1/ Christopher Allison / U.S. Army // Wikimedia Commons
2019 is a big election year globally. As Americans prepare for the 2020 presidential election, many of their neighbors are heading to the polls this year. In fact, democracy will influence 3.28 billion people in 62 countries in 2019. More than 40% of the world will elect leaders this year, and the results may have a major impact on the way the world works going forward.
Some major elections to watch include those in India and the European Union, primarily because of their reach. In other words, more than 1.85 billion people will be directly affected by these elections. It's interesting to note that the 2019 elections are following certain trends. In Latin America and Western Europe, there is a resurgence of populism, and fragmented coalitions are forming, pushing once-unshakable blocs out of power.
Will these trends lead to more corruption, less corruption, or simply a more consolidated form of government depravity? Will these elections lead to greater economic and political stability or more global disarray? It's wise for Americans to take note of what's happening around the world, as results from this year's elections may signal things to come in 2020.
Read on to find out which elections around the world you should keep an eye on in 2019.
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The 2019 presidential election for Ukraine comes down to two main candidates: incumbent President Petro Poroshenko, running on a nationalist slogan of “Army! Language! Faith! We are Ukraine!” and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Former defense minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko is a long-shot candidate who is hoping to unite several smaller political parties. Russia's influence looms large over this election, with military interference in November leading to Ukraine establishing a body to prevent Russian meddling with the election results.
RESULT: The March 31 election resulted in no clear majority winner. A second round of voting is slated for April 21, 2019.
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Two-term President Gjorge Ivanov's successor will be chosen in this election that comes after the 2018 referendum to change the name of this former Yugoslav republic. Many are hopeful that political and ethnic strife will be put to rest by talks of Macedonia's accession into the European Union.
UPDATE: Macedonia's presidential election has been confirmed for April 21.
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It should come as no surprise to anyone following American and Israeli politics that the U.S. is intervening in the Israeli election. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has close ties to Donald Trump, who moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem earlier this year. Netanyahu himself is a polarizing figure, even in an era when Israel's politics are moving further right. The government is delicately balanced at this time, with Netanyahu's right-wing party, Likud, holding just 30 of 120 seats in the Knesset, Israel's governing body. The country also narrowly avoided having to go to an early election.
RESULT: The Likud and Kahol Lavan (led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid) parties each nabbed 35 seats in the legislative election while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected for a fourth consecutive term. United Torah Judaism secured eight seats, while the rest of Israel's parties kept the same number of seats: Shas (eight), Hadash-Ta'al (six), Labor (six), Yisrael Beiteinu (five), Union of Right-Wing Parties (five), Meretz (four), Balad-United Arab List (four), and Kulanu (four).
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Some major issues in the upcoming Finnish election include the government's unfinished reforms to health and social care (“sote”), climate change, and immigration, including a series of sexual abuse cases in which suspects were asylum-seekers or immigrants. The government is currently controlled by the Centre Party, along with the National Coalition Party and the Blue Reform Party, with Juha Sipila as prime minister. However, this is a small majority at 104 seats of 200, as the minimum seats needed to control the government is 101. The Social Democrats are currently leading the polls and hope to emerge victoriously; they would likely form a coalition with the Green Party and the Left Alliance.
RESULT: The Social Democratic Party winning with 17.7% of the votes in a neck-and-neck race: The right-wing Finns Party secured 17.5% of the vote, the National Coalition Party took 17%, and the Center Party held 13.8% of the vote, according to CNN affiliate Italehti.
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Starting April 11, the most important Indian election in decades will take place; this includes and primarily features Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Like a certain populist American leader, Modi promised five years ago to create more jobs for Indians and to “make India great again,” but his record is shaky at best. He faces opposition from Rahul Gandhi and the Congress Party—and multiple others: In fact, 2014's election saw more than 460 political parties. In 2014 over 550 million of the more than 830 million people who were eligible voted; this year 900 million Indians will be eligible to vote. This seven-stage election is spread out over several weeks, with the world watching as its largest democracy makes its decision.
UPDATE: The 2019 Indian general election is underway and slated to end May 19, resulting in the 17th Lok Sabha. Results will be announced May 23—the same day votes are counted. The election has already stirred multiple counts of violence, including the murder of a poll official in Orissa (one of 13 states or union territories voting for a new parliament) just hours before the second phase of voting began April 18.
