Millions of people around the world voted in 2018. Russian President Vladimir Putin earned his fourth term in office, though the contest was far from free and fair. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán won a parliamentary majority that will enable him to change Hungary’s constitution as he sees fit, likely continuing the country’s de-democratization. Eurosceptic populists triumphed in Italy’s elections. Imran Khan, a former cricket player, was elected prime minister of Pakistan. Mexicans in a landslide elected Andrés Manuel López Obrador, also known as “Amlo,” as their new president. Brazilians voted overwhelmingly to give far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, the so-called Trump of the Tropics, the keys to the Palácio da Alvorada. In the United States, Republicans picked up two Senate seats. Meanwhile Democrats took back the House of Representatives, gaining forty seats in their best showing since the Watergate class of 1974.
Next year will see equally important and consequential elections. Some of those might come as a surprise. Rumors already abound that some parliamentary systems might call snap elections. But many elections are already on the calendar. Here are ten to watch.
Nigerian General Election, February 16. Roughly 60 percent of Nigeria’s 190 million citizens were born after 1990, but many of its leading politicians were born before Nigeria’s independence in 1960. A “Ready to Run” campaign is supporting young people seeking seats in the federal and state legislatures. “Ready to Run” follows on the “Not Too Young to Run” campaign, which helped persuade President Muhammadu Buhari, who is seventy-five, to sign a law lowering the age requirement for presidential candidates from forty to thirty-five and for gubernatorial candidates from thirty-five to thirty. So far, though, the change hasn’t remade the field of presidential candidates. Buhari is seeking reelection under the banner of the All Progressives Congress Party (APC). It is not clear, however, that he enjoys the party’s full support; nearly five dozen legislators have defected from the APC in recent months to protest his leadership. Nigeria’s major opposition parties have backed Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president who is seventy-two. A lot is at stake. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, its largest economy, and its largest oil producer. It continues to be plagued by internal violence, however, and its unemployment rate hovers around 19 percent. Falling oil prices are only intensifying those troubles.
Ukrainian Presidential Election, March 31. Ukraine’s 2014 presidential election raised hopes that the country had turned an important corner in its short, troubled history. But sadly, Ukraine remains plagued by corruption, political and economic uncertainty, a Russian-sponsored insurrection, and disagreement over whether its future lies with the West or Russia. The two leading contenders this time around are familiar faces: incumbent President Petro Poroshenko and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who finished second in 2014. The public doesn’t seem keen on either candidate. Poroshenko is taking a nationalist line with slogans like “Army! Language! Faith! We are Ukraine.” Tymoshenko proposes turning Ukraine into a parliamentary republic. A long-shot candidate is Anatoliy Hrytsenko, a former defense minister. He hopes to unify several small opposition parties. Looming over the election is Russia. It seized three Ukrainian naval vessels in the Azov Sea in late November, raising fears it plans to intensify direct and indirect military pressure on Ukraine. Even if the guns remain silent, the Kremlin might find other ways to meddle. Ukraine has established a body to identify and hopefully prevent Russian interference. Whoever wins in March will face an old set of problems.
India’s Lok Sabha, or Lower House, parliamentary election in April or May. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rode an electoral landslide into power back in 2014, ending decades of coalition government in Delhi. Modi is hoping to recapture that magic in 2019. But his popularity has waned among some of his core voting blocs, like farmers, as he has been slow to deliver on his many big promises. An effort to overhaul India’s healthcare system to increase access and reduce costs has bogged down, and he hasn’t been able to improve India’s relationships with either China or Pakistan. Just this week the BJP lost three state elections. The big winner in those votes was the Congress Party, which hopes that 2019 will mark its comeback election on the national level. To reclaim control of the Lok Sabha, which it once routinely dominated, the Congress Party is promising to help farmers and create jobs. The party’s leader, Rahul Gandhi—the son, grandson, and great grandson of Indian prime ministers—is also building alliances with regional parties with an eye toward building a coalition government.