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Eight elections to watch in 2019

Last year saw important and momentous elections. Some came as a surprise, while in others, old figures secured another term. In 2019, several countries will also witness crucial elections in which millions of voters will be faced with clear choices regarding fundamental issues ranging from the economy, security, immigration and corruption.

 

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Nigerian General Elections – February

Incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari faces a tough re-election bid with competition from a crowded field, including former vice president Atiku Abubakar.

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Millions of voters will choose a president, governors and federal and state lawmakers countrywide. The elections will test the political course set by the peaceful transition of power in 2015.

Risk of electoral violence, given Nigeria’s ethnic cleavages and social inequalities, remains a real concern. The International Crisis Group, in its December report, warned that already there have been incidents of violence, with some states displaying particularly troubling signs ahead of the vote.

The Brussel-based organization, however, advised the Nigerian authorities to enhance security plans; encourage rivals to pledge jointly to campaign and resolve disputes peacefully.

Ukraine Presidential Election – March

Voters will choose among a long list of experienced politicians. But the two leading contenders are familiar faces: incumbent President Petro Poroshenko and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who finished second in 2014 election.

If none of the candidates achieve an absolute majority of 50 percent plus one, a second-round election will take place in April. Elections will not take place in Russian-occupied Crimea or in the separatist-held eastern regions of the country.

Whoever wins will face an old set of problems. Ukraine remains plagued by political and economic uncertainty, a Russian-sponsored insurrection, and disagreement over whether its future lies with the West or Russia.

Israeli Legislative Election – April 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government agreed to hold early elections on April 9, after the ruling coalition appeared to come up short on votes needed to pass a contentious piece of court-ordered legislation.

Netanyahu said his coalition “unanimously” agreed to disband the government and hold a new election.

Netanyahu’s coalition has been roiled by internal divisions for months, but a new law extending the military draft to ultra-Orthodox men appears to have triggered the government’s downfall.

Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox partners are demanding the legislation be weakened and his small parliamentary majority seems to be making such a compromise impossible.

Indonesian Presidential Election – April

The world’s largest Muslim-majority democracy will elect a president, vice president, 711 members of the two-house national legislature and 19,817 members of the sub-national legislature on the same day.

The elections will see a rematch of the 2014 vote. Incumbent President Joko Widodo is set to square off against the man he defeated, former Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto.

Widodo remains the favourite; he is ahead in the most recent polls. However, despite some success he has not delivered on all his 2014 election promises.

Prabowo offers a strong-man image. As a former military leader, he has credibility on security and promotes a “just” society through economic and political prosperity.

India’s general election in April or May

In April-May 2019, an estimated 900 million Indians will be heading to the polls to elect their next parliament, using some 1.3 million voting machines.

Several months ago, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was considered unbeatable and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a sure frontrunner in general election that are months away.

The party lost power in three key states last December, handing Modi his biggest defeat since he took office in 2014 and boosting the Congress party opposition and its allies ahead of national polls due by May.

European Parliament Elections – May

With the European Union (EU) heading toward Brexit, voters in 28 member states will elect members of the European Parliament (EP) over four days.

A critical question is how many Europeans will vote. Some 500 million EU citizens are eligible, but turnout has averaged less than 50 percent since 1999. And because the United Kingdom is (presumably) leaving the EU in March, the EP will have fewer seats in 2019, 705 instead of 751.

The EP has been around since 1952, though it remains the perhaps the weakest of the EU’s institutions. But it does have the ultimate say in selecting the new president of the European Commission, the EU’s real powerhouse.

South African General Elections, between May and June

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) will face its biggest challenge since it took power in South Africa’s first free elections a quarter of a century ago.

The general election is likely in May or June. South Africans will elect the National Assembly and provincial legislatures. In December 2017, Cyril Ramaphosa, 66, won a close-run internal party election. Three months later, he ousted Jacob Zuma to take power as president of the country.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s long stint in office under his predecessor Jacob Zuma, and his failure to enact dramatic reform since taking power, leaves him and the ANC vulnerable to the charge from opposition parties that nothing has changed from the bad days before.

With record-high unemployment and corruption allegations continuing to dog the ruling ANC, opposition parties will seek to build on gains made in local elections in 2016.

Afghanistan Presidential Election – July

After weeks of disarray and mixed signals, Afghan officials announced December 30 that the country’s presidential election, scheduled for April 20, will be delayed by three months to ensure the polls are better organized than the chaotic parliamentary elections held in October.

Last October’s parliamentary elections were hampered by technical glitches and Taliban attacks. More than 100 people were killed while trying to cast their votes.  But the reasons for the postponement went far beyond the technical glitches and insurgent attacks that marred the parliamentary poll.


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