Looking Ahead to the New Year in Politics: Part 2

Looking Ahead to the New Year in Politics: Part 2

Benjy Goodwin examines what’s to come in 2019 for politics across the world.

 

The USA: Presidential Elections, Democrats flood the House, trouble for Trump?

It may seem like just yesterday that the US was in election-mania over the mid-terms. It was, pretty much. In America, elections never really end. Now that the mid-terms are over, the 2020 presidential race begins in earnest.

Democrats hoping to take on Trump will begin declaring the candidacies after months of speculation and question-dodging. It is probably going to be a crowded field. We have already had Elizabeth Warren, a likely frontrunner, announce her ‘exploratory committee’ – the usual precursor to a formal announcement (I would recommend watching the highlights from her rather odd Instagram Live). Pay attention to Bernie Sanders to see if he’s visiting any of the key early states like Iowa and New Hampshire for signs of his intentions. Others known to be toying with the idea are former Vice President Joe Biden and the new darling of the party, Beto O’Rourke. Expect declarations from vocal members of Congress such as Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.

We may also find out whether or not any Republicans will try to challenge Trump for the nomination. This doesn’t happen often, only in controversial times. But these are certainly them: I wouldn’t rule it out.

We will also get a feel for the Democrats’ tactics. Now that they control the House of Representatives, and with many new, young, left-wing members, they will be able to cause more trouble for Trump. With veteran Nancy Pelosi back in the Speaker’s chair, they will be sure to use every trick in the book to make Trump’s life uncomfortable, particularly with their refusal to fund the border wall.

There could also be some big moments in the Mueller Investigation, which might find that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The people over at Vox, who know far more about this than me, explain it in more detail. I think this is probably what would be required for impeachment measures to be brought. Whilst many Democrats are getting over-excited, Pelosi has made clear she will not seek this without clear evidence. I wouldn’t expect an impeachment attempt.

 

Europe: Elections, elections, elections

In May, voters from the remaining 27 EU member states will go to the polls to elect new MEPs. With the UK’s 73 seats being divided up amongst other members, mainstream groups such as the EPP, ALDE and PES will be vying to take seats currently held by the Tories and UKIP.

It would be far too difficult to try to explain all of the internal political battles across the bloc, but there are some key things to look out for: will the Liberals be able to pull-off a Macron-style campaign? Can the Social Democrats retain or improve their position given their decline in most EU states? Will the populist far-right surge? And how big a battle will there be for the role of Commission President? The centre-right EPP looks set to dominate the new parliament, and following the informal spitzenkandidat process, their candidate Manfred Weber should succeed Juncker. As with everything in the EU, nothing is simple, and many feel that this process will not be respected, due to opposition from EU heads of government and from Juncker. Because the process is informal, the EU Council is under no obligation nominate the spitzenkandidat. This is definitely one to watch.

There will also be presidential and parliamentary elections across Europe, including in Belgium, Estonia, Denmark, Moldova and Switzerland. Look out for Ukraine, which looks set to elect the populist Yulia Tymoshenko as president; Portugal, whose minority socialist government looks set to consolidate their power, and Greece. Remember 2015: Greece elected a youthful socialist, Alexis Tsipras – determined to improve Greece’s position with its international creditors. His party, Syriza, have failed – and they look set to be wiped out and replaced by the centre-right.

Emmanuel Macron will also have an interesting year. This year is probably quite important for the president to see if he can achieve these reforms and reverse his position in the polls. It seems likely, but in the streets, the question is different: whether the gilets jaunes movement will fizzle out or gain momentum.

Also pay close attention to anti-government protests elsewhere in Europe. The ongoing anti-government protests in Serbia show no sign of dying down, whilst recent demonstrations in Hungary could grow.

 

Further afield: Putin, Bolsonaro, even more elections

There are elections all over the world, from the Americas, across Asia and Africa. Justin Trudeau will seek to defend his majority in the Canadian Parliament this October. His Liberal Party is neck-and-neck in the polls with the rival Conservatives.

Australia – a country that makes even Brits feel grateful for the calm and collected nature of their MPs – will also go to the polls. Will the incumbent centre-right coalition be punished for their recent regicide?

Israel will also see elections to its parliament, the Knesset. Netanyahu’s fragile coalition has crumbled, but as it stands is likely to remain the dominant force. With a ludicrously complicated politics, following this one is not for the faint-hearted.

It is also a year to watch some of the worlds strongmen. The newly inaugurated far-right president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, will be someone to watch. We will see how damaging he really is for Brazil’s minority groups and for the Amazon rainforest.

Vladimir Putin will as ever be one to watch. With Armenian PM Nikol Pashinian gaining a majority in parliament in December, it will be interesting to see how far he distances himself from Moscow in the pursuit of democratic reform, and how Putin responds to this. Expect allegations of Russian interference in elections across Europe, further flare-ups in the conflict with Ukraine as Putin seeks to take control of the Sea of Azov, and other potential interference with his neighbours. In what could be a very big year in politics, Putin is likely to be one to shape it.

Image credit: en.kremlin.ru