In the United States, where campaigns are temporally unbounded and election season seems constant, politicians and observers alike are already fixated on the 2022 midterm legislative elections, to be held in November of next year. And while the midterms can seriously endanger U.S. President Joe Biden’s agenda, particularly as he confronts record-low approval ratings and a democratic system on the precipice, they cannot remove him from office. That’s not to say they are unimportant: There are significant potential foreign-policy implications of a changed Congress. But, at least next year, U.S. politics will not enjoy a dramatic sea change in executive leadership.
The rest of the world, however, is a different story. From Colombia to Bosnia and Herzegovina to South Korea, 2022 is stacked with presidential and parliamentary elections that could fundamentally reshape their respective countries’ political systems—and destinies. And that’s not even counting what will be the world’s biggest election: not a national contest but legislative elections in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, whose some 200 million residents will decide whether the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party stays in power there for another five years.
Although each country’s context is unique, the stakes of each election follow remarkably similar trends.
In some countries, such as Brazil, Hungary, and the Philippines, voters will decide whether to grant Trumpian autocrats and their parties another term in office; in France, which narrowly avoided electing such a leader in 2017, 2022 may prove to be the year of a right-wing resurgence. Other elections, such as those in Costa Rica, South Korea, Colombia, and Kenya, feature incumbent presidents ineligible for reelection giving way to suspenseful races of extremes—though all candidates in these races will face the hurdle of a two-round runoff election. In Portugal, Australia, and Sweden, minority governments facing budgetary woes are gambling on elections to strengthen their coalitions. And in places such as Mali, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Tunisia—which have each witnessed significant backsliding in the past year—elections will determine whether democratic institutions can live another day.
Here are Foreign Policy’s 14 presidential and parliamentary elections to watch in 2022—one for each month of the year, plus two for good measure.
Portugal Jan. 30
Portugal’s election next year wasn’t supposed to happen. The Iberian country holds regularly scheduled parliamentary elections every four years. The last was in 2019, and the next was set for 2023. But things veered off course in late October, when parliament rejected the minority Socialist government’s proposed 2022 budget—the first time the body has vetoed such a measure since Portugal’s 1974 transition to democracy.
In early November, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa announced his country would hold snap parliamentary elections on Jan. 30, 2022. Then, on Dec. 5, he dissolved parliament. Portugal requires a minimum of 55 days between suspension of the body and a nationwide vote, and a month of campaigning is set to begin after New Year’s Day.
The political impasse represents a severe blow to the Socialist Party and Prime Minister António Costa, who has governed Portugal in stable minority governments since 2015. It also shows how attempted moderation can backfire. To pass legislation, the Socialists had relied on support from parties on the far-left flank: the Left Bloc and Communists. But this time, those factions joined the traditional, right-leaning opposition in blocking the Socialist budget, albeit for very different reasons.
The 2022 budget was seen as a pandemic recovery package, and the far-left took issue with proposed income tax cuts and a 1.1 percent reduction in Portugal’s deficit. The Left Bloc and Communists had advocated for increased public spending to fight poverty, bolster Portugal’s health care system, and improve labor conditions.
The Socialists had attempted to chart a middle course forward in order to minimize the country’s public debt burden. Though Portugal under Costa has arguably become a poster child of economic recovery—spurred largely by increased government spending—the memory of painful austerity measures and international bailouts suffered by southern European countries in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis continues to haunt economic policymaking and the general public.
This time around, austerity may no longer be at play, but Portugal’s pandemic recovery is nonetheless dependent on whether it can get its own house in order. Under the European Union’s COVID-19 recovery fund, Next Generation EU, the country is entitled to 13.9 billion euros ($15.67 billion) in grants and 2.7 billion euros ($3.04 billion) in loans from Brussels, disbursed over many months in more manageable, small chunks. Without a budget, however, that money is going nowhere.
January’s election may prove to be anti-climactic. Early polling shows the incumbent Socialists leading their main rival, the center-right Social Democrats. The question, then, seems to be less which party emerges with a plurality of the votes and more whether it can craft a governing coalition that actually gets things done. Full List
Costa Rica Feb. 6
When Xiomara Castro was named the victor in Honduras’s Nov. 28 presidential election—a contest far freer and fairer than most observers anticipated—her husband, former President Manuel Zelaya, remarked that “this is like Costa Rica,” alluding to that country’s famous stability.
Costa Rica’s own election, scheduled for Feb. 6, 2022, will decide that comparison’s merit. The small Central American country is set to elect a president, two vice presidents, and all 57 seats in the legislature, as it does every four years. Incumbent President Carlos Alvarado Quesada of the center-left Citizens’ Action Party (CAP) is constitutionally barred from seeking a subsequent term in office, though he is permitted to run again later in his career.
Under Alvarado Quesada, Costa Rica became the first country in Central America to legalize same-sex marriage. The president also has groundbreaking climate ambitions. But the pandemic has taken a toll on Costa Rica’s economy, in particular its tourism sector, which has caused approval of Alvarado Quesada and the CAP to dip. Most Costa Ricans list the economic pitfalls of the pandemic—unemployment and rising costs of living—as their main election issues. Many are also concerned about an uptick in migration from Haiti.
A whopping 27 candidates are vying to succeed Alvarado Quesada in office. To win, a candidate must receive at least 40 percent of the vote on Feb. 6, 2022. If none achieve that benchmark, the top two finishers will proceed to a runoff on April 3, 2022.
As of early December, only four candidates are polling above 7 percent, according to Americas Quarterly. They include right-wing nationalist and evangelical Christian singer Fabricio Alvarado of the National Restoration Party (PRN), who lost to Quesada in 2018’s runoff election; former President José María Figueres of the center-left National Liberation Party (PLN); former Vice President Lineth Saborío of the center-right Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC); and legislator José María Villalta of the leftist Broad Front.
