Critical elections are occurring across the globe this year, with a record number of people — roughly half the global population — set to head to the polls in dozens of countries.
During a Global Stage panel at the Munich Security Conference, Eurasia Group Founder and President Ian Bremmer described 2024 as the “Voldemort of election years.”
“Voldemort is the name that should not be spoken in the ‘Harry Potter’ series … This is the year that people have been very concerned about but have kind of hoped that they could push off,” says Bremmer. This is not just because there are so many elections occurring amid historic levels of distrust in key institutions, but also because the United States — the most powerful country in the world — is also “one of the most politically dysfunctional,” he explains.
Bremmer says the 2024 US presidential election is “maximally distrust-laden,” adding that this is “driving a level of concern that borders on panic from American allies all over the world.”
The conversation was part of the Global Stage series, produced by GZERO in partnership with Microsoft. These discussions convene heads of state, business leaders, technology experts from around the world for critical debate about the geopolitical and technology trends shaping our world.
Watch the full conversation here: How to protect elections in the age of AI
Campaigning for Iran’s legislative election officially got underway on Thursday, with over 15,000 candidates vying for a seat. But will ordinary folks bother going to the polls on March 1?
The 2020 election saw Iran’s lowest-ever turnout of 42%, and higher ups in Tehran are worried about an even more embarrassing figure next month. The regime’s legitimacy has suffered so much, according to Eurasia Group Iran expert Greg Brew, that there’s talk of straight-up fudging the numbers, which has not been common practice until now.
But given that election authorities sidelined all but a handful of reformist politicians – not to mention the violent crackdown on protesters in the wake of Mahsa Amini’s death – many voters are likely to stay home to express their discontent.The real question: Who will succeed Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the real center of power, who’s now 84 years old? There’s no clear answer, but Brew says the establishment’s goal in these elections is “to maintain hardliner control over the key aspects of government to create as much consistency as possible, so that when a succession crisis happens it can be handled with a minimum of disruption.”
Former President Donald Trump was the first major candidate to launch his campaign for the 2024 presidential election cycle – on Nov. 15, 2022, roughly two years before Election Day. The US puts no limits on the length of campaigns, which leaves the door open for massive amounts of campaign spending and has the potential to leave voters exhausted by the time they head to the polls.
Many other countries have laws restricting how long candidates can campaign. In Japan, campaigns do not officially start until 12 days before the election. The longest election campaign ever in Canada lasted 78 days in 2015. The Great White North now limits campaigns to 50 days at most.
Should the US follow their lead? Do American voters really need more than a year of campaigning to make up their minds about who will be president for the next four years?
The election will be a referendum on the ANC, which has been mired in controversy over record levels of crime, slow economic growth, unemployment, and rolling blackouts. Alongside the election announcement, the ANC bumped up social benefits in an attempt to raise polling numbers.
The ANC’s biggest rival, the Democratic Alliance, is trying to build a coalition of smaller parties to break the ANC's majority. The third biggest party, Economic Freedom Fighters, is not considering joining the opposition coalition and is eating into ANC’s support following its promise to double social benefits if elected.Right now, opinion polls show ANC approval ratings below 50%. If this translates into votes, it will mean the ANC will have to form the country’s first-ever coalition government to keep Ramaphosa — a political protege of Mandela — as president for a second and final five-year term.
Weeks after a chaotic general election, Pakistan’s political parties still struggle to form a coalition to move the country forward. GZERO’s Tony Maciulis sat down with Pakistan’s former Foreign Minister Hina Khar at the Munich Security Conference for her take on how the nation’s imprisoned ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan maintains a hold over supporters and remains a powerful political force.
Independent candidates mostly aligned with Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), won the most votes on February 8, though they fell short of a majority, setting off a power struggle between Khan and his political rival, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Comparing Khan to former US President Donald Trump and India’s leader Narendra Modi, Khar said, “He really represents what populist leaders are all about. He’s able to get everybody to rally around what all is wrong and the great injustices. However, when he comes to power, he doesn’t have any to plan to sort it out.”
Khar explained that Khan’s popularity flows from his ability to tap into the frustrations of his base, who are deeply concerned about rising costs of living, including food and energy prices.
While she hopes the political parties will be able to come to a resolution that respects the voters' mandate, Khar says “the jury is out” about whether Khan will ultimately bow out of the process.
Khar also addressed the ongoing tensions between Pakistan and neighboring India. In a past interview with GZERO, she had described India as a “rogue nation,” a claim she stood by once again in Munich. Modi’s popularity, she said, “is based on anti-Muslim, anti-Islam” sentiments that resonate with Hindu nationalist supporters.
Were President Joe Biden to win reelection this November, he’d be 86 years old when finishing his second term. That’s part of why a startling 86% of Americans tell pollsters he’s too old to serve again.
But 86 is only one Biden number of note. Another is 130 million. That’s the total number of dollars his campaign has raised to date after raking in $42 million in the month of January alone. In fact, Biden’s $130 million haul is the most any Democrat has ever raised to this point in a campaign. (Donald Trump ended 2023 with $66 million and hasn’t yet reported January totals. He also has a few legal bills to pay.)
That’s why, whatever his popularity numbers, despite the flood of recent stories about possible Democratic Party alternatives to Biden, and whatever embarrassments next week’s Michigan primary may hold in store for a president whose firm support for Israel has angered much of that state’s sizeable Arab-American population, Biden won’t be easy to beat.
It’s also another reason we hold to our view that the only presidential polling questions that really matter are: Will you vote? Who will you vote for?
The authoritarian world’s hottest young thing – Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele – has won a Congressional supermajority.
Bukele, who won a landslide reelection last month, will control a staggering 54 of 60 seats in the Central American country’s legislature, empowering him to do … whatever he likes.
What might that be? Hard to say. He’s already jailed nearly 2% of the adult population as part of a ferocious crackdown on gang violence, and he already got a friendly court to rule he could flout term limits. His allies even openly say he aims to “dismantle” democracy.
And … his success at slashing the murder rate to pieces has made him incredibly popular. That’s true not only at home but also abroad, where some in other violence-wracked Latin American countries – Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile – are increasingly enamored of Bukele.
Not so fast, say experts. El Salvador is a tiny country (6 million people) whose gangs – fearsome as they are – pale in comparison to the size and firepower of the transnational cartels running amok elsewhere in the neighborhood. Bukele’s model plays well at home, but it might not – for now at least – export as well.