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Incumbent Indonesian President Joko Widodo is pitted against former Lt. General Prabowo Subianto, whom he previously defeated in the 2014 vote. This election is significant as it takes place in one of the world's youngest—and third-largest—democracies. It will be interesting to see how Widodo's running mate, a conservative Muslim cleric accused of promoting intolerance of minority groups, plays out against Subianto's bonds with Islamist groups that hold sway over public opinion.
RESULT: Indonesia's sitting President Joko Widodo announced April 18 that he won re-election with a majority 54% of votes, according to preliminary results. Indonesia's General Elections Commission is legally bound to release official election results by May 22.
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Record-high unemployment and allegations of corruption are two of the major issues at play in the South African election in 2019, set for May 8. The African National Congress (ANC), which currently holds power and the party of Nelson Mandela, recently suffered a loss when former President Jacob Zuma resigned in February 2018. Recent polls suggest the ANC could garner 60% of votes, but they face opposition from parties who made strides in 2016 local elections.
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Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis will run for president in the May election; current President Dalia Grybauskaite will not be eligible to run as she has served the two-term maximum allowable by the country's constitution. Skvernelis will probably be backed by the center-left Farmers and Green Union, and will face opposition from an independent candidate, Gitanas Nauseda, and Ingrida Simonyte, representing the Homeland Union-Conservative Christian Democrats.
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The election in the Philippines is significant because of its large, growing population. It is the 12th most populated country in the world, with nearly 105 million people. Of those, there are more than 61 million eligible and registered to vote. This election will have a large bearing on one of the world's largest democracies; unfortunately, little other information was available at press time.
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Scott Morrison of the Liberal Party is up against Bill Shorten of the Labor Party as Shorten attempts to become the seventh Australian PM so far this century. Immigration, indigenous issues, and climate change are big points of contention for the two candidates, especially as the Liberals opted out of the recent UN migration pact.
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The rise of populism and low voter turnout are themes in the European Parliament elections, scheduled for May 23–26. Though some 500 million EU citizens are eligible to vote, turnout has averaged less than 50% since 1999, and the loss of popularity faced by mainstream parties recently may cause what were once fringe parties to become more prominent. Europe also faces a host of problems, including Brexit, political unrest in France, and a growing rift with the U.S., among others. Incumbent European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says he will not seek re-election.
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The government in Belgium fell in late 2018 and was replaced with a caretaker government that is expected to remain in place until the elections in late May. Recent polls suggest that a center-right government is unlikely to gain much ground in the next round of elections, which will likely see the accession of the Green parties to power in the form of a large coalition instead.
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Following the late-March provincial elections in the Netherlands, the right-wing populist Forum for Democracy Party, led by Thierry Baudet, seemed to emerge victorious, according to the results of some exit polls. The Forum for Democracy is up against Prime Minister Mark Rutte's People's Party for Freedom and Democracy in a battle to become the largest party in the country's Senate.
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In Germany the tension between anti-populist, centrist groups, and blue-collar populists is strong. The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) has been gaining ground against the center-right CDU (Chancellor Angela Merkel's party) and the center-left SPD. It is likely that the Green Party's rise in popularity will rupture the longstanding coalition, creating a governmental collapse and a snap federal election.
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The rise of the right-wing populist Vox Party in Spain tells a familiar story in Europe and around the world. If they continue their rise to power, Spain will likely see the formation of a grand coalition that weakens over time, or they become a center-right-led coalition in the Spanish government. Neither is a great option, and both will create increased instability in what is Europe's fourth-largest economy.
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In Latvia, the New Unity Party's longstanding hold on the government has broken, and a fragmented Parliament has replaced it. The country is currently in a state of flux. The new parliamentary election took place in October 2018, but a new government has not yet been formed. This is unprecedented and likely caused by internal strife within the parties that make up the parliament—and will certainly affect the presidential vote (direct) later this year.
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Nearly 8 million Guatemalans are registered to vote for the incoming slate of political leaders, including the president, vice president, 158-seat Congress, and 340 mayors. Corruption overshadows these elections as it did the ones in 2015; current President Jimmy Morales is working to expel the UN anti-corruption body known as CICIG from the country. There will be a second round of voting beyond June (in August, to be precise) if the winner from the first round does not garner more than 50% of the vote.
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As is happening elsewhere in Europe (and, increasingly, around the globe), Danish politics are fragmenting as the influence of populism takes hold. The Social Democrats officially became anti-immigration in June 2018, with their party's leader Mette Frederiksen acknowledging a closer connection with the Danish People's Party, known for their anti-immigrant views. Though Danish governments are often heavily coalition-based, this move toward populism will likely have a major bearing on the June election.