Missing from that list is the candidate nominated by Alvarado Quesada’s CAP: Welmer Ramos. Although a lot can change in a few months on the campaign trail, the contest at present looks to be between traditional kingmakers PLN and PUSC—a wrestling match that risks empowering extremes on the right and left. In cases like this, the two-round voting system can be critical in encouraging moderation: In 2018, PRN’s Alvarado earned a plurality of votes in the first round—only to be quelled decisively by Alvarado Quesada in the second. Full List
Mali Feb. 27
Mali has tentatively scheduled presidential and legislative elections for late February. Although the country officially transitioned to democracy from authoritarian rule in 1991, it has always been a fragile state—located in what is known as West Africa’s “coup belt.” The past decade has left Mali especially fragile. In 2021, Freedom House demoted the country from 2020’s “partly free” to “not free.”
In late May, Mali suffered its second coup in nine months. Although both power grabs were led by the same man, Col. Assimi Goïta, they have been greeted very differently domestically, with the latter representing somewhat of a coup-within-a-coup.
Just months after an April 2020 legislative election marred by allegations of irregularities, an August 2020 coup toppled unpopular then-President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. A transitional president, Bah Ndaw, was installed, along with a prime minister, Moctar Ouane, to manage the country until presidential elections could be held 18 months later, in February 2022.
But the more recent May coup removed Ndaw and Ouane in what was widely believed to have been a reaction to planned democratic reforms and cabinet reassignments the military felt would weaken its position opposite civilian leadership. Now, Goïta himself has taken up the role of president in the interim.
Little is known about who will run in February—or whether the elections will even occur as planned. In October, Malian authorities told the United Nations they would confirm the election date after consultations in December. Come December, however, the consultations in question had been postponed; Mali’s government now claims it will release an election road map by Jan. 31, 2022. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said on Dec. 12 that it would impose sanctions on Mali if the country did not make “concrete progress” by the end of December toward preparing for elections as planned. Mali has already been suspended from the bloc.
If and when Malians do vote, they will elect a new president to a five-year term. Like its former colonizer, France, Mali has a two-round voting system, wherein candidates proceed to a runoff if no one earns a simple majority in the first round. Legislative seats are elected from closed-party lists and are also subject to the two-round rule.
But, of course, all this assumes the elections are free and fair, which is doubtful.
Whatever happens, Malian electoral politics in their current form will do little to ease instability in the country, whose chronic political dysfunction comes from the intersection of terrorist insurgencies, neocolonial paternalism, and climate change. Full List
South Korea March 9
The dystopian South Korean TV thriller Squid Game—Netflix’s most-streamed series of all time—is not just good entertainment. As FP’s Robbie Gramer, Jack Detsch, and Amy Mackinnon reported in October, a U.S. State Department diplomatic cable obtained by Foreign Policy hints the show has taken on outsized relevance ahead of South Korea’s presidential election next year.
“In the cable, officials indicated that the popular series … has resonated in the highly stratified country, especially as politicians from South Korea’s two main parties find themselves caught in scandals ahead of the 2022 race to replace President Moon Jae-in,” Gramer, Detsch, and Mackinnon wrote.
Moon, who was elected in 2017, is ineligible for a second five-year term in office. He came to power after the 2016 impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined $17 million following a corruption scandal. Moon announced plans to pardon Park on Dec. 24, and she is set to be released from prison on Dec. 31.
While Moon earned high marks for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic in its early months, his approval rating has waned over time. As of December, South Korea is experiencing a record-breaking COVID-19 outbreak.
A proponent of Korean reunification, Moon made headlines in April 2018 for his historic summit at the Korean Demilitarized Zone with North Korean premier Kim Jong Un, during which Kim became the first North Korean leader to cross into the South and Moon only the third South Korean leader to visit the North since the 1953 Korean War armistice. Moon subsequently held talks with Kim in Pyongyang in August 2018.
The inter-Korean thaw did wonders for Moon’s approval rating, which in 2018 soared to as high as 80 percent. That may be why even his partisan rivals have adopted a more conciliatory tone on their nuclear-armed neighbor to the north as next year’s election nears.
The leading two contenders vying to succeed Moon are Lee Jae-myung of Moon’s liberal Democratic Party and Yoon Seok-youl of the opposition People Power Party (PPP). The PPP is a relatively new grouping formed in 2020 after the merger of numerous preexisting conservative factions. Both Lee and Yoon face allegations of corruption. It is especially ironic for Yoon, who is a former prosecutor and was instrumental in Park’s conviction.
Among many other candidates from minor parties, notable names include Ahn Cheol-soo of the centrist People Party and Sim Sang-jung of the progressive Justice Party.
Lee, the governor of Gyeonggi province from July 2018 to October 2021, has listed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders among his political icons and is a proponent of a universal basic income. Yoon is far more fiscally conservative and pledges to abolish the minimum wage and maximum 52-hour work week—which he claims harm businesses—if elected. On foreign policy, the two are more similar, both vowing to continue talks with North Korea and provide it with humanitarian assistance. Yoon, however, is open to deploying U.S. nuclear warheads from South Korea if necessary—a measure Lee and his Democratic Party staunchly oppose.
Recent polling suggests Yoon may have the upper hand. In a Gallup Korea survey released in early November, 57 percent of respondents said they wanted to see the Democratic Party out of office, versus 33 percent who wanted the next president to be from the party. A mid-November poll, also by Gallup Korea, saw 42 percent of respondents express support for Yoon and 31 percent for Lee. Ahn and Sim received 7 and 5 percent, respectively.
South Korea’s young adults will be key to deciding the March 2022 election. Moon’s popularity has suffered in part due to high youth unemployment and rising costs of living. Between 2017 and 2021, Moon’s approval rating among South Koreans in their 20s slumped from 90 percent to 31 percent, according to Gallup Korea. Disappointed with his leadership, young people have powered the PPP’s rise in local elections—with overwhelming margins.
The PPP is particularly popular with young men, a phenomenon many attribute to the Democratic Party’s embrace of feminism. S. Nathan Park writes in Foreign Policy that young Korean men view female empowerment as a form of anti-male sexism in South Korea’s deeply meritocratic landscape.
Whether anti-feminist grievances can carry a national election is yet to be seen. But given the recent embrace of macho-conservatism in other established democracies, including the United States, it is far from impossible. Full List
France April 10
Many observers considered the 2017 French presidential election—which ended in a runoff between centrist outsider Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen—to be the epitome of a nail-biter, testing France’s republican principles in the face of rising populist currents just months after the United States elected Donald Trump president.
