Elections in 2022 you NEED to watch out for
Australia (Sometime before May 21):
Australia’s upcoming Federal Election is significant for one major reason: climate change. Despite Australia’s low population and mere 1.52% contribution to global emissions, Australia impacts on the environment far more than it first appears (Climate Watch, 2019). Australia is one of the world’s largest exporters of coal, natural gas and minerals, which if taken into account increases Australia’s emissions from anywhere between 3.6% to 5% of global emissions (RMIT ABC Fact Check, 2019). Australia is also one of the top ten largest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases in the world (Clarke, M. 2021).
Under the Coalition Government, made up of the Liberal and National parties, Australia aims to reduce carbon emissions by 26-28% by 2030 and only committed to a net zero by 2050 target after the COP26 Summit (Prime Minister, Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction., 2021). However, the Labor Party has announced that should they be elected in the upcoming election they will commit to a 43% reduction by 2030 (Albanese, A. 2021). The demand for action on climate change is strong in Australia as a consequence of the unprecedented Black Summer Bushfires in 2019-2020 (Climate Council, 2019).
The current Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, rose to the position just before the 2019 Federal Election. Australians warmed quickly to the new PM but the honeymoon did not last long. During the Black Summer Bushfires, Morrison controversially went on holiday to Hawaii as the country burned. His subsequent attempts to mend the situation did not go down well, but the covid pandemic gave him a chance to make up for past mistakes. Morrison’s response to the pandemic has largely been hit and miss, praised for closing international borders early in the pandemic but criticised for supply issues and aged care deaths (Stayner, T. 2022). Recent weeks has been tumultuous for the PM, after several scandals involving criticism from sexual abuse survivors, internal divisions within the Coalition and undermining national security by accusing the Labor Leadership of being “Manchurian Candidates” which prompted a rare public appearance from senior Defence and Intelligence officials condemning the accusations (Massola, J. 2022 & Karvelas, P. 2022).
Yet, the Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, is an enigma to much of the Australian population. Whilst that is typical for most Opposition Leaders, Albanese is in a peculiar situation given the last three years Australia has had to deal with the bushfires and the pandemic, both of which centred attention on the Government, leaving the Opposition with little to do. At the time of writing the election has not yet been called, but must be held before May 21st. Moreover, whilst Labor is ahead in most opinion polls, Morrison remains the preferred Prime Minister, indicating this election will probably be very close (Newspoll, 2022).
US Mid-Terms (November):
Traditionally American mid-term elections occur two years into a president’s four-year term, and so they are used as a review of the current president’s performance. It gives both parties time to reflect on their policies and rebrand themselves for the presidential campaign in two years’ time. This Mid-Term Election’s importance cannot be understated.
The world was shocked this time last year by the events of January 6th and how vulnerable it revealed American democracy to be. Since then, incumbent President Biden has done very little to win over the hearts of the American people. A recent Qunnipiac poll found Biden has a 33% approval rating, that is lower than Trump’s lowest score, an incredible feat when considering that Trump’s popularity dipped below 50% just eight days into his presidency and never rebound to a net positive (Samuels, B. 2022). Given Trump, who despite having many legal troubles of his own, is likely to be Biden’s opponent in 2024 the tension could not be higher.
Should the Democrats do poorly in November, it is possible they will lose Congress and the Senate to the Republicans and that may signal doom for the Democrats in 2024. That may leave the US in a chilling predicament: Could a twice-impeached President, connected to the biggest attack on American democracy since 1814, was historically unpopular and lost the Popular Vote in 2016 really win the presidency once more?
South Korea (March 9):
South Korean President Moon Jae-In shocked the political landscape following his election five years ago, which was only reinforced in 2020 when his Democratic Party won an absolute majority in the legislative election with 180 out of 300 seats (Al Jazeera, 2020). Born the son of North Korean refugees, Jae-In campaigned on fiscal stimulus, countering corruption and peaceful reunification of the two Korea’s (Phippen, J.W., 2017). Jae-In reportedly played a crucial role in easing tensions between the United States and North Korea, at a time when the leaders of both nations were throwing insults at one another.
But since then the government has been plagued by a number of corruption and real estate scandals resulting in Moon’s all time lowest approval rating reaching 30% in April 2021 (Kim, S.H. 2021). That being said, the most recent rating has rebounded to 45% which is actually historically high for South Korean President’s at this point in their term of office (Yonhap News Agency, 2022).
