2024 will go down as one of the most politically important years in history. More than 60 countries will hold national elections representing half of the world’s population.
Here is a look at six of the year’s most important elections.
The U.S. presidential election looks to be a rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. The two front-runners have very different opinions on America’s place in the world. The results in November’s race may decide how tough the U.S. will be on China, Russia and other international rivals.
Joseph S. Nye Jr. is the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense. He told VOA that Trump’s “America First” position is attempting to bring isolationism back in foreign policy. That could leave U.S. allies in a difficult position as tensions rise between Taiwan and China, and as the Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas wars continue.
"On Russia," Nye said, "[Trump] is likely to be more favorable to Putin. That means pressure to reduce support for Ukraine is very likely."
As president, Biden has sent military aid packages to Ukraine and Israel, even as he faces opposition from both parties.
Biden is currently behind Trump in the polls in a possible rematch.
Taiwan will hold its general elections on January 13. Although small in size, Taiwan has a big influence over the world economy. More than 70 percent of the world’s semiconductors and about 90 percent of all advanced microchips are made by Taiwanese companies. The question of Taiwan’s independence from China is at the center of conflict between the United States and China going into 2024.
President Tsai Ing-wen is term-limited and will not be running in January. She has warned the public that China is spreading disinformation online to take votes away from the leading presidential candidate, Lai Ching-te. Lai is the current vice president. He has angered China over past comments related to Taiwan’s sovereignty. Lai’s main opponents are taking a softer approach to China.
Some experts worry that tensions between China and Taiwan could worsen if Lai wins the presidency.
Russia will hold its presidential election in March. Following its invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago, Russia has become the most sanctioned country in the world. The sanctions have harmed its economy and driven Russia closer to China.
Experts do not expect Russian President Vladimir Putin to lose in 2024. His top political rivals are jailed, exiled, missing or dead.
If Putin wins another six years, Russia will continue "the same brutal agenda in Ukraine and increasingly autocratic policies at home," said Sergey Radchenko. He is a professor of Soviet history at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Experts say the level of success Putin sees in his war with Ukraine may depend on who wins the U.S. presidential election.
The European Union is heading for elections in June. Anti-immigration leaders with soft positions on Russia and China are set to push the European Parliament to the right. The Parliament, though, plays only a supervisory role in the EU.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has yet to announce whether she is running for reelection. She has shown strong support to Ukraine and has pressed President Xi Jinping to address China’s large trade imbalance with Europe.
If reelected, von der Leyen would serve as an equalizing force in an increasingly populist European Union. She would work to balance the often-conflicting interests of different member nations with her goal of containing Russia.
The election results will decide is how much pushback von der Leyen’s pro-Ukraine agenda will face from incoming right-wing European lawmakers. That is especially important as Ukraine gets closer to becoming an EU member nation.
India holds its general elections this spring. Critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling BJP party say the country’s religious minorities are facing widespread persecution, or unfair treatment. Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda has gained popularity. Violence against Sikh and Muslim Indians has become increasingly common.
Modi’s government stands accused of killing a Sikh expatriate in Canada last summer and a failed plot to kill a Sikh activist living in New York City in November. Those incidents have affected India’s diplomatic ties with the West.
Modi has a very high approval rating among Indian voters and appears likely to earn a third five-year term. If he wins, Modi is expected to build on the relationships he has made with both Trump and Biden during his time as prime minister.
South Africa’s ruling party is at its weakest point since it came to power in 1994. The African National Congress (ANC) is at risk of losing its majority in the legislature. To stay in power, the ANC will likely be forced to form a coalition with other parties.
South Africa is the most industrialized nation in Africa. But with a one-third unemployment rate and power shortages across the nation, some young South Africans are turning away from the ANC.
Still, it is likely that the ANC will stay in charge for the next five years, said Daniel Silke. He is a South African political expert.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) is the largest opposition party. If the DA wins an unlikely victory, there would be “improvement in relations between South Africa and the West," Silke said.
Silke said the ANC remaining in power could make way for an even stronger connection between South Africa and China.
I’m Jill Robbins.
And I'm Dan Novak.
Gabriel Levy wrote this story for Voice of America. Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
isolation — n. the state of being in a place or situation that is separate from others
semiconductor — n. a material or object that allows some electricity or heat to move through it and that is used especially in electronic devices
sovereignty — n. unlimited power over a country
approach — n. a way of dealing with something
sanction — n. an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country, etc.
brutal — adj. extremely cruel or harsh
autocratic — adj. a person who rules with total power
role — n. a part that someone or something has in a particular activity or situation
populist — n. of or relating to a political party that claims to represent ordinary people
persecute — v. to treat cruelly or unfairly especially because of race or religious or political beliefs
expatriate — n. a person who lives in a foreign country