By Justin Kempf
Elections in 2023
Saturday’s election in Nigeria was among the most anticipated elections of the year. Every presidential election in Nigeria is significant, because it’s the most populous country in Africa and the sixth most populous in the world. Moreover, it’s population is increasing rapidly with projections to overtake the United States by 2050 and possibly even China in 2100. It’s already the largest economy in Africa and has a nascent fintech sector with an entrepreneurial culture. Unfortunately, it’s political leaders have held back the dynamism of its people. So, this election represented the potential for real political change through dark horse candidate Peter Obi. While he did not win, his strong performance may disrupt the two established political parties with a new political vision.
But the Nigerian election is just one of many elections to watch in 2023. Nearly every week features an election from somewhere in the world. So while the United States does not have any national elections in 2023, many other countries do. Three elections to watch include Turkey, Poland, and Argentina. These elections will have important implications for democracy and geopolitics. Of course, it’s possible parliamentary systems in a number of countries will hold early elections. Israel is a likely candidate, because it has had a general election every year since 2019. Moreover, the recent protests over judicial reform would make it among the most consequential of the year. However, Netanyahu will likely try to hold his coalition together as long as possible after his brief interlude out of power.
With presidential elections in May, Turkey has already captured the attention of many political commentators. The recent earthquake added to growing speculations about Erdoğan’s uncertain political prospects. If Erdoğan loses the election, it may come as a surprise to many who consider Turkey as an autocracy already. Indeed, few expect an entirely free and fair election, but many have hope the opposition still has a chance to win. So, this election will indicate for many whether Turkey remains democratic even if it’s an illiberal democracy at best.
At the same time, Erdoğan is a formidable opponent. He has a strong political base and the opposition is still weak. Some doubt whether Erdoğan could lose under any circumstances. However, elections are opportunities to reset political fortunes. This election will say a lot about the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Erdoğan, and the future of democracy in Turkey.
Argentina’s democracy is approaching its fortieth anniversary, yet it never feels entirely secure. It has a long legacy of military coups and failed periods of democratic governance. Moreover, Argentina has never moved beyond the memory of the populist trailblazer Juan Perón. The current president Alberto Fernández lays a claim to the Peronist tradition. But Fernández does not govern with the charisma of an authoritarian populist. Indeed, most measures of democracy continue to score Argentina as reliably democratic.
Still, its economic performance remains poor and neither leftists like Fernández nor centrists like his predecessor Mauricio Macri have offered a workable solution so far. Some worry Argentina might fall susceptible to a right-wing populist candidate in the next election. Argentina has never developed a strong conservative political party. Macri came the closest in his successful bid for the presidency in 2015. However, his loss in 2019 has opened space for new challengers.
Argentina is a country to watch in 2023. As we approach its election on October 22nd, make sure to watch who emerges to challenge Fernández and the Peronists. The Peronists have long dominated Argentine politics, so some serious competition is long over due. However, most had hoped for a moderate alternative rather than a someone in the mold of Jair Bolsonaro.
Over the last few years Poland has become known as one of the most worrying cases of democratic backsliding. The Law and Justice Party has attacked the the judiciary and threatened the independence of the media over the past eight years. However, Poland’s upcoming elections will give the opposition an opportunity to strengthen Polish democracy once again. Elections are slated for November 11th, although a snap election is possible before then.
It’s unclear whether Poland is ready to move away from the Law and Justice Party (PiS). It’s easy to imagine how Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine has changed the dynamics of its internal politics. On the one hand, some voters might find themselves drawn closer to Europe and away from the Euroskepticism of the PiS. On the other hand, some Euroskeptics might move away from the PiS to even more extreme options. So, the Law and Justice Party might find itself squeezed out of power from both sides of the political spectrum. Of course, voters also might reelect them due to their policies including their strong support for Ukraine.
Elections to Watch
Many will find it hard to follow elections in 2023. Some people have already mentally skipped ahead to elections in 2024. Beyond an American Presidential Election, that year will also include elections in Ukraine, Russia, the United Kingdom, India, and Mexico. However, those elections are a year away. The next few months will feature important elections with implications for democracy and geopolitics. It’s always possible some will look back on 2023 as the year the democratic recession came to an end. It’s impossible to say. But I look forward to these three elections to watch as the year unfolds.
About the Author
Justin Kempf manages this blog and hosts the podcast Democracy Paradox. He lives with his family in Carmel, Indiana.
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