Picture: REUTERS – Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan are seen during a rally for the local elections in Istanbul, on March 29, 2019. Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party and its ally, the National Movement Party, have dropped significantly in polls in recent years.
By Henry Olsen
Elections have consequences. Here are five elections scheduled to take place this year whose results could have significance for the entire world.
The prospective Nato member will go to the polls by April 2 to select a new parliament. Nato membership is not in doubt, as no significant party opposes it. But incumbent Social Democratic Party Prime Minister Sanna Marin might not be the beneficiary of the decision to join the alliance. Finland’s conservative party, known as Kansallinen Kokoomus or the National Coalition Party, have led in the polls since mid-2021 and gained strength after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
If Kokoomus finishes first, it will have the first chance to form a government. That could mean a return of a centre-right government consisting of Kokoomus, the Centre Party (Kesk) and the populist True Finns. Or it could result in a grand coalition between Kokoomus, the Social Democrats and one other party. Denmark’s Social Democratic Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, chose the latter option after her country’s November election, even though her left-wing coalition retained a majority. If Finland follows suit, it will show that old foes are willing to become allies when threatened by parties who want radical change, left or right.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is seen as a strongman throughout much of the West. He has suppressed his country’s free press and brought trumped-up charges against political opponents, such as Ekrem Imamoglu, the Istanbul mayor who was convicted in December of insulting public officials and barred from political activity for more than two years.
Nonetheless, Turkey has a vibrant political opposition that has united against Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). AKP and its ally, the National Movement Party (MHP), have dropped significantly in polls in recent years as Turkey battles inflation at a 25-year high. Presidential and parliamentary elections will take place on June 18, with a second round for president occurring on July 2 if no candidate wins a majority. It’s not melodramatic to say that the fate of Turkish democracy is on the line with this crucial vote.
This proud nation is on top of the world when it comes to soccer, given its national team’s thrilling victory in capturing the World Cup. But otherwise, it remains an international example of governmental mismanagement. Once one of the world’s richest nations, more than a century of economic and political incompetence has pushed it into an unhealthy cycle of slow growth followed by inflation and recession. That cycle is once more in full swing and the governing Peronist coalition, officially the Frente de Todos (Front of All), is behind in the polls.
The country’s centre-right alliance, Juntos por el Cambio – Together for Change – remains in first place in the polls and is likely to prevail. Interestingly, a libertarian-inclined third bloc, Liberty Advances, has formed and is gaining as much as 23 percent. In any case, expect a big swing to the right in Argentina’s late October contest, with the victors given the chance to see if they can use market-based reforms to help break the country’s sorry cycle.
This eastern European rising powerhouse has been aggressively proUkraine since the invasion, supplying it with weapons and housing millions of refugees. But it is governed by a conservative populist party, Law and Justice (PiS), that is regularly under fire from the European Union for its allegedly anti-democratic practices.
The PiS remains Poland’s most popular party, but it is running a few points below the 44 percent it received in the last parliamentary vote. All the polls show it would not win a majority if the election in the fall were held today, and seat projections show a hung parliament if the current results hold. Poland’s proportional representation system encourages parties to team together into coalitions, so watch the pre-election manoeuvring to see if PiS can attract some fringe groups to join forces in advance of the balloting.
This country, the EU’s fourth largest nation by both population and GDP, could continue the continental trend toward conservative-populist alliances in its December election. The main centre-right party, Partido Popular (PP), has led most polls since June. Vox, a national populist party to its right, has also consistently placed third, with the two groupings winning close to a majority of the total vote.
Given Spain’s proportional representation system, which awards seats by small subregions, this easily gives the two a majority in parliament. The incumbent left-of-centre coalition of the Socialists (PSOE) and left-populist Podemos (UP), however, will surely raise the spectre of extremism as it tries to tarnish Vox and regain the upper hand. This might work, but it could also push centrist Spaniards hungry for change toward Partido Popular so that party could govern alone without Vox. Regional elections in May will be an early barometer of the state of play.
Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Centre.
This article was first published in The Washington Post