But after five years in office, Jae-In is stepping down as the constitution only allows for a single presidential term and the question now remains as to who will replace him and will his successor carry on his policies, particularly in regards to North Korea given the latter’s continued nuclear testing and expansion. Replacing Moon on the Democratic Party ticket is Lee Jae-myung, former Governor of Gyeonggi Province who has advocated for a rolling back of international sanctions on North Korea in order to convince them to denuclearise (Choi, H.H. 2021). Lee will be up against the People Power Party’s Yoon Seok-youl who is a supporter of deploying American nuclear missiles on the peninsula (something that even the American government is opposed to) and expanding the presence of the American THAAD missiles (Park. C.K., 2021 & Yonhap News Agency, 2021).
A poll held on March 3rd (a week before the election) showed that Lee and Yoon were neck and neck at 40%. Following the poll, People Party candidate Ahn Cheol-soo suspended his campaign and threw his support behind Yoon, potentially giving Yoon the necessary number of votes to win a majority since Ahn won 10% support in the same poll (Lee, J.H. 2022). Given the significance of South Korea in the current geopolitical landscape with its strong economy and proximity to North Korea, the choice of President may well determine the future of East Asia.
Sitting French Presidents have not been treated well by history, within the last 20 years not a single one has won a re-election bid and only two since De Gaulle have been re-elected for a second consecutive term (The Economist, 2022). But incumbent Emmanuel Macron is on track to break this trend. When polled in a head-to-head against all other candidates, Macron is still in the lead, indicating that even if the respective left and right factions unite behind a single candidate, it is unlikely that the election will reach the second round.
Macron’s strategy seems to be to ignore the campaign and to present an image of a man at work focused on important matters such as the covid 19 pandemic and the Ukraine Crisis. In the last IPSOS survey (Doridot et al., 2022a), Emmanuel Macron remains ahead of the voting contenders for the first round (24%). Behind him, there are three candidates which are neck and neck: centre-right candidate Valerie Pecresse (16,5%); far-right contender Marine Le Pen (14%), and far-right shock jock Eric Zemmour (14%). Regarding the left, the profusion of candidates and the lack of unity does not allow them to be higher than 10% in the polls. In addition, for the second round, Macron is still the likely winner facing either Pécresse (53%/47%), Le Pen (57%/47%), or Zemmour (61%/39%) (Doridot et al., 2022a). That being said, Macron’s presidency has been plagued by controversy. His tax cuts for wealthy people along with a proposed fuel tax hike in 2018 sparked massive protests that continued for weeks, even after the proposal was dropped and his opponents will likely point out these mistakes in debates (Barry, E. 2021).
The question before the French people is: Will they continue Macron’s centrist pragmatism or take a gamble on more radical populists? At the moment they seem to be in favour of the former, which will make Macron the first French President to win re-election in 20 years, allowing him to leave his mark on French politics and foreign affairs which will have a lasting impact.
Kenya (August 9):
Kenyan elections are rather unique in global politics, in the sense that the country’s politics are split along tribal divisions rather than political ones, resulting in often chaotic and even deadly elections (Barry, E. 2021). In 2017, for example, there were so many irregularities brought on by ethnic violence at the ballot box that the election had to be rerun (Ibid). Following the second vote, Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s first President rose to power. He offered an olive branch to rival Raila Odinga, who originally questioned the credibility of the results, to help draft a new constitution which would promote power sharing among ethnic groups (The Sentinel Project, 2021). However the changes were deemed illegal by the High Court amid accusations Kenyatta was using the reforms to strengthen his own grip on power at the expense of his rivals and his own deputies (Barry, E. 2021). One such figure is William Ruto, who is now leading a leadership challenge against Kenyatta despite being from the same political party. That being said, Kenyatta is not allowed to run for a third term in office and thus the race is between Ruto and Odinga, with the former currently in the lead in opinion polls.
One reason to be concerned for the 2022 election is that historically, ethnic tensions reach a boiling point during elections resulting in thousands of people being killed and displaced. For example, the aftermath of the 2007 election saw months of violence resulting in the deaths of 1,200 people and up to 500,000 being displaced from their homes (The Sentinel Project, 2021). This sudden outbreak of violence fuelled economic depression brought on by staff and customer shortages and the breakdown of supply chains (Ibid). Many of the risk factors that lead to ethnopolitical violence are on display for the upcoming election, with political divisions, socioeconomic grievances, misinformation, controversy over the proposed Building Bridges Initiative Constitution and the impact of COVID-19 all contributing factors (Ibid).
