Spring 2014 voting blitz: five days, six elections

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We’re beginning to hit the peak of what’s perhaps the busiest world election season of the past few years.

What began as a slow year with boycotted votes in Bangladesh and Thailand in the first two months of 2014 snowballed into a busier March, with important parliamentary elections in Colombia, the final presidential vote in El Salvador, parliamentary elections in Serbia, a key presidential election in Slovakia, and municipal elections that upended national politics in France, The Netherlands and Turkey.

But the pace only gets more frenetic from here.

Between today and Wednesday, five countries (and one very important province) on three continents will go to to the polls:

April 5: Afghanistan presidential election, first roundafghanistan flag

Afghanistan will select its first post-Taliban leader who isn’t Hamiz Karzai (pictured above voting) in elections that are taking place all day today. From among ten candidates, and three frontrunners, no one candidate is likely to win an absolute majority, so Afghan voters will likely choose between the top two winners in a runoff later this spring. The next president will face the task of unifying Afghanistan without a US-led security presence, and in the face of the Taliban’s growing counterinsurgency.

Read Suffragio‘s background explainer here.

Why it’s important: Arguably no other world election this year will have a greater impact on the United States and its strategy upon withdrawing troops from Afghanistan after 13 years of military occupation.

April 6: Costa Rica presidential election, runoffcosta_rica_flag

There’s not much suspense to Costa Rica’s presidential runoff, given that one of the two presidential candidates, Johnny Araya, suspended his campaign last month. Araya, the mayor of San José and the candidate of the governing Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN, National Liberation Party) narrowly lost the first round on February 2. But the former diplomat and academic Luis Guillermo Solís won a surprising first-place finish, and polls showed quickly that Costa Ricans would coalesce around the social democratic, anti-corruption Solís. The most important question is whether voters will even turn out to vote in the runoff, which must still go on under Costa Rican electoral law.

Read more Suffragio coverage here.

Why it’s important: Costa Rica is the most stable country in Central America. Solís has an opportunity to reduce concerns about corruption at a time when Costa Rica is set to become only the third Latin American country, after México and Chile, to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

April 6: Hungary parliamentary electionsHungary Flag Icon

Viktor Orbán, the conservative prime minister of Hungary, is looking to win his third term in office on Sunday when Hungarians go to the polls. No one doubts that he will, though his party, Fidesz – Magyar Polgári Szövetség (Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Alliance), and its allies may not win the same two-thirds supermajority. The efforts of the center-left opposition to unite have largely failed, and they could fall behind the surging far-right Jobbik Magyarországért Mozgalom (Jobbik).

Read more Suffragio coverage here.

Why it’s important: No country risks a greater backslide from democracy in Europe than Hungary under Orbán’s rule. A two-thirds majority over the past four years has given him the ability to rewrite the constitution, rewrite election laws in his favor, capture the media, and reduce the power of the constitutional court and other balancing institutions, thereby undermining the rule of law.

April 7: Québec provincial assembly electionsQuebec Flag IconpngCanada Flag Icon

Québec’s premier Pauline Marois called snap elections in early March, hoping that her party’s lead in the polls would give her and the sovereigntist Parti québécois (PQ) a majority government after an 18-month minority government. Instead, the PQ’s missteps over whether it will hold a third referendum on Québec’s independence seems to have scared voters into the arms of the Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ), whose new leader Philippe Couillard, a former health minister, has run a competent campaign.

Read more Suffragio coverage here.

Why it’s important: If Marois loses, it will be largely because Québec’s voters are tired of the debate on independence and a referendum. That’s ultimately good news for the rest of Canada, too — and whoever leads its national government after federal elections next year. 

April 7: India parliamentary election beginsIndia Flag Icon

With prime minister Manmohan Singh stepping down after a decade in office, this spring’s election will determine India’s next leader as well as the 545 members of the Lok Sabha (लोक सभा), the House of the People, the lower house of India’s parliament. Indians will vote in nine phases, the first of which takes place on Monday, though the voting will continue through May 12 in eight more phases. Results are scheduled to be announced on May 16.

 Polls show that Singh’s Indian National Congress (Congress, भारतीय राष्ट्रीय कांग्रेस), under the uncertain leadership of Rahul Gandhi, is set to lose power. The chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, meanwhile, seems well positioned to win power, fueling the rise of the conservative, Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP, भारतीय जनता पार्टी). Though Modi promises to bring the same quality of economic governance to India that he’s employed in Gujarat for over a decade, questions linger over his role in encouraging or failing to prevent anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002.

Read Suffragio‘s comprehensive Indian election section here.

Why it’s important: India has a population of 1.236 billion, and it’s the most massive, vexing and promising of the world’s emerging economies. Modi’s rise will test the idea that one leader can direct the economic course of such a large, unruly democracy without upsetting  delicate religious tensions.  

April 9: Indonesia parliamentary electionsIndonesia Flag

Indonesian on Wednesday will elect both houses of its parliament, including all 560 members of the Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (DPR, People’s Representative Council), the lower house and the most important. The election is largely a prelude to the July 9 presidential election, just the third direct presidential vote in Indonesian history, and Indonesia will select a successor to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Right now, it seems like their choice will be the young governor of Jakarta state, Joko Widodo (‘Jokowi’), the candidate of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P, Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan), which last held power a decade ago under former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, herself the daughter of Indonesia’s first post-independence leader Sukarno. But Wednesday’s vote will determine the contours of Indonesia’s next government, and whether Jokowi, if he wins, will be forced into forming a coalition — and with whom.  

Read more Suffragio coverage here.

Why it’s important: It’s sometimes easy to forget that Indonesia is the fourth-most populous country in the world, after China, India and the United States, so its leadership has global security and economic implications. Its next government must continue making strides in propelling economic growth, while keeping the largely Muslim country at relative peace and federal harmony.

* * * * *

Beyond this weekend’s elections, and the ongoing Indian election phases, which end on May 12, with the results to be announced on May 16, the pace continues until the end of May in Macedonia, Algeria, Iraq, Panamá, and South Africa. The big finale comes on the weekend of May 25, however, with a Lithuanian presidential runoff, the first round of Colombia’s presidential race, Ukraine’s snap presidential election, Belgium’s parliamentary elections, and the European parliamentary elections. Egypt also holds its new presidential election on May 26-27.

Fasten your seat belts, and stay tuned to Suffragio for clear and thoughtful analysis of world politics.

Photo credit to Reuters.

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