8 elections to watch in 2015

by Sam Wyatt, a student of International Relations at the department of War Studies at King’s College London. Proud Welshman; Election Centre Editor.

8. South Sudan

Now this may seem like an odd one to make the list, however, the turmoil within the country since its inception in 2011 makes this a very interesting one to watch. The civil war which ravaged the country since late 2013 makes it uncertain as to whether a vote will go ahead in the world’s newest country. If a vote does go ahead one can expect a tight contest between the two factions – those loyal to the President Salva Kiir, and those who have pledged their support to his former understudy Riek Machar. This vote could decide the future of this young and anguished nation.

7. Turkey

The Turkish Election will generally go unannounced in mainstream media, as it is almost certain that the Justice and Development Party will get a 4th consecutive term in office as their polling is so much higher than their nearest competitors the Republican Peoples Party. However, the reason this makes the list is not down to competition but the possibilities if the Justice and Development Party increase their mandate. If they poll 330 seats (they are currently on 312) they can create constitutional change through a referendum and if they gain 367 they can legally bypass the referendum completely. To have this party, which previously was labelled as having tendencies towards Islamism able to directly alter the constitution would be a very scary situation indeed! But we shall have to wait and see.

6. Denmark

The Danish election, scheduled for the 14th September 2015, will never reach the tense heights achieved on Danish TV’s most acclaimed political drama ‘Borgen’. However, we at IR today expect a few surprises along the way! The minority government of Social Democrats, Social Liberal Party and Socialist People’s Party has surprisingly lasted the full 4 years of their government despite not holding a majority of seats in Parliament. There has been a few problems recently though as they lost formal backing from the Socialist People’s Party over the sale of shares in public energy company DONG (though they still pass through the majority of bills). The incumbent grouping, headed by Helle Thorning-Schmit (who coincidently is the daughter-in-law of Neil Kinnock) are threatened by a strong push by the conservative camps with current polls placing the combined polling of the ‘reds’ (the left) on 48% and the ‘blues’ (the right) on 52%. If this polling is correct this might be one of the tensest races of the year.

5. Argentina

The Argentine president has been plagued with controversy recently, from the racist jibes towards the Chinese to accusations that she shielded Iranians over 1994 bombings in the country, there has been a media frenzy over her character. She however, does not care, having already run 2 successful campaigns the President of Argentina is unable to run in the forthcoming election, but her actions cast doubt over whether her successor (who is yet to be announced) will be able to continue the party’s 12 years of controlling the Presidential seat. Since its inception in 2003 no party other than Front for Victory have held the position and indications suggest that this trend will continue allowing the Kirchnerist party to retain power. However, if the inquest into Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner leads anything the party’s reputation could be severely damaged.

4. Israel

Ah Israel, just a short walk around KCL campus on the day of writing shows you how ferociously divided the world is when it comes to opinions on this small nation. Consequently, the result of the upcoming Knesset result is of great interest. With just 8 seats separating the 6 largest parties who knows who will end up in power. The electoral pact between the Labour Party and Hatnuah to form the Zionist Union makes the election more interesting with both Zionist Union and Likud (Netanyahu’s party) are expected to gain seats around the 23/24 mark. Both will aspire to form loose coalitions with respective partners but this task appears to be significantly easier for Bibi who is more likely to gain the support of the predicted 3rd largest party A Jewish Home due to his more hard-line stance on Iran. If the Zionist Union does manage to gain a narrow victory though, one can suspect it to be because of their hopeful economic policy which will move the country in a more socialist direction.

3. Spain

The rise of Podemos, which translates literally into ‘We Can’ in English adds a unique dynamic to what would otherwise be an uneventful election. Podemos, much like their counterparts Syriza in Greece, have in the space of two years have risen from obscurity to be fighting on the frontline of the political battle. This phenomenal rise of the left has provided a fresh challenge to the incumbent People’s Party and has opened the doors to a very unpredictable election. Current polls have this radical party at just a few percentage points below the People’s Party and well ahead of the next nearest rival The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party. Spectators have argued that this is because they epitomise something that is becoming a sign of the times in southern Europe, a party of hope and optimism. Can their momentum continue up until the election or will they fade into the backdrop as so many have in recent years? Who knows…

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2. Nigeria
The Nigerian election, originally scheduled for Valentine ’s Day, has been postponed because of the constant threat from Boko Haram who plague the country’s North East. However, when this election does go ahead in March it will be an interesting one to watch. Goodluck Jonathan’s government have been under increasing pressure politically because of failure to isolate the threat from Boko Haram and falling oil prices have harmed the country’s economy, so much so that even an 8% devaluation of the naira cannot fix the economic woes. The main challenge to the ruling party comes from Muhammadu Buhari, a former head of state who hails from the Muslim North-Eastern region of the country, who has gained significant ground on the incumbent in recent months. With the insurgency of Boko Haram looming over this election it could be a tumultuous time.
1. UK
So the UK General Election scheduled for May 7th nabs my top spot, and it is true that I may just be showing my bias as a British student (I am so excited). However I think there are many reasons why the UK is deserving of the top spot. Firstly, the political field, in the space of just one electoral cycle, has grown tremendously and we are effectively now in the era of 6 party politics. Though only Labour and the Conservatives could ever lead a coalition (which most opinion polls are suggesting will be the end result of this election) it has been argued that the rise of UKIP on the right and the Greens on the left will leave both open to losing significant votes to their more radical counterparts. When this is combined with the relative decline of the traditional party of the centre (the Lib Dems) and a realisation of nationalist sentiment in Scotland leading to a surge of support for the SNP we are left with what promises to be the most open election yet. The result of this election will also definitely effect the world of IR, a strong showing for UKIP leading to a Tory-UKIP coalition may bring about the much feared (by this author anyway) BREXIT that would change the dynamics of Europe. Also, as Britain is one of the major players on the financial scene, economic policy acted upon by the victors will have significant effects on world economy. For example in the hypothetical situation that the Greens win, though I am confident they won’t, Britain will pursue a policy of 0% or negative growth effectively ending their position as a major world player.
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