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2023 game changers that weren’t

GZERO 2023 game changers that weren't: Nigerian youth voters, Ron DeSantis, Yevgeny Prigozhin, The Earthquake in Turkey

What we thought would stir up the political landscape in 2023… but didn’t.


1. Ron DeSantis

Earlier this year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was widely viewed as perhaps the only Republican who could give former President Donald Trump a run for his money in the race for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. He was seen as a younger, more polished version of Trump in many ways. But DeSantis’ heavy focus on fueling culture wars – his anti-woke crusade – fell flat with voters in 2023. His underwhelming and often awkward performances on the debate stage haven’t helped. Indeed, as the year comes to a close, there are few signs that DeSantis has any real shot of seizing the nomination over Trump – his approval has even fallen in Florida.

2. Yevgeny Prigozhin

Though he was 2023’s most colorful character, the exploits of this soldier of fortune, entrepreneur, media star, violent sociopath, and former hot dog vendor amounted to sound and fury signifying not much. He briefly led a mutiny that challenged the Kremlin’s power as bemused Russians and fascinated foreigners watched. Realizing too late he had too few friends in Moscow, he retreated, then later went down in a phony plane crash. Now, nothing is left but the noise.

3. The Earthquake in Turkey

In February, a massive earthquake rocked southeastern Turkey, killing 60,000 people, displacing 1.5 million, and exposing rampant corruption in the building safety bureaucracy. At the time, many thought President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s sluggish response would kill the strongman’s chances of reelection at a moment when the opposition was gaining momentum. Not so. Erdogan’s blend of Islamist populism and pugnacious foreign policy carried him comfortably back to the White Palace after all.

4. Nigeria’s youth voters

Since the country’s return to democracy in 1999, Nigeria’s politics have been dominated by two parties, the APC and PDP, and Nigerians were gearing up for another uninspiring choice in the 2023 elections — until dark horse candidate Peter Obi made his move. He broke with the PDP and threw in with the little-known Labour Party, launching an energetic campaign on social media that promised change. He captured the imagination of Nigeria’s booming youth cohort, and with the backing of ethnic Yoruba elders as well, Obi looked promising enough to make the powers that be sweat. But he came up short in an election he maintains was rigged against him, even after a court ruling upheld the results.

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