This is an extract from the forthcoming annual geopolity report, Strategic Estimate 2024. The full report will be published on 29 December 2023.
In 2024 there will be 76 elections worldwide including some of the world’s most powerful nations as well as a number of strategic countries. The context these elections take place in means the outcomes will have repercussions beyond their national borders. These elections will cover 4.2 billion people – half the world’s population and a combined GDP of nearly $50 trillion. The results of these elections have the possibility of shaping global relations into the 2030s.
1. India – April-May 2024
The world’s largest democracy is set to go to the polls in April and May 2024. The Indian election is a mammoth affair that will mobilise an electorate of over 600 million voters over several weeks. The BJP and its charismatic leader Narendra Modi are looking for their third 4-year term.
Modi has attempted to promote India as a manufacturing hub and secure foreign investment. Modi also presented a programme to broaden the country’s digital infrastructure across the length and breadth of the country. The BJP also launched tax and regulatory reforms that eventually ran into significant trouble.
Beyond economics, Modi and the BJP have promoted a Hindu Rashtra which has caused significant trouble as India is an ethnically and religiously diverse nation. It has led to significant tension with minorities especially with the country’s large minority Muslim population. The BJP has already doubled down on its Hindu nationalism to mobilise voters and caste-based identity politics.
The opposition has coalesced to form a bloc against the BJP, a 28-party bloc called the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), led by the Congress Party. The bloc is attempting to build a viable opposition. But their prospects look slim and it’s likely through the use of Hindu nationalism Modi and the BJP will secure a third term.
2. Russia – March 2024
The electoral result in Russia is usually irrelevant as the system is heavily controlled and skewed in favour of the security class. Elections are used by Vladimir Putin to legitimise the political regime. With control over who can stand as well as control of the media and a ban on businesses supporting candidates, the security class is able to use state resources to dominate Russia’s political system. The system was further entrenched in the 2020 Constitutional amendments that reset the count of presidential terms served prior to the introduction of the new constitution. The change now means Putin can stand for re-election for another two six-year terms.
Elections are used by the security class to legitimise their position and this election will be taking place when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will reach its two-year anniversary on the 24th of February 2024. The voter turnout will be a litmus test of the sentiment of the Russian population. With the war having already lasted longer than the Kremlin expected and with the Russian economy shifting to a war economy the impact is beginning to be felt by the people. The election turnout will tell us more than the result itself, which Putin will win as it’s not a real election.
3. US – November 2024
The US presidential and Congress elections will take place at a time of extraordinary political polarisation and with confidence in democratic institutions, the lowest in US history. At least half the US electorate believes the last election in 2019 was stolen and Donald Trump, who is leading in the polls, faces numerous court cases and indictments. Trump also leads the Republican nominee race by a considerable margin.
Whilst the international situation poses a number of challenges to US foreign policy on the strategic issues both the Democrats and Republicans are on the same page and for once on international issues both parties largely have similar views and so any change in the White House will not pose any disruptions. It’s on domestic issues and confidence in democracy and the government where the US faces major issues, and the electoral outcome will have a major impact on this. The competition with China will continue whoever is in the White House and support for the war in Ukraine will continue, although some of the contenders in the Republican primaries are arguing that the US should reduce its support for Ukraine, but these divisions are only around how much funding is going to Kyiv.
Donald Trump’s narrative has been an anti-establishment one and this is likely to continue and if he fails to win the election in 2024 his supporters throughout US institutions and the electorate may decide to take things into their hands, much like they did with the Capital Hill riot in 2021.
4 . UK – January 2025
The current parliamentary term in the UK ends on the 17th of December 2024. If an early election is not called then parliament would be dissolved on this date with an election 25 days later. It’s extremely unlikely the sitting Conservative party will call an early election as they are deeply unpopular and trail in the polls, often by over 20%. This election will take place with the UK’s global position in decline and significant economic challenges domestically.
Despite being the 6th richest nation in the world the economic situation for most is one of declining economic standards. Over a decade of austerity, the UK now has more food banks than McDonald’s branches. Wealth distribution is skewed towards the 1%. The national election, when it does take place, is for the Labour party, led by Keir Starmer to lose. They have significant support, especially from those who want the Tory party out. But this labour party is the same as Tony Blair’s labour party that moved more towards the centre ground and became another Tory party.
Labour is currently set to win the general election by a landslide. But Labour’s position on the Palestine war has revealed some divisions and it remains to be seen if this is enough to upset their electoral prospects. This is proving one of the biggest challenges for the party and its leadership, as Starmer tries to show support for Israel without alienating Labour’s largely pro-Palestine voter base. Labour’s position on the crisis will continue to come under further pressure as the war rages on.
The UK finds itself in a global context where a number of nations are playing important roles in local and regional issues, and this dilutes Britain’s influence. With nations such as India and Türkiye emerging as regional powers the elections in Britain take place at a time when Britain’s global position is looking precarious.
5 . Indonesia – February 2024
The world’s largest Muslim country, Indonesia, will hold general elections in February 2024. The long-term Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, will be ineligible for re-election after a decade in office. Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto and Surakarta city Mayor Gibran Rakabuming Raka (who is also the eldest son of Indonesian President Joko Widodo) formally registered their ticket as presidential and vice presidential candidates.