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The political calendar is quite full in Japan this year, with the abdication of Emperor Akihito in April and the Upper House (half of the house) elections in July. If things go as pundits predict, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could engineer a double election—calling for a vote for the Lower House at the same time as the Upper House vote by revising the constitution. This move, in turn, determines the party in power and keeps him from becoming a lame duck.
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The big question of the Afghanistan presidential election is whether it will take place and if it will be fair and safe. Governmental corruption in the form of electoral fraud and Taliban influence looms over the elections—recently postponed again until September—as they did over October's parliamentary elections, which took place three years late. In the October elections, the Taliban murdered and injured hundreds of people who were trying to cast their votes. The country's president, Ashraf Ghani, who is running for a second term against candidates still to be determined, nonetheless called the most recent elections a “historic success.”
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Due to a change in the rules governing the number of terms that one can hold the presidency, Bolivia's next election will be one of its most controversial. Its current president, Evo Morales, will have served three terms at the time of his bid for re-election, with an overwhelming majority (64%) voting him into office in 2009. In 2016 he abolished term limits against the will of the Bolivian people—and now the country's citizenry is deeply divided about his effectiveness as a leader. With Carlos Mesa, a former president, running as his competition, a runoff is likely, and if Morales does win, democracy in Bolivia may be undermined as protests and instability run rampant.
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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras barely survived a confidence vote in January and may call elections earlier than October. Greece's troubled economy and political instability, including a name change from the country of Macedonia to North Macedonia, have led to upheaval throughout Greece. Tsipras's challengers from other parties and the fact that he lost his parliamentary majority early this year have placed him on shaky ground at best.
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The Canadian election has become one to watch since Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party's approval ratings started to fall following their incredible 2015 victory; opposition parties, including the Conservatives, led by Andrew Scheer, see an opportunity to move forward here, and they may be able to capitalize upon it. Meanwhile, Maxime Bernier and the People's Party of Canada—a new party he founded last August—may split the vote in favor of the Liberals or may prove insignificant in the larger scheme of things.
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Mauricio Macri, the current president of Argentina (Republican Proposal Party), is seeking a second term in the same capacity and is up against his predecessor, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (Citizen's Unity Party), who is protected against her outstanding corruption charges by virtue of her former political position. Whoever takes over as president will inherit a variety of economic woes, including a $57 billion loan that Macri recently secured from the International Monetary Fund to alleviate these problems.
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Haiti will hold elections for one-third of the Senate as well as all local officials and all deputies of the lower chamber of the National Assembly in October. The country's current record of corruption, specifically the Petrocaribe funds, and vocal opposition resulting in a wave of protests against current President Jovenel Moise make for a tense election season.
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According to the results of its October 2018 local elections, Poland is deeply divided. This will have a bearing not only on its 2019 parliamentary elections for all 460 members of the Sejm and all 100 senators, but also its 2020 presidential elections. The ruling Law and Justice Party, a right-wing populist party, seeking to solidify its coalition majority, is up against a united opposition party that seeks to “bring the country back to Europe.”
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Uruguay seems poised to follow suit as the latest among a series of nations in Latin America facing challenges in terms of economics and crime that have led to the rise of populist figures in government in the past few years. The Frente Amplio (FA), a coalition of centrist and left-wing groups that has held the presidency since 2005, is tied for support against the Partido Nacional (PN), also known as the White Party, ahead of this year's elections.
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As in other elections globally this year, loyalties in Tunisia have been shifting and the old guard has been crumbling. The country also faces high unemployment and inflation, and these elections will attempt to re-establish political stability for Tunisia.
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Incumbent President Klaus Iohannis is up for re-election after taking office in 2014. It should be an interesting election to follow as, like elsewhere in Europe, internal power struggles have led to the weakening of the left. Most recently, former Prime Minister Mihai Tudose cut ties with the ruling Social Democrats to join the newly formed Pro Romania Party, following suit with his predecessor. Romania attempted to address the corruption in its government as recently as 2017, but faced protests larger than any seen since the fall of communism.
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In Croatia, the center-right group, HDZ or the Croatian Democratic Union, is projected to remain in turmoil as the current party leader Andrej Plenkovic attempts to get rid of remaining party opponents ahead of the December elections. In addition, former Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic will likely run for president for the Social Democratic Party against current President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic. It's still early in the race, so several more developments may occur before December.