Not so fast, I say. 2022’s contest is poised to outdo it.
Le Pen, for one, no longer represents the country’s right-most flank. To be sure, she remains equally populist, anti-immigrant, and anti-European Union in her policy positions and rhetoric, despite a public relations rebrand of her party, which renamed itself the National Rally from the more militant-sounding National Front in an attempt to court moderate voters. But Le Pen is now rivaled in France’s right wing by Éric Zemmour, an inflammatory TV commentator who has received two convictions for hate speech.
Although he himself is the child of Algerian immigrants, Zemmour is a proponent of the Great Replacement theory, a white supremacist ideology that maintains people of color who immigrate to Europe will eventually replace white Europeans. He suggests banning Arabic names as partial recourse. When I attempted to watch his Nov. 30 campaign announcement on YouTube, the platform flagged it as “inappropriate for some users,” requiring my informed consent to continue.
In the 10-minute monologue, Zemmour sought to channel the posture of revered former French statesman Charles de Gaulle to stoke fears about non-white people in France—and Muslims in particular. B-roll of Black teenagers, women in hijabs, and occasional violent street altercations were set to somber music while Zemmour talked about “feeling foreign in your own country” and railed against what he called “Islamo-leftism.” Most startlingly, to images of Muslims praying on the streets of Paris, Zemmour said, “[political leaders] have hidden the reality of our replacement from you.”
Zemmour claims Macron “presented himself like a new guy but was really the synthesis of his two predecessors—and worse.” That’s a reference to disgraced former French Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande. Sarkozy, who served from 2007 to 2012 as a member of the precursor to the center-right Les Républicains party, was sentenced to prison earlier this year on corruption charges. Hollande, his Socialist successor from 2012 to 2017, is ranked as the most unpopular French president of all time.
Macron’s presidency has seemed stable by comparison, though the standard is admittedly very low. Like Sarkozy and Hollande, the incumbent president is also disliked domestically, but the mere fact that his reelection looks probable shows how his dull centrism has nevertheless come to represent a refuge from otherwise extreme forces in French politics.
A moderate candidate like Macron, who is the founder of the En Marche! movement, benefits from France’s two-round voting system, wherein the top two finishers proceed to a runoff should no candidate receive a simple majority in the first round. As of Dec. 5, 38 candidates from a hodgepodge of parties had declared their candidacy for the French presidency. A Dec. 8 poll conducted by Ipsos-Sopra Steria for Franceinfo and Le Parisien seeking to mimic the first round of voting saw 25 percent of likely voters opt for Macron, with Le Pen and Valérie Pécresse, the Les Républicains candidate, tied for second place at 16 percent each. Zemmour received 14 percent while various leftist candidates—including veteran Jean-Luc Mélenchon of La France Insoumise, Greens nominee Yannick Jadot, and Socialist Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo—earned 8, 7, and 5 percent, respectively.
Although a lot can change in the coming months, this survey presents two likely scenarios for the April 24, 2022, runoff. The first is that the Le Pen-Zemmour standoff fractures the far right, such that Macron proceeds against Pécresse, where she would have a good chance at victory. But Pécresse, who calls herself “1/3 Thatcher 2/3 Merkel,” does not yet have a decisive lead against the right wingers—making it perhaps more probable that Macron battles Le Pen or Zemmour, either of which would be a guaranteed bloodbath. In both these scenarios, initial supporters of leftist candidates would likely line up—reluctantly—behind Macron; in the latter, nearly all parties would support him over Le Pen or Zemmour.
It’s unclear whether Le Pen and Zemmour are capable of rallying around the other. Although their political aims are similar, they are known to despise each other on a personal level. Politico estimates that a formal alliance between the two could garner around a third of the French electorate. The idea has been floated by some political advisors ahead of the first round of voting on April 10, 2022, but both Le Pen and Zemmour appear reticent. France’s parliamentary election, also two rounds, will follow in June 2022.
Political trends in France—where the far right is rising quickly and effectively—are in stark contrast to those of its neighbor, Germany, where the far right is a diminishing threat. This year, Germany elected a center-left, pro-EU government that proudly boasts its racial, ethnic, and age diversity. By contrast, France has seen the decline of its traditional partisan strongholds accompanied by vicious culture wars about immigration, race, gender, sexuality, historical memory—particularly as it relates to the Algerian War—terrorism, and laïcité, the country’s unique brand of secularism. Economic frustrations also reached their peak during the so-called gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests of 2018, and Euroscepticism is on the rise. Now, with the pandemic, public health measures and vaccine hesitancy have joined the mix.
As president, Macron has, at times, sought to preempt far-right gains by adopting controversial measures like this year’s Islamist Separatism Bill, which many claim unfairly targets France’s 6 million Muslims and could criminalize innocuous behavior like wearing a hijab in the name of fighting terrorism. He has, however, remained steadfast to his neoliberal economic ideals and refused to budge on his unwavering support for the European project. France is set to assume the EU presidency on Jan. 1, 2022, for a period of six months.
It’s quite likely that next year’s election pushes Macron further to the right in an attempt to quell a Le Pen-Zemmour advance. The question, then, is how far is too far before he has sacrificed all of his principles to avoid catastrophe. At that point, it is only a question of time before a more explosive extreme takes over the French political scene—and wins. Full List
Hungary April or May, Date to Be Confirmed
In recent months, Hungary has become the latest fixation of the American far right. Fox News host Tucker Carlson traveled to the country in August and effusively praised Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, suggesting the United States should emulate the would-be autocrat’s draconian immigration policies and Christian ethno-nationalism. Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon has called Orban “the most significant guy on the scene right now.”
Orban will take all the praise he can get. Internationally, the Hungarian leader is otherwise reviled, and he has become a pariah within the EU, which Hungary joined in 2004.
Orban had a brief, uncontroversial tenure as prime minister from 1998 to 2002 before his party, Fidesz, was forced into the opposition for eight years. In 2010, Fidesz came back with a vengeance—and Orban has served as prime minister ever since, winning reelection in both 2014 and 2018. During that time, as Paul Hockenos writes in Foreign Policy, Orban has “ruled Hungary like a fiefdom.” Parliamentary elections in the spring of 2022 will decide whether he is demoted from lord to vassal.