Gibran’s run as vice president was only made possible by the 16th of October 2023 ruling by Indonesia’s top court allowing candidates under 40 years old (Gibran is 36 years old) to run for president or vice president if they already have governing experience (which Gibran does as mayor of Surakarta, elected in 2022). This decision, which came only nine days before the 25th of October deadline to formally register candidacy, has stirred controversy and suggests Jokowi is using his influence to build a political dynasty and stay highly involved with the presidency after he departs.
But due to Widodo’s popularity it’s likely his successors will do well in the elections. The last decade has seen Indonesia become a hub for commodities processing and a significant coal exporter. Indonesia is looking to move up the value chain and become a world leader in EV and batteries, but this is leading to competition with China in the region as well as in Africa. Whatever the outcome of the election, it will have consequences for Indonesia’s economic future.
6. Taiwan – January 2024
Taiwan will hold presidential elections in January 2024 and the result will have major implications as the country is becoming central to the battle between China and the US. The party in power is the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) who campaigns on a nationalist basis and wants Taiwan to remain independent with close ties to the US. The pro-unification KMT promises to relieve tensions by reopening dialogue with China on the basis that the both can belong to one country. The months leading to the election have already seen an increase in Chinese military pressure on Taiwan in the shape of military drills close to the island. If the DPP remains in power these military drills will only increase.
Since the 1990s, support among Taiwanese for unification with China has all but disappeared, and most Taiwanese want to preserve Taiwan’s de facto independence. China’s ability to influence Taiwan politically is growing ever distant as the dominant party in power is pro-independence and this means the military option is fast becoming the only remaining option for China to reunify with the island. Military intervention comes with a whole host of complications, but if the DPP wins another term it will remain the only option for China, in turn this will force the US to make good on its commitment to protecting Taiwan against foreign aggression.
7 . Egypt – December 2023 – January 2024
Much like the elections in Russia, there are no real elections in Egypt. Incumbent Abdel Fattah el-Sisi apparently received 97% of the vote in the 2018 election. Sisi has now been in power for a decade, ever since he overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013. Since then, he has destroyed the Muslim Brotherhood and ruled with an iron fist.
As Egypt’s population continues to grow, el-Sisi, like his predecessors, has struggled to develop an economy that can fulfil the needs of the nation’s growing demography. Inflation has continued to skyrocket and eventually forced Sisi to turn to the IMF, which has only made the economy worse. Sisi has no long-term plan to deal with infrastructure, education, transport and economic development of the country. This is the context the elections will take place in.
As the military controls the state it will only permit a token opposition. What needs to be watched is the voter turnout, that will be a good sign of Sisi’s declining popularity. If Sisi is forced to go into a second round run-off, this will be a good indicator of the status of Sisi. Even though Sisi will likely win the token election, after this he is really in a losing battle.
8. Pakistan – February 2024
Pakistan goes to the polls in February 2024 with the possibility of elections being delayed once again. The context in Pakistan currently is the previous Imran Khan government falling out of favour with the military top brass, which saw the army turn to the Sharif family. The attempt by Imran Khan to push back in May 2023 saw a broad crackdown and the dismembering and dissolution of Khan’s party the Pakistan Tehreek-I-Insaf (PTI). Most of Imran Khan’s cabinet have joined the other parties and the return of Nawaz Sharif in October 2023 means the next political set-up is in place.
The Sharifs will now likely have their fourth stint in power, but they will inherit an economy that’s in a mess. Decades of mismanagement and foreign loans has led to more and more power going to its lenders over the economy, taxation and spending. With inflation skyrocketing, this is literally killing the earnings of many people and with debt repayments consuming nearly half Pakistan’s budget the Sharifs may find winning the election the easy part, surviving a full term with the cards they have been dealt will prove much more difficult. Nawaz Sharif has been in power on three occasions and has never completed his term in office.
Nawaz Sharif has been in power on three occasions and has never completed his term in office
9. Bangladesh – January 2024
Bangladesh’s election commission announced in November 2023 that national elections will be held on the 7th of January 2024. Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League are seeking a fifth term overall and a fourth consecutive term in office. Hasina is currently the world’s longest-serving female head of government who has been in power since 2008 and has become more and more authoritarian with arbitrary arrests and harassment of opposition groups. In the last election in 2018, the Awami League’s landslide victory included violence and vote-rigging allegations.
Social unrest and political tensions have remained high as a cost of living crisis coexists with political repression and economic grievances by garment factory workers due to rising inflation and low wages.
Sheikh Hasina still maintains an iron grip over the country. International pressure by the US for free and fair elections hasn’t seen the Awami League communicate with its political rivals. It remains to be seen if the elections will be free or fair and if the opposition will take part considering the rigging that took place in the 2018 election.
10. European parliament – June 2024
The European Parliament election is due to take place in June 2024. In the election voters are to elect representatives for a supranational legislature but more often than not use the election to reward or punish their national governments and vote on the basis of domestic issues.
The EU election will take place simultaneously in 27 countries and will likely result in a fragmented European Parliament where a coalition of two or more parties will be needed to pass legislation and approve the members of the next European Commission. The elections will take place against the backdrop of high inflation and low economic growth. It’s likely the far-right parties will perform well while centrist and green parties will lose ground. The rise of the far-right will likely force conservative parties across the continent to move to the right to remain competitive, resulting in an overall shift to more right-wing positions across the European Union. The main impact of this will be on policy, as a more climate-sceptic European Parliament would push to slow the bloc’s energy transition while also promoting protectionist measures to defend European manufacturing and agricultural producers.