As the third largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa (The Standard, 2020) and a high likelihood of ethnopolitical violence, Kenya needs to be on everyone’s radar.
Brazil (October 2):
Before 2018 it is hard to say that Brazilian politics demanded the world’s attention. But that changed with the election of Jair Bolsonaro, or as he is sometimes referred to in the West, “The Brazilian Donald Trump”. Bolsonaro came to prominence on the back of a right-wing populist campaign, but his Presidency has been anything but popular. Bolsonaro’s denialism of climate change and of the coronavirus has had deadly consequences for Brazil, being both the home of the Amazon Rainforest and currently with the second highest number of COVID-related deaths in the world (Barry, E. 2021). Bolsonaro’s dismissal of COVID as “just a flu”, repeated sharing of misinformation and insistence on a herd immunity approach throughout the pandemic were just some of the justifications for Brazil’s senators to recommend charging the president with crimes against humanity in October 2021 (Ibid).
Bolsonaro is a firm believer that Brazil should return to the days of the military dictatorship that ruled over the country from 1964 to 1985 (Nugent, C. 2021). He has undermined the integrity of the judiciary, encroached on indigenous peoples’ rights to clear the Amazon and has cracked down on critics. As of November-December 2021, his approval rating has reached an all-time low of 19% (Harrison, C. 2022).
Bolsonaro, who claimed “only God” can remove him from power, will most likely have to face off against Luis Inácio Lula da Silva. Lula is a former president of Brazil from the opposite end of the political spectrum. Despite his high popularity throughout his 2003-2010 presidency (Cabral, P. 2010), Lula was impeached and imprisoned in 2017 after being found guilty of corruption charges (Barry, E. 2021). But in April 2021, this conviction was overturned after it was found that the presiding judge in the cases against Lula was biased against him (Associated Press, 2021). This gives Lula a second chance to take on Bolsonaro, he had previously attempted to run in the 2018 election and was even backed by the UN Human Rights Council and the support of several left-leaning parties but ultimately was banned from running due to his prison sentence (Agence France-Presse, 2018). Opinion polls at the time suggested that even from prison, Lula was likely to beat Bolsonaro.
Current polls similarly tip the ex-president to topple the incumbent. But for South America’s largest nation it will not only be interesting to see how the Brazilian people react to these converse characters, but how the defeated candidate will react. Could the disasters of the American 2020 election resurface?
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Harrison, C. (2022, January 25). Poll Tracker: Brazil’s 2022 Presidential Election. AS/COA. https://www.as-coa.org/articles/poll-tracker-brazils-2022-presidential-election
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Karvelas, P. (2022, February 9). Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins are smashing rules and silence – and putting Australia's political leaders on notice. ABC News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-09/grace-tame-brittany-higgins-press-club-leaders-on-notice/100817220
Kearney, V. (2022, February 3). Paul Givan resigns as NI First Minister. RTE Online. https://www.rte.ie/news/ulster/2022/0203/1277530-paul-givan/
Kim, S.H. (2021, May 10). [Newsmaker] Moon’s approval ratings inch up to 36%. The Korea Herald. http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20210510000693
Lee, J.H. (2022, March 3). Conservatives Unite, Giving Yoon a Boost: South Korean Election. Bloomberg Quint. https://www.bloombergquint.com/politics/conservatives-unite-giving-yoon-a-boost-south-korea-election
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Nugent, C. (2021, December 28). Why 2022 Might Be the Year Brazil Says Goodbye to President Bolsonaro. Time. https://time.com/6130308/bolsonaro-brazil-2022-election/
Park, C.K. (2021, November 12). Risking China’s wrath, South Korean presidential front runner Yoon Suk-yeol says more US Thaad missile deployments are possible. South China Morning Post. https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3155903/risking-chinas-wrath-south-korean-presidential-front-runner-yoon
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Samuels, B. (2022, January 12). Quinnipiac poll shows Biden with 33 percent approval rating. The Hill. https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/589450-quinnipiac-poll-shows-biden-with-33-percent-approval-rating?rl=1
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Stayner, T. (2022, February 1). Scott Morrison admits mistakes and expresses regret over government’s COVID-19 response. SBS News. https://www.sbs.com.au/news/scott-morrison-admits-mistakes-and-expresses-regret-over-government-s-covid-19-response/c43c68e3-b118-462e-9823-2d5cfeca380e
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