The Hungarian prime minister proudly champions what he calls “illiberal democracy.” Overall, his track record is evidence of how a democratically elected leader can devolve their political system into autocracy through ostensibly legal means.
In 2011, Fidesz introduced a new constitution that weakened checks and balances, judicial independence, and human rights protections. Since then, Orban has clamped down on journalists and nongovernmental organizations while expanding government control of the media. During the 2015 migrant crisis, Orban decried what he called a “Muslim invasion” and grievously defied EU burden-sharing immigration agreements, instead building a razor wire-topped fence along Hungary’s borders with Serbia and Croatia.
Orban’s relationship with Brussels has, at times, been called “à la carte”: Hungary is dependent on the EU’s finances but refuses the requisite cultural, political, and ideological buy-in. Of course, because Hungary joined the bloc when it was still a flourishing democracy, disciplining the country for its democratic erosion decades later is easier said than done. For years, EU leaders have sought to trigger Article 7—a never-before-invoked reprisal—against Hungary. But the measure requires unanimous consent among member states, and Budapest has cultivated a reliable ally in Warsaw, which is also often subject to EU scrutiny.
Fidesz was long part of the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) in the European Parliament, but the EPP suspended Fidesz from its caucus in March 2019, citing concerns about the rule of law. Fidesz officially withdrew from the EPP in March of this year. The European Commission has also sought to condition Hungary and Poland’s receipt of EU funds on rule of law provisions, but the two countries have brought cases on the matter before the European Court of Justice, which will have the final say.
In the meantime, Hungary continues to regress. Central European University, a highly regarded private institution founded by Hungarian American billionaire and philanthropist George Soros in Budapest in 1991, was forced to relocate to Vienna in 2019 after Orban’s government revoked its accreditation. The move was undoubtedly part of Orban’s personal and antisemitic vendetta against Soros, whom he accuses of sowing a conspiracy to destroy Europe through mass immigration. Then, over the summer, Hungary passed a restrictive anti-LGBTQ+ law that prohibits the media from displaying representations of homosexuality or non-cisgenderism to anyone under age 18.
But Orban might want to watch his back. A big-tent coalition of opposition leaders fed up with the prime minister joined forces in 2020 in an attempt to oust him come 2022. In October, they selected Peter Marki-Zay, the mayor of Hodmezovasarhely, to lead the United Opposition political alliance. The United Opposition includes left-wingers, conservatives, and everyone in between—united less by political ideology than anti-Orbanism. (Marki-Zay, for his part, identifies as conservative.)
Although an exact date has not yet been set for what is teeing up to be a referendum on the incumbent prime minister, it is expected to be held in April or May of 2022. As of December, Fidesz and the United Opposition are polling neck and neck, according to Politico. However, Hungary operates under a mixed-member proportional voting system like Germany—where voters elect a direct candidate and vote for a party list—so national party polling averages in Hungary do not always reflect ultimate party representation in the country’s 386-seat parliament.
Still, at this rate—with both Fidesz and the United Opposition hovering just under the 50 percent mark—Fidesz surely won’t win the overwhelming majority it did in 2018. In 2019 local elections, opposition parties were able to make surprising inroads in Fidesz districts. It’s unclear whether they have the momentum to force Orban and his political machine to finally bid adieu on the national (and international) stage next year. But even if the United Opposition falls short, it will likely find solace in being able to make Orban’s life just a little bit harder. Full List
Australia By May 21
Three key rules define parliamentary elections Down Under. First, they must take place a minimum of every three years. Second, the prime minister must call the election at least 33 days in advance to allow for a month of campaigning. And third, election day is always a Saturday.
Australia’s last parliamentary elections, which brought Liberal Party Prime Minister Scott Morrison to power, were held on May 18, 2019. That means the deadline for the next vote is May 21, 2022. By mid-November, with Morrison mum, Australians knew they were headed for an election in 2022. But they still don’t know when exactly it will take place.
The Australian internet is rife with speculation about when Morrison will make an announcement. A fair deal of political calculation may be involved in his decision-making. Morrison is wildly unpopular and likely faces a tough reelection battle against Anthony Albanese of the opposing Labor Party. In the latest poll conducted by the Australian, the Labor Party has a six-point lead over Morrison’s Liberal coalition. But when asked specifically who would make a better prime minister, respondents opted for Morrison over Albanese, with the two candidates receiving 45 and 36 percent, respectively—19 percent said they were still undecided.
Whenever the elections are held, Australians will elect all 151 seats of the House of Representatives and 40 of 76 seats in the Senate. Some observers have said Morrison—if desperate to improve his poll numbers—could call a “half election” for the Senate in May and hold off House elections until September.
Morrison’s tenure has, in many ways, been marked by an unending series of crises. First, there were the monstrous 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, when Australia took the controversial step of shutting down its international (and sometimes interprovincial) borders. Earlier this year, Morrison made headlines for his tough stance on China and a diplomatic row with France after the United States and the United Kingdom announced they would arm Australia with nuclear submarines as part of the newly formed AUKUS alliance. Now, Morrison’s parliament is facing accusations of rampant sexism. According to a November Guardian poll, 47 percent of respondents agreed that “Morrison’s behaviour has ‘undermined’ Australia’s reputation on the world stage.”
But no issue has done more damage to Morrison’s approval rating than his climate change policies (or, as some might argue, the lack thereof). Australia is, as Kate Mackenzie argues in Foreign Policy, a “climate laggard” despite its delicate ecosystems being “uniquely vulnerable in a warming world.” Morrison’s approval rating has hit absolute lows on two occasions: now and in March 2020, following the Black Summer bushfires.
Australia is one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers, and Morrison is close to the industry. Prior to the U.N. climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, known as COP26, he released a plan to get Australia to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, though critics decry it as too little, too late. At COP26 itself, Morrison refused to sign onto a global compact promising a 30 percent curb on methane emissions by 2030 and sidestepped making Australia’s own 2030 emissions targets more ambitious. He then assured Australians that the country’s domestic coal industry will be active “for decades to come.”
