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.

Each month, Microsoft receives about 6,500 complaints from people who've been victims of tech support scams. But it's not just Microsoft's brand that the scammers leverage; fraudsters have pretended to be from a number of other reputable tech companies and service providers. These scams will remain an industry-wide challenge until sufficient people are educated about how they work and how to avoid them.

To measure the scope of this problem globally, Microsoft commissioned YouGov for a new 2021 survey across 16 countries. Results from the 2021 survey reveal that, globally, fewer consumers have been exposed to tech support scams as compared to the 2018 survey. However, those people who continued with the interaction were more likely to have lost money to the scammers than we saw in our previous survey. To read the highlights of the survey, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

Next week, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner who is ideologically and personally close to Iran's 82 year-old supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will be inaugurated as Iran's president. This power transition comes as the country experiences a fresh wave of protests that started in Iran's southwest over water shortages earlier this month and has since spilled over into dozens of provinces.

Some close observers of Iranian society and politics say that popular discontent there is now more widespread than it has been in years, making the Iranian regime more vulnerable than ever.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

QR codes are everywhere. Are they also tracking my personal data?

Well, a QR code is like a complex barcode that may be on a printed ad or product package for you to scan and access more information. For example, to look at a menu without health risk or for two-factor verification of a bank payment. And now also as an integral part of covid and vaccine registration. QR codes can lead to tracking metadata or personal data. And when your phone scans and takes you to a website, certainly the tracking starts there. Now, one big trap is that people may not distinguish one kind of use of QR codes from another and that they cannot be aware of the risks of sharing their data.

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Was the world so focused on climate change that warning signs about the COVID-19 pandemic were missed? Historian and author Niall Ferguson argues that, while the climate crisis poses a long-term threat to humanity, other potential catastrophes are much more dangerous in the near future. "We took our eye off that ball," Ferguson says about COVID, "despite numerous warnings, because global climate change has become the issue that Greta Thunberg said, would bring the end of the world. But the point I'm making in DOOM [his new book] is that we can end the world and a lot of other ways, much faster." Ferguson spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview for GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Predictable disaster and the surprising history of shocks

Tunisia, the only country that emerged a democracy from the Arab Spring, is now in the middle of its worst political crisis since it got rid of former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali over a decade ago.

On Sunday, the 64th anniversary of the country's independence from France, President Kais Saied responded to widespread protests over the ailing economy and COVID by firing embattled Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspending parliament for 30 days. Troops have surrounded the legislature, where rival crowds faced off on Monday, with one side chanting in support of the move and the other denouncing it as a coup.

How did we get here, do we even know who's really in charge, and what might come next?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

As COVID-19 cases rise, are vaccine mandates coming?

Oh, you just want to get me in more trouble. Yeah, some mandates are coming, but they're not national mandates in the United States. In some cases, you're looking at federal and state employees, in some cases you're looking at lots of individual corporations, universities, and such. I mean I've already been to a number of events where vaccines have been mandated in New York. You've got this Excelsior Pass if you want to go to the Brooklyn Nets games, as I certainly do. You show it off and that gets you in with your vaccine. So I think it's really going to be a decentralized process. But clearly, given Delta variant and the number of people that are getting sick and dying because they're not vaccinated, you're going to see moves towards more mandates, as a consequence.

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Castillo takes over in Peru: After almost two months of protests, baseless allegations of fraud from his rival in the runoff election, and even rumblings of a coup, Pedro Castillo will be sworn in as president of Peru on Wednesday. A former rural school-teacher famous for riding on horseback, wearing a cowboy hat and waving a giant pencil to show how much he cares about education, Castillo has big plans to achieve big change. But he won by just a razor-thin margin in a deeply divided country, and Peru's dysfunctional political system will likely hobble his attempts to get major legislation passed. Moreover, despite having moderated his positions, half of the country still sees him as a communist who might turn Peru into another Venezuela. Castillo's most immediate task is dealing with the twin crises of a deadly pandemic and a COVID-fueled economic crisis that has hit poor Peruvians — his base — the hardest.

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13: The two Koreas have restored their communication hotline almost 13 months after Pyongyang abruptly cut it in response to Seoul not doing enough to prevent North Korean defectors from sending propaganda leaflets across the shared border. The hotline was established in 2018 following a historic meeting between North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

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