Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao
The world is eagerly anticipating 2024, as it is not like any other new year; it is a historic election year with voting taking place in nearly 50 countries, involving 2 billion voters. Furthermore, the countries going to the polls have a combined GDP of approximately $42 trillion. Predicting the political outcomes of these countries is challenging, as some of them are volatile, and their voters tend to respond to local issues, with the majority of the population not fully understanding the intricate economic balance post-globalization. The change in regimes in any of these countries that are currently voting, and the resulting geopolitical volatility, is identified as the biggest risk by the World Economic Forum’s Chief Risk Officers Outlook for 2023. There are 22 European nations, 15 African nations, 11 Asian nations, 9 American nations, and 5 Oceanic nations all heading to the polls. Additionally, elections are due for the non-permanent members of the Security Council, all contributing to concerns about the unfolding geopolitical and geo-economic situation.
The globe is already grappling with the ongoing Ukraine war, the Israel-Palestine conflicts, China’s expansionism and provocative actions toward neighboring countries, and the creation of a war-like situation in the Asian continent. The world is concerned about climate change, tech regulation, energy production and distribution, resulting in a widening developmental gap between countries, and the emergence of protectionist policies in major nations.
Every country plays a crucial role in the global economy, but some nations have more influence in the world order, and all of these influential nations are heading to elections simultaneously. India, Russia, Britain, America, South Africa, Mexico, Taiwan, and our neighbors Bangladesh and Pakistan are all in election mode for 2024.
The year 2024 begins with elections in Taiwan and Bangladesh in January. Given the strained relations between China and Taiwan, and China’s provocative actions in Taiwanese airspace, including reported naval attacks, the election results are highly anticipated. Communist China has been trying to annex Taiwan for seven decades and is making a final and serious bid to capture the tiny island state. With the Biden administration promising to defend Taiwan’s sovereignty, the specter of war looms in 2023. Will the current election results dispel the threat of war or intensify it? China has already planted pro-Communist groups and invested money in Taiwan, making the election results crucial. If the opposition and pro-China groups win the election, tensions may ease, economic integration with mainland China may increase, but Taiwan’s future will become uncertain. If the current regime retains power, China is likely to escalate tensions.
The March election in Russia, where Vladimir Putin is seeking a fifth presidential term, is significant for the future of Europe. Putin has been in power for the last 23 years, either as President or Prime Minister, and he may win again, as credible alternative leaders are not allowed to survive, both physically and politically. Putin’s return to power is sure to create tensions in Europe. Putin shows no sign of ending the Ukrainian war until its total destruction. Ukraine, led by Zelenskyy, is also going to the polls at roughly the same time. If Zelenskyy is reelected, the emerging political and economic tensions are easy to imagine.
England, as an exited member of the EU, is also facing European parliamentary elections this year. The conservatives, who have been in power for the last 14 years, are now likely to lose power under the leadership of Rishi Sunak. The EU’s budgets and policies are under pressure, especially with its failure to address the Ukraine war, which will have economic repercussions worldwide.
India is a country that has demonstrated political stability and economic progress despite various social challenges. Modi’s focus on the economy, proactive initiatives on international issues and forums, and business-friendly reforms are appealing to the international community, which hopes for continuity in India’s power structure. For India, it is not only its stability but the political stability in the neighbourhood which is paramount. Pakistan, a nuclear power, home to many Muslim terrorist groups, and with a near-collapsing economy, poses a threat at its borders. Pakistan, in a state of turmoil, is likely to disturb peace on India’s borders, adding to the challenges faced by India. Additionally, Bangladesh, where China has made strategic investments to influence election outcomes, is a source of concern for India. China’s attempts to establish naval bases in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and other Indian Ocean nations are worrying developments for India. Although it is not currently foreseen, any change in India, replaced by an unstable coalition of regional parties, would further disrupt the situation in Asia.
South Africa is holding elections this year, and the ruling African National Congress (ANC), in power since the end of apartheid and the appointment of Nelson Mandela as the first black president, is facing electoral challenges. The prediction of a coalition government in South Africa may not provide the stability expected for the continent’s smooth progress. Many other African nations are also struggling for leadership and witnessing civil conflicts, making the news of electoral changes in South Africa in 2024 unsettling for the world.
The USA is heading to the polls in November. The world is eagerly awaiting whether the Democrats will retain the White House or if Republican Trump will return as President. With an aging Joe Biden and a volatile Trump, both considered unfit by a majority of Americans to govern the country, the United States is facing limited options. Ongoing war in Europe and the ongoing US-China economic tensions indicate a growing adversarial trend in economic relations that has already affected the world. If sharp policy swings are added to higher business costs, trade restrictions, and market instability, the historically significant 2024 elections may end in unexpected tumult, and what direction the world will take afterward is anyone’s guess.”