloved former NDP leader Jack Layton, who led his party to its best showing in history.  If Chow doesn’t run, several candidates could emerge — John Tory, the former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario and Karen Stintz, a city councillor and the chair of the Toronto Transit Commission since 2010, could mount credible center-right challenges in the ostensibly nonpartisan municipal election.

Namibia general election, expected in November.  namibia

Namibian president Hifikepunye Pohamba will step down after two terms in office that began in 2005, and his successor is almost certain to be prime minister Hage Geingob, the candidate of Namibia’s dominant South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO).  Geingob previously served as prime minister from 1990 to 2002, and his election as SWAPO vice-president in 2012 represented somewhat of a comeback for the 72-year old, who was SWAPO’s representative to the United Nations in the 1960s.  Namibians will also choose all 78 members of the National Assembly — SWAPO currently holds 54 and will almost certainly retain its majority.  But though Namibia is a chiefly one-party country, democracy and political and civil liberties have thrived.  Once a German colony, then administered by South Africa throughout the Cold War, SWAPO fought for decades with Soviet assistance for Namibian independence.  When it won its freedom in 1988, the first elections followed in 1989, and have occurred regularly since — and Namibia has one of sub-Saharan Africa’s most stable and dynamic economies, where mining, tourism, agriculture and manufacturing (but not oil wealth, unlike its northern neighbor Angola) have all fueled steady growth.

Catalunya independence referendum, November 9.cataloniaSpain_Flag_Icon

When Catalunya’s regional president Artur Mas announced that he would hold a vote on Catalan independence last month, it seemed more like a political stunt aimed at poking the Spanish central government in Madrid.  Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has refused to permit a referendum, and he claims that Cataluyna’s attempts to hold one violate the Spanish constitution.  Mas wrapped himself in the mantle of separatism in 2012 in an attempt to win more seats for his governing Convergència i Unió (CiU, Convergence and Union) in the regional parliament.  That ploy ultimately backfired — voters turned instead to the more leftist, pro-independence Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC, Republican Left of Catalunya).  In 2013, Catalans came out in huge numbers on September 11, Cataluyna’s national day, to protest in favor of their right to self-determination, and 500,000 Catalans formed a human chain across the economically powerful and culturally distinct region.  

But the wording of the November 9 vote hedges its bets by polling whether Catalunya ‘should be a state’ before asking separately whether it should be an independent state.  The ERC is more enthusiastic about independence than Mas’ own CiU, which contains a segment that instead prefers greater autonomy.  There’s more than a whiff of suspicion that Mas is using the vote as a bargaining chip to wring concessions from Rajoy — don’t be surprised if the vote never happens.  

Lebanon parliamentary elections, expected in November.Lebanon

Lebanon was supposed to hold elections in 2013, but the Syrian civil war has left the small Mediterranean country in a state of suspended political animation.  Lebanon’s political elite now have one essential goal — to keep Lebanon from falling prey to the sectarian violence that’s engulfed Syria.  Though Lebanese elections are essentially choreographed to provide a set number of seats for each of Lebanon’s religious confessions, it’s nonetheless an open question whether Lebanon will even hold elections in 2014.

Since the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafic Hariri, Lebanese politics has revolved around the two competing coalitions, the relatively anti-Syria ‘March 14′ coalition (comprised of Sunni Lebanese, Maronite Christians)  and the relatively anti-Syria ‘March 8′ coalition (comprised of Shiite Lebanese, Greek Orthodox, other Sunnis and a minority of militant Maronites).  In 2005, the coalitions diverged over whether they approved the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon after nearly three decades.  But today, the coalitions align to the belligerents of the Syrian civil war, with ‘March 8′ largely supporting Alawaite (Ba’athist) Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and ‘March 14′ largely supporting the anti-Assad Sunni rebels.  Hezbollah (حزب الله), the Shiite militia and political and social group, which has ties to the Islamic Republic of Iran, has been openly supporting Assad over much of 2013, to the dismay of Lebanon’s other political leaders.

After the previous June 2009 elections, Saad Hariri (Rafic’s son) formed a March 14-led government.  But when Lebanon’s Druze political community, led by Walid Jumblatt, switched allegiances, and Najib Mikati became prime minister of a March 8-led government in June 2011.  Though Mikati resigned in March 2013, prime minister-designate Tammam Salam, with links to both coalitions, has been unable to build a new government and enact an election law that could clear the way for a new vote.

New Zealand parliamentary elections, expected in November or before.new zealand icon

John Key, leader of the center-right New Zealand National Party, defeated popular prime minister Karen Clark in the November 2008 election and widened his party’s caucus in the 120-member New Zealand House of Representatives in November 2011.  As prime minister, Key has raised the goods and services tax, privatized some public sector assets, responded to a major earthquake in Christchurch (New Zealand’s second-most populous city) and paved the way, through the Wellington Agreement, for greater defense cooperation with the United States.  Key is also a chief booster of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

When he calls elections (and it could be well before November), he’ll be looking for his third consecutive term.  He seems likely to win it, with opinion polls showing that the National Party leads the center-left New Zealand Labour Party by double digits, if not exactly the massive 47%-to-27.5% margin that his party won in 2011 against Labour.  After that election, Labour elected United Nations administrator David Shearer as its leader, but jettisoned him earlier in 2013.  While David Cunliffe, the former health and communications minister ultimately defeated the openly gay Grant Robertson to become Labour’s newest leader, Robertson won far more support among the actual Labour caucus.  Cunliffe has his work cut out for him if he’s to deliver a divided Labour out of the wilderness.

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