Most Australian voters, however, recognize the urgency of climate action, according to extensive 2021 polling by the Lowy Institute. In a direct affront to Morrison’s affinity for fossil fuels, an overwhelming majority also support a ban on coal mines in their country.
But can climate change drive electoral change? Although climate is a hot-button issue, it is one of only many reasons Australians will flock to the polls when Morrison picks an election day. According to a Guardian poll, voters trust the Liberal coalition far more on issues of economics and national security than they do the Labor Party. And while Labor wins on nearly everything else—including on the increasingly contentious issues of health and child care—the party may have to vie for support against the Greens, who will not win a plurality but can still disrupt election results. Full List
Philippines May 9
For Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, 2021 Nobel laureate Maria Ressa is public enemy No. 1. The journalist and CEO of Rappler built her career exposing Duterte’s widely condemned war on drugs, becoming the focal point of his attempt to clamp down on freedoms of expression and dissidents. Even with a Nobel Peace Prize in hand, Ressa faces an array of dubious charges, including fraud and tax evasion.
Duterte was elected president in 2016, one of the many nationalist leaders to capitalize on that year’s global populist wave. As mayor of Davao City, Duterte had become infamous for his brutal clampdown on drug-related crime, a regime he promised to extend nationwide. (Residents referred to him as “the Punisher.”) So it comes as no surprise that, throughout his subsequent six-year term as president, Duterte’s policies and rhetoric have provoked immense controversy, both at home and around the world.
According to Philippine government statistics, the police have killed more than 6,100 alleged drug dealers since mid-2016, but activists and the United Nations estimate the real figure could be many multiples of that. Abuses are reported to be so severe that the International Criminal Court (ICC) launched an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Duterte government, both as president and mayor of Davao City, though it was recently suspended for reasons that remain unclear.
The ICC generally only intervenes in cases when it feels domestic efforts at justice have been insufficient, emblematic of the democratic erosion that occurred under Duterte. Since his inauguration, the Philippine president has radically reshaped his country’s judiciary, stacking the Supreme Court with loyalists. He has also ruled under a declared state of emergency—and the greater powers it grants him—since September 2016. The measure was expanded during the coronavirus pandemic, granting Duterte more authority. According to Human Rights Watch, human rights violations in the Philippines have worsened during this time.
Although he was known for his effusive relationship with Trump, Duterte initially made inroads with China during his presidency, a development that concerned many U.S. officials. Now, it seems he may be changing course, chiefly due to tensions in the South China Sea. His invitation to U.S. President Joe Biden’s recent Summit for Democracy despite his dubious record may have also been an attempt to rein him back in toward Washington.
Duterte is barred by the Philippines’ 1987 post-dictatorship constitution from running for reelection on May 9, 2022, when his six-year term elapses and Filipinos elect a new president, vice president, members of both houses of Congress, and local officials. But the race is nevertheless marked by Duterte’s presence. After initially saying he would rather retire than be vice president, Duterte announced he would run for Senate just two days after his daughter and current mayor of Davao City, Sara Duterte-Carpio, filed her candidacy for vice president. Duterte then withdrew from the Senate race abruptly on Dec. 14.
This back and forth accompanies months of speculation that Duterte might run for vice president with Duterte-Carpio seeking the presidency in an attempt to solidify the Duterte legacy and shield him from possible future prosecution.
Campaigning ahead of the contest doesn’t officially begin until February, but almost 100 candidates have already registered to run for president. They include Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who has earned the nomination of the Federalist Party (PFP), which formed during Duterte’s presidency to support his agenda. (Duterte himself is a member of the PDP-Laban party.) Although the president and vice president are elected separately in the Philippines, Duterte-Cabrio (also a member of PFP) has endorsed Marcos Jr. as if the two were running on a ticket. It is yet unclear whether Duterte will support him after Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, his hand-picked successor, dropped out alongside Duterte on Dec. 14.
Other notable candidates include Liberal Party Vice President Leni Robredo, a former Duterte cabinet member turned critic; Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, the progressive mayor of Manila, who secured the Aksyon party’s nomination; and champion boxer Manny Pacquiao of the PDP. Polling conducted by the Manila Times from late October and early November puts Marcos Jr. with an overwhelming lead, receiving some 68 percent of votes to Robredo’s 10.8 percent, Domagoso’s 7.9 percent, and Pacquiao’s 7.2 percent.
Such a margin is notable for its size alone, but especially given the Philippines’s first-past-the-post electoral system, which does not require a presidential candidate to obtain a majority to win. In 2016, Duterte won the presidency with just 39 percent of the national vote.
Regardless of who scores that victory this time around, it seems near certain that Duterte will continue to make his name known in Philippine politics through the democratic institutions he dismembered. And with a Marcos Jr. presidency likely at this point, the Philippine government is poised to continue its trajectory toward autocracy. It will be left to journalists like Ressa to hold the government accountable. Full List
Colombia May 29
Colombian President Iván Duque, the first Colombian head of state to take office since a 2016 peace deal ended the country’s half-century-long civil war with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, is poised to take a bow next August after presidential elections in May. Under Colombia’s constitution, Duque is ineligible for a second four-year term.
As a senator, Duque was opposed to the deal enacted by his predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, and pledged to modify it during the 2018 presidential election that brought him to power. While he has boasted of high-profile drug captures, Duque’s general disinvestment in the peace accords since taking office—particularly in their implementation in rural areas—has left its mark through a resurgence of crime, homicides, and armed violence. The pandemic also hasn’t helped.
In addition to his neglect of the peace accords, Duque’s government has been accused of sanctioning brutal police violence against protesters. And while Colombia’s economic growth rates have recovered to pre-pandemic levels, prolonged shutdowns nevertheless aggravated income inequality, government debt, and a labor market already suffering from low productivity. Many Colombians are also concerned about an influx of migrants from Venezuela.
With this social upheaval as a backdrop, over 60 candidates are vying to succeed Duque, but as of October, only four were polling at or above 4 percent, according to Americas Quarterly. Notably, Sen. María Fernanda Cabal, the candidate fielded by Duque’s party—whose name, Democratic Center, is not at all reflective of its conservative, right-wing ideology—is not among them. According to Bloomberg, Duque in October faced a disapproval rating of more than 77 percent.
