The Big Events of 2019

The Big Events of 2019

Each year is shaped by unforeseen events and unexpected crises. But there are also, of course, events we know about in advance that create major potential turning points in national, regional, and global politics. Here are ten good examples to keep an eye on in 2019:


Nigeria general election (February 16) – In the country home to Africa's largest economy, about 60 percent of citizens are young enough to be grandchildren of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and challenger Atiku Abubakar. Buhari's victory in 2015 marked the first time since the reintroduction of democracy in 1999 that power was passed peacefully from one political party to another. The big question this time is whether either candidate can address the country's needs and whether a closely fought election will produce an inconclusive result that provokes unrest and even violence.

Brexit Day (March 29) – Under current UK law, Britain must leave the European Union on March 29. But it's not clear whether Brexit will happen on that date, if at all. If Prime Minister Theresa May can't win parliamentary backing for her Brexit plan in the coming weeks, she might ask for more time. The EU could then offer a few months' extension, if its leaders think the UK will call a second referendum that might cancel Brexit or accept a deal that benefits Europe's economy. The list of "ifs" is growing longer even as the deadline draws near.

Ukraine presidential election (March 31) – The 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine failed because its winners didn't deliver change, and the 2014 "Revolution of Dignity" is now failing for the same reason. Frustrated by continuing corruption, a stagnant economy, and slow progress toward a European future, Ukrainians want someone new, but the leading contenders in this election are incumbent Petro Poroshenko and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Russia is watching too. The Kremlin can't control the outcome, but it will interfere, perhaps through more military pressure.

India general election (April-May) – Some 850 million Indians will cast ballots in an election that's in part a referendum on Narendra Modi's four years as prime minister. Recent election losses for his party in provinces where they've performed well in the past offer a warning. Modi can claim credit for the world's fastest-growing major economy and big (desperately needed) spending on India's physical infrastructure. His critics say ambitious reforms, particularly on health care, have stalled, and that by failing to address rising prices, he's abandoned India's farmers, a crucial national voting bloc.

Indonesia presidential election (April 17) – As in 2014, it's Joko Widodo, now the incumbent president, against Prabowo Subianto. But much has changed since then in the world's third largest democracy. In particular, Islam now plays a larger role in the country's politics. The challenger has partnered with a variety of hardline Islamist parties. The incumbent has responded by naming a conservative cleric as his running mate. In addition, many Indonesians get their news from Facebook, and "fake news" has undermined public faith in government.

European parliamentary elections (May 23-26) – Can those who've won national elections under a "Country First" banner expand their influence within European institutions? Populist nationalists like Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban are hoping to capitalize on anti-EU anger across Europe to strengthen their political leverage within the European Parliament. A sizeable victory for parties of the far-right could lead to further gridlock and confrontation within the EU's halls of power. This election will tell us a lot about the current state of European populism.

South Africa general election (between May and August) – For older South Africans, the African National Congress (ANC) is the party of liberation from apartheid. Younger citizens know the ANC mainly as the party of power. President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead the ANC into elections this year hoping that voters see no better alternative, but a quarter century from the end of white rule, public cynicism runs deep as chronic problems like income inequality and corruption remain. Can the popular Ramaphosa revive enthusiasm for the ruling party?

Canada federal election (By October 21) – The resounding 2015 victory for Justin Trudeau and his center-left Liberal Party now seems like ancient history, and both the prime minister and his party have lost much of their popularity. Victories for center-right parties in Ontario in 2017 and Quebec in 2018 suggest a much closer national election this year. But a split within the center-right Conservative Party could help Trudeau and the Liberals win this year with a lower vote share.

Argentina general election (October 27) – Current President Mauricio Macri, once a wealthy businessman, hoped that painful austerity policies would jumpstart Argentina's economy in time to boost his chances of re-election. It hasn't happened. Former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, whose spendthrift economic policies made austerity necessary, is hoping to mount a comeback. Directly at stake is whether economic distress will push Argentina back to the left.

Israel legislative elections (By November 5) – This election must come by November but could take place much sooner. In an era of voter demand for change, Benjamin Netanyahu, in office since 2009, is just months away from becoming Israel's longest-ever continuously serving prime minister. But Israeli police have recommended that he face corruption charges in three separate cases. He leads a fragile coalition and has no shortage of potential rivals, mainly on the right. This vote will be as colorful and bitterly contested as any in the world this year.