Leading the race are four men: the former governor of Antioquia and three-time presidential candidate Sergio Fajardo of the centrist Citizens’ Commitment party; former Sen. Juan Manuel Galán of the centrist New Liberalism party; a former mayor of Bucaramanga, Rodolfo Hernández, who is running as an independent on an anti-corruption platform many see as borderline right-wing; and Sen. Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla, of the leftist-progressive Humane Colombia.
Petro has a wide lead in the polls. In the October Semana survey cited by Americas Quarterly, the controversial socialist senator earned 19.7 percent, with Fajardo in second place at 5.8 percent. Hernández, Galán, and Cabal followed with 4.6, 4.2, and 3.2 percent, respectively.
But winning the Colombian presidency isn’t as easy as earning a plurality of the country’s hearts and minds. In fact, writing in Global Americans, Juan Diego Ávila and Sergio Guzmán of Colombia Risk Analysis argue polling at this stage should be totally discounted. Though the durability of candidates’ campaign strategies over the next five months is certainly questionable, a larger factor in this uncertainty is procedural.
Here, March 13, 2022, will be pivotal. Two and a half months before the presidential vote, like-minded parties form coalitions in interparty consultations—or primaries for big-tent alliances. There are expected to be three major coalitions heading into the May election—left, right, and center. Each will field a presidential ticket. Also on March 13, Colombians vote in parliamentary elections for the House of Representatives and Senate. Though the vast majority of these seats are elected via proportional representation, there are distinct quota seats for Afro-Colombians, Indigenous Colombians, expatriate Colombians, and the FARC. The results of this vote will be an important litmus test for each inter-party coalition as they begin their campaigns.
Come May 29, 2022, if no ticket receives a majority, they will proceed to a runoff on June 19, 2022. In 2018, this format ended in a contest between Duque and Petro, with Fajardo just missing out. Whether Petro can get this far once again—and, indeed, even have a shot at victory—is still a big if. Perhaps paradoxically, the country’s social strife has led to a rush to the center, particularly among younger voters. Once centrist candidates perform as a coordinated list, they may be able to overpower Petro’s leftist coalition. Full List
Kenya Aug. 9
A Kenyan general election will be held on Aug. 9, 2022. Per Kenya’s constitution, elections for president and parliament must be held on the second Tuesday in August every five years.
Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, currently in his second five-year term, is ineligible for reelection. This has opened the field to candidates new and old in the race to succeed him. The best-known of them is Raila Odinga, who has run—and lost—in four previous presidential elections. In August 2017, he competed against Kenyatta in a heavily contested vote marred by violence. After Odinga appealed the results to Kenya’s Supreme Court, a new election was scheduled for that October, but Odinga withdrew, handing Kenyatta an overwhelming victory.
In 2018, Odinga and Kenyatta shocked the world when they announced a truce, lining up together behind a proposed constitutional amendment that was ultimately struck down by Kenya’s Supreme Court. Among other measures, the amendment would have recreated the post of prime minister, which Odinga held when it briefly existed between 2008 and 2013.
Though Odinga leads Kenya’s center-left Orange Democratic Movement, most analysts expect Kenyatta, of the conservative Jubilee Party, to throw his support behind his formal rival. That’s because of a falling out between Kenyatta and his deputy prime minister, William Ruto, who has left the Jubilee Party to found a new party, the United Democratic Alliance, and filed to run as its presidential candidate next year.
Most Kenyan general elections in recent memory have precipitated a degree of strife, if not lethal violence. The ICC is currently investigating alleged crimes against humanity perpetrated in the aftermath of the 2007 elections. And the 2017 saga has led many to doubt the electoral commission’s credibility and independence ahead of next year’s vote. Ethnic tensions in particular can be a driving force in Kenya: The country has 44 recognized tribes, but all of its presidents since independence from British colonial rule in 1963 have been members of either the Kikuyu tribe or the Kalenjin tribe. Odinga, of the Luo tribe, would break that barrier.
Early polling by TIFA Research shows Ruto earning the support of 38 percent of likely voters, a decisive lead over Odinga at 23 percent. However, some 35 percent are either undecided or unwilling to reveal their opinions to pollsters. Though numerous candidates of smaller parties are also running for president, they are not seen as having a real shot at winning office.
Kenya has a two-round voting system, wherein presidential candidates proceed to a runoff within the month if none achieve a simple majority overall and at least 25 percent of the vote in more than half of the country’s counties in the first round. In its bicameral legislature, most seats are directly elected, though there are designated nominated seats for women, people with disabilities, and young people, among others.
Kenya remains a key U.S. ally in East Africa as the region descends further into chaos. Despite ample controversy and allegations of corruption—including being implicated in the recent Pandora Papers leak—Kenyatta has been a leading figure in mediation attempts to end Ethiopia’s civil war. As the election nears, there are increased fears the conflict could spill over into Kenya and lead to a renewed refugee crisis. Voters will decide whether Odinga or Ruto is best positioned to take it on—that is, if Kenya itself can emerge unscathed from what promises to be another contentious election. Full List
Sweden Sept. 11
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson made headlines in November for two reasons. Notably, she became the Nordic country’s first ever female head of government after her predecessor, Stefan Lofven, stepped down. But more peculiar was the fact that Andersson was elected twice in one week after serving for only seven hours following her initial inauguration—brought down after the Green Party abruptly left its coalition with her ruling Social Democrats. She was then narrowly reelected days later.
Next year, regularly scheduled parliamentary elections—which are held every four years in Sweden—will decide whether Andersson is viable among the general public. After the Green’s departure, she now leads a tenuous minority government. Though the Social Democrats rely on support from the liberal Center Party, socialist Left Party, and Green Party to pass measures in parliament, the informal grouping is mostly characterized by its opposition to the right-wing Sweden Democrats than any sort of ideological coherence.