Yau Abdul Karim lives and works in Garin Mai Jalah, located in the Yobe State of northeastern Nigeria. Essential to his work raising cattle is reliable access to water, yet environmental degradation has led to fewer water sources, severely impacting communities like his that depend on livestock. In 2019, with the help of FAO, Eni installed a special solar-powered well in Yau's town that provides water during the day as well as light at night.

Watch Yau's story as he shows how his family and community enjoy life-enhancing access to both water and light.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. And I thought I'd talk a little bit today about the latest in Israel, Palestine. It's obviously been driving headlines all week. And of course, on social media, there's no topic that we all get along and agree with each other more than Israel, Palestine. It's an easy one to take on. Yeah, I know I'm completely full of crap on that. But I thought I would give you some sense of what I think is actually happening where we're going. So first point, massive fight, big conflict between Hamas in Gaza and the Israeli defense forces. Not only that, but also more violence and a lot of violence breaking out between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews. Extremists on both sides taking to the streets and fairly indiscriminate violence, in this case, worst since 2014.

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Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister, says another independence referendum for Scotland is now a matter of "when not if," and that after leaving the UK, Scotland will launch a bid to rejoin the EU. But there are formidable obstacles ahead.

Getting to a vote will force a complex game of chicken with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. If a majority of Scots then vote for independence — hardly a sure thing – the process of extricating their new country from the UK will make Brexit look easy. Next, come the challenges of EU accession. In other words, Scotland's journey down the rocky road ahead has only just begun.

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Cyber is a tool, and sometimes a weapon. Whether espionage for commercial gain or indiscriminate attacks on critical infrastructure, actions taken in cyber space affect you directly, potentially upending even the most mundane realities of everyday life.

Join GZERO Media and Microsoft for a live conversation on cyber challenges facing governments, companies, and citizens in a Munich Security Conference "Road to Munich" event on Tuesday, May 18.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

Who is Elise Stefanik and what does she mean for the Republican Party right now?

Elise Stefanik is a young member from Upstate New York. She had originally started her career as a staffer in the George W. Bush administration, but in recent years, has turned into one of the most outspoken defenders of President Donald Trump, particularly during the impeachment trial last year. She's relevant right now because it looks like she'll be replacing Liz Cheney, the Representative from Wyoming and also the daughter of the former Vice President, who has been outspoken in her criticism of President Trump since the January 6th insurrection, and probably more importantly, outspoken in her criticism of the direction of the Republican Party.

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According to Delhi-based journalist Barkha Dutt, while the Indian government has finally started to mobilize in response to the COVID crisis, there's still a lot of denial about the severity of the ourbreak. "Our Health Minister, for instance, made a statement in the last 24 hours saying that India is better equipped to fight COVID in 2021 than in 2020. That's simply rubbish. We had India's Solicitor General telling the Supreme Court that there is no oxygen deficit as of now. That's simply not true." In an interview on GZERO World, Dutt tells Ian Bremmer that only the connection between fellow Indians, helping each other when the government cannot, has been a salve.

Watch the episode: India's COVID calamity

Listen: Ask national security experts how they view China today and they'll likely the use a term like "adversary" or "economic competitor." But what about "enemy?" How close is the world to all-out-war breaking out between United States and China? According to US Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.), who served as Supreme Allied Commander to NATO, those odds are higher than many would like to admit. In fact, Stavridis says, the US risks losing its military dominance in the coming years to China. And if push comes to shove in a military conflict, it's not entirely clear who would prevail. Admiral Stavridis discusses his bestselling new military thriller 2034 and makes the case for why his fictional depiction of a US-China war could easily become reality.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What's the issue with the letter in France talking about the "civil war"?

Well, I think it is part of the beginning of the French election campaign. We have some people in the military encouraged by the more right-wing forces, warning very much for the Muslim question. That's part of the upstart to the election campaign next year. More to come, I fear.

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Beyond SolarWinds: Securing Cyberspace. Watch on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 10am PT/ 1pm ET

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Beyond SolarWinds: Securing Cyberspace | Watch on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 10am PT / 1 pm PT

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