But the Sweden Democrats—known for their erstwhile neo-Nazi ties—are increasingly defining politics in the country, and are now the third largest party in parliament. The trend can be chalked up to backlash to an influx of migrants since the 2015 refugee crisis. At the time, Sweden postured itself as a welcoming haven, but in recent years, public anti-immigrant sentiment has forced nearly all parties to move to the right. As FP’s James Traub writes, “Swedes have learned … that even the most benevolent state has its limits.”
For Andersson, the Sweden Democrats have proved an unwitting kingmaker. For one, they are the reason her coalition fell apart. After her budget was defeated—and the opposition budget, co-signed by the Sweden Democrats, passed instead—the Green Party refused to govern under the Sweden Democrats’ priorities. And though the Sweden Democrats are in the opposition, their rise has also come to define Andersson’s priorities. In her inaugural speech as prime minister, she spoke directly to migrants and stressed that they must learn Swedish and contribute to Sweden’s welfare state.
Though the start of official campaigning is many months away, the Social Democrats’ margins in opinion polls have improved since early November, when Andersson took office—hovering close to 30 percent as of mid-December, according to Politico. The Moderate Party is around 22 percent while the Sweden Democrats are just behind at 19 percent. Numerous smaller parties are polling in the single digits. To enter parliament, they must cross a 4 percent threshold. The body’s 349 seats are elected via open list proportional representation.
Sweden is currently facing an uptick in COVID-19 cases, prompting Andersson to reintroduce some basic masking and social distancing rules. For most of the pandemic and under Lofven, the country became infamous for its globally singular approach to the crisis: doing nothing. Though Lofven eventually introduced some restrictions during the virus’s second wave in December 2020, Sweden faced ballooning case and death rates as a result of its lax policies. Now, 72 percent of Sweden’s population is fully vaccinated.
Stockholm’s mixed messaging on the pandemic tarnished public trust in the Swedish government. Ahead of the September 2022 elections, Andersson’s success will depend on regaining it. Though a Social Democratic plurality is probable, it is less certain whether the party will be able to craft a coalition such that Andersson’s premiership becomes just as productive as it is symbolically groundbreaking. Full List
Brazil Oct. 2
Few contests are set to capture as much global attention next year as Brazil’s, in which right-wing incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro seeks reelection against popular leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The likely showdown of extremes is set to be a barometer of the continued viability of populist politics in the starkly divided South American country
Convicted in 2017 and jailed in 2018 on corruption charges in a scheme called “Operation Car Wash,” Lula’s conviction was annulled and he was released from prison in 2019. He is the leader of the socialist Workers’ Party.
Bolsonaro, a proud Trump disciple both in style and in substance, was elected in 2018 and has plowed through the presidency with relentless controversy ever since. He has switched parties numerous times and now leads the right-wing Liberal Party. In addition to regular swipes at Indigenous people, women, and the LGBTQ+ community, he has on countless occasions expressed admiration for Brazil’s former military dictatorship.
That last bit has many observers concerned about possible unrest should October 2022’s election not go Bolsonaro’s way. During his time in office, he has stacked his administration with military officers. A loosening of restrictions on firearms has caused gun ownership among civilians to double. And as Bolsonaro’s approval rating began sinking during the coronavirus pandemic, he started questioning the integrity of Brazil’s electoral system and Supreme Court. Some see echoes of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection in pro-Bolsonaro demonstrations taking shape across the country. In October, Trump even issued an emphatic endorsement for Bolsonaro’s reelection—a full year ahead of schedule.
Bolsonaro has always been a contested figure. His disregard for the climate and Indigenous communities in the Amazon, for one, has caused deforestation in the rainforest to skyrocket to more than 10-year highs, and activists warn a second Bolsonaro term could spell the ecosystem’s end. But in the story of the Brazilian president’s declining political capital, the COVID-19 pandemic is what proved most pivotal.
Since the pandemic reached Brazil in early 2020, Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed its severity, mocking mitigation measures and social distancing while creating a revolving door of beleaguered health ministers, who were either fired or resigned of their own accord. All that earned Brazil the world’s second highest COVID-19 death toll, after the United States. As of mid-December, the country had recorded more than 616,000 fatalities. And yet, Bolsonaro himself refuses to be vaccinated.
In October, Brazil’s Senate dealt a stunning blow to Bolsonaro when it published the results of a six-month investigation of his pandemic response, accusing Bolsonaro and his administration of perpetrating crimes against humanity through their negligence. Several Bolsonaro-aligned officials, including three of his sons, were also implicated in corruption related to procuring vaccine contracts, and Brazil’s Supreme Court has opened numerous ongoing investigations into the president.
As all of this has transpired—and Bolsonaro has struggled to address pandemic-related economic woes—his approval rating has plummeted. As of November, 56 percent of Brazilians ranked his administration as “bad/terrible,” with 22 percent characterizing it as “just OK” and 19 percent as “great/good,” according to the Brazilian Report. Fifty-nine percent of Brazilians said they would not vote for Bolsonaro under any circumstances, according to a September poll conducted by Datafolha.
This could translate into a bad electoral defeat for Bolsonaro, assuming Lula is his main opponent. Though numerous parties field candidates for president and vice president as a ticket, a victory requires a simple majority. If no ticket achieves that margin on election day, Oct. 2, 2022, they will proceed to a runoff on Oct. 30, 2022—a virtual inevitability given that all elections since 2002 have been decided this way. Voting in Brazil is mandatory for all citizens ages 18 to 70, though the legal voting age is 16. All members of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies and one-third of its Senate will also be elected by open-list proportional representation and plurality, respectively.
Attention is laser-focused on what is expected to become a Bolsonaro-Lula standoff, but meanwhile, an array of centrist proponents touting a “third way” have also entered the fray. They include Social Democrat João Doria, the governor of São Paulo, and former anti-corruption judge Sergio Moro, who oversaw Lula’s trial in Operation Car Wash and is running under the banner of the Podemos party. A mid-December survey conducted by Inteligencia em Pesquisa e Consultoria shows 48 percent of voters backing Lula, with Bolsonaro at 21 percent and Moro at 6 percent. If all minor candidates were eliminated, these numbers would adjust to 49, 22, and 8 percent, respectively. It is significant that a tightened race seems not to meaningfully improve Bolsonaro’s odds.
Formal campaigning in Brazil doesn’t officially begin until 52 days before election day, but informal campaigning is in many ways already in full swing. As Bolsonaro’s approval ratings continue to decline, he will likely escalate his attacks on Brazil’s democratic institutions. Full List
Bosnia and Herzegovina Oct. 2
Bosnia will join Brazil in holding general elections on Oct. 2, 2022. Except instead of settling on one president, Bosnia and Herzegovina will elect three.
That peculiarity is a result of the 1995 U.S.-brokered Dayton Agreement, which ended the 1992-1995 Bosnian War. The conflict witnessed strife among Bosnian Muslims (also known as Bosniaks), Croats, and Bosnian Serbs in the former Yugoslavia. Bosnian Serbs were the main aggressors, slaughtering 8,000 Bosniaks in the town of Srebrenica in July 1995, an event now widely considered genocide.
Today, the country consists of two substates: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina—which is majority Bosniak and Croat—and Republika Srpska, which is majority Bosnian Serb. Each ethnic group gets its own president, with residents of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina voting for the Bosniak and Croat presidents and residents of Republika Srpska electing the Serb president. Together, the three form a sort of tripartite leadership apparatus. Bosnia’s lower house of parliament, the House of Representatives, delegates two-thirds of its seats to lawmakers from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and one-third to Republika Srpska—each elected in their distinct entities via proportional party representation. The upper house, the House of Peoples, is comprised of five Bosniaks, five Croats, and five Serbs—all appointed.
Many observers critique this delicate electoral arrangement as tenuous and unsustainable, particularly because it does not lend representation to members of minority groups. And ahead of the 2022 Bosnian elections, it is indeed beginning to fracture. As Hamza Karcic writes in Foreign Policy, “perhaps at no stage since the Bosnian War ended in 1995 has there been so much talk about war reigniting in the country.”
For one, there is anger between Bosniaks and Croats, who are eligible to vote for each other’s presidents. Croats, in particular, are frustrated that both the incumbent Croat president, Zeljko Komsic, and his predecessor are not members of the Croatian nationalist Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina but of the multiethnic Democratic Front.
But by far the main source of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s resurgent tension is Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik of the Serbian nationalist Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, who seems set on reviving the Bosnian Serb nationalist fervor that nearly tore the country apart. Dodik has proposed measures that many say would grant Republika Srpska a degree of autonomy nearly equivalent to secession, including establishing a Bosnian Serb army. And, to court Croat support, he has proposed the creation of a third, exclusively Croatian substate in Bosnia and Herzegovina—so Bosniaks can no longer exert electoral influence in deciding the Croat president.
Dodik’s moves as of late are widely seen as a reaction to a law passed in Sarajevo in July that criminalizes the denial of the Srebrenica genocide. The Bosnian Serb president is a known denier of the massacre and is famous for his Islamophobic comments. In Republika Srpska, the measure stoked intense nationalism among Bosnian Serbs. U.N., U.S., and EU officials are so concerned they have dispatched envoys to the country in an attempt to avert catastrophe.
All of that makes next year’s elections especially contentious. Christian Schmidt, the current high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina—a position created by the Dayton Agreement—has advocated for electoral reform ahead of the Oct. 2, 2022, vote. But devising a new procedure would in and of itself be contentious. Bosnian Serbs and Croats have said they may boycott a vote if no reforms are made, and Dodik has floated not holding local elections in Republika Srpska at all.
Although no candidates have officially declared their candidacy, it is expected that Dodik and Komsic of the Bosniak nationalist Party of Democratic Action will vie for reelection, while former Bosniak President Bakir Izetbegovic will attempt to reclaim his seat. It is not yet clear whether the incumbent Bosniak president, Sefik Dzaferovic, will run. Each president is elected via a plurality in their respective jurisdictions.
With no clear path forward, the stakes are high and the outlook grim—if not existential. In September, former High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch warned that a boycotted election “could mean the de facto end of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Full List
Tunisia Dec. 17
For a while, Tunisia was heralded as the 2011 Arab Spring’s lone success story. But recent actions by President Kais Saied have undermined faith in the country’s nascent democratic institutions.
On July 25, Tunisia’s Republic Day, Saied dismissed Tunisia’s prime minister and suspended parliament for what he said would be a month, granting himself full executive authority. It was, according to the president, a temporary means of regaining control over a country rocked by turmoil and protests related to the economic consequences of COVID-19. While Saied’s supporters celebrated the move, others labeled it a coup. Some suspect it may have been an attempt by Saied, an Independent, to stem the rising popularity of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, to which the booted prime minister belonged and which had held a plurality of seats in parliament.
Spoiler alert: Parliament is still suspended. After continuing to push back its reopening date, Saied in September announced he would rule by decree until further notice, insisting it was constitutional for him to do so (though many legal scholars and human rights organizations beg to differ). He also named Najla Bouden Tunisia’s first female prime minister and tasked her with forming a cabinet. Bouden, an engineering professor, is a political newcomer and Independent.
Now, Saied has revealed his next step. On Dec. 13, he announced he would appoint a committee to revise Tunisia’s 2014 post-revolutionary constitution based on public online consultations beginning in January 2022. He also said Tunisians would vote on these proposed changes in a July 25, 2022, referendum. Parliamentary elections will follow nearly six months later, in December 2022.
In a televised address, Saied said this road map is necessary to “liberate our people and our country.” But that’s a hard sell after granting himself the authority to rule without accountability for 18 straight months. It’s also unclear what sort of amendments Saied envisions, though he has been a proponent of decentralization in the past.
Ultimately, the December 2022 parliamentary elections will have little bearing on Saied’s political livelihood; he was elected in 2019 to a five-year presidential term. And the constitution presented to voters in July will almost certainly be drafted in his favor. But the elections—wherein voters elect the 217 members of Tunisia’s parliament via party-list proportional representation—will be an indication of where public opinion stands on the controversial Tunisian president a year and a half after a move most of the world condemned as undemocratic.
Most, but not all. As of October, Saied’s domestic approval rating rose to around 77 percent, according to a poll conducted by the SIGMA Conseil Foundation and al-Maghreb. It remains a great paradox in a country still haunted by the recent memory of dictatorship. Full List