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How big elections are changing the world in 2024

4 days ago 30

More than 80 countries — home to about half the world’s population — are staging national elections this year.

It’s a show of democracy in action. But this year has also revealed increasing democratic backsliding, with fears of countries barreling toward becoming one-party states or holding elections not seen as free or fair. Many elections saw accusations of rigging, by watchdogs or defeated parties, as well as rampant disinformation and the suppression of opposition.

In some elections, we are seeing the status quo keep power. In others, it is a subtle swing in the halls of power. And in others, a big shift is underway.

Here are some of the key elections the world is watching:

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Subtle swing: In a surprise upset, France’s left-wing New Popular Front alliance and French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist coalition thwarted a far-right victory in snap legislative elections, which were called by Macron after his alliance suffered a defeat against the far-right in June E.U elections. The July 7 results marked a major defeat for Marine Le Pen’s populist, anti-immigrant National Rally party, which had been comfortably ahead in the snap election’s first round. The left-wing alliance garnered at least 181 seats and Macron’s Together coalition got more than 160. National Rally and its allies came third with 143 seats. Macron will remain president for the remainder of his term.

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Big shift: After the sudden death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash, Iranians voted for their next president in an election with no clear favorite. A little-known reformist and cardiac surgeon, Masoud Pezeshkian, defeated his ultraconservative rival Saeed Jalili. Describing his victory as the start of a “new chapter” for Iran, Pezeshkian campaigned on more social freedom and engagement with the West.

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Big shift: Keir Starmer and his renewed Labour Party won a landslide election in Britain, ending 14 years of Conservative Party rule and moving toward a new government dominated by the center left. Starmer led an effort to purge the hard-left elements of the party and sell voters on a “changed Labour.” Outgoing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak accepted responsibility for the Conservative Party’s worst defeat.

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Subtle swing: Many analysts predicted a major far-right swing, but the country saw only a slight rightward shift. The conservative nationalist New Flemish Alliance retained its spot as the largest political party.

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Subtle swing: The European Union parliamentary elections saw far-right parties make gains at the expense of centrists — though their strong showing was not enough to win a command of the Parliament. The center still holds. Two groups with far-right parties — the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Identity and Democracy (ID) — won over 140 seats of the Parliament’s 720 seats.

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Subtle swing: After many of India’s nearly 1 billion voters took to more than a million polling stations over six weeks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won a third term. But the results marked a rare setback for him and his party. Whereas Modi comfortably won a majority in Parliament in the past two elections, the BJP lost an outright majority and was forced to form a coalition government for the first time.

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Subtle swing: Scientist and former Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum of the left-leaning Morena party won with more than 58 percent of the presidential vote, making history as Mexico’s first female president and first Jewish head of state. She is the protégé of Morena founder and outgoing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

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Subtle swing: In the nation’s most competitive elections since the end of apartheid, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress took a beating and lost its majority for the first time since gaining power as a liberation movement three decades ago. President Cyril Ramaphosa of the ANC was reelected for a second term by lawmakers. The election’s biggest winner was the uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MK), formed only months before the election as a vehicle for former president Jacob Zuma, who was barred from running over a criminal conviction for contempt.

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Status quo: Mahamat Idriss Déby won more than 60 percent of the vote, cementing his rule after he seized power as interim leader under military rule following the killing of his father by rebels in 2021. It became the first of Africa’s junta-led states to hold an election — among the “milestones in Chad’s transition process” welcomed by the U.S. State Department.

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Big shift: Former security minister José Raúl Mulino of the right-wing Realizing Goals party won the presidency, replacing outgoing President Laurentino Cortizo of the center-left Democratic Revolutionary Party. Mulino won the election as a last-minute candidate standing in for former president Ricardo Martinelli, who was barred from running after being sentenced for money laundering.

April 24, May 8: North Macedonia

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Big shift: The ruling center-left Social Democrats suffered defeats in both the presidential and parliamentary elections in the southeast European country. Right-wing challenger Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova of the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party won the presidential runoff, beating the Social Democrat incumbent. In June, the parliament approved a new nationalist-dominated center-right government led by Prime Minister Hristijan Mickoski of VMRO-DPMNE.

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Big shift: The pro-China People’s National Congress won in a landslide, surging from only three to 66 seats of the 93 available in parliament. It beat the Maldivian Democratic Party, which won in a similar landslide in 2019 but dropped from 65 seats that year to 12 this year. The result is expected to move the archipelago nation even closer to China and further from its traditional partner, India. The country is in the Indian Ocean, where both powers hold and compete for sway.

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Subtle swing: Croatia’s ruling conservative center-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won the parliamentary election, but with fewer seats. It formed a coalition government with a far-right party created in 2020, Homeland Movement, which became a kingmaker after winning only some 14 seats to HDZ’s 61.

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Subtle swing: The country’s center-left opposition Democratic Party of Korea won in a landslide, expanding its majority from 156 to 175 of the National Assembly’s 300 seats. Analysts viewed it as a referendum on president Yoon Suk Yeol — in the second year of his five-year term — of the conservative People Power Party, which won 108 seats. Rebuilding Korea, a nascent liberal opposition party established by former justice minister Cho Kuk a month before the election to make former top prosecutor Yoon a “lame duck” then “dead duck,” won 12 seats, the only other party that gained seats.

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Big shift: Antiestablishment figure Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who had no government experience and was popular among the youth, beat the ruling-party candidate Amadou Ba, a former finance, foreign and prime minister who was expected to continue the policies of outgoing President Macky Sall.

March 23, April 6: Slovakia

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Big shift: Former prime minister Peter Pellegrini of social-democratic party Hlas (Voice), who was seen as the more Russia-friendly candidate, was elected as president — a largely ceremonial post — defeating a pro-Western opposition candidate in a close runoff. Pellegrini is a close ally of pro-Russian populist Prime Minister Robert Fico and replaced Zuzana Caputova, a staunch Ukraine backer of the social-liberal Progressive Slovakia party.

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Status quo: In a victory that came as no surprise, Russian President Vladimir Putin won a fifth term that keeps him in power until 2030. He has used tricks to manipulate elections and circumvent constitutional term limits and has also centralized power, destroyed opposition and suppressed dissent, increasingly so as he wages his war in Ukraine

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Big shift: Legislative elections in Portugal, a reliably liberal country governed by center-left Socialists since 2015, were watched as a bellwether to see how a rightward shift might look across summer European elections. A center-right alliance led by the Social Democratic Party won the majority of seats by a slim margin (80 of 230 seats). The Socialist Party won 78 seats, down from 120 in the 2022 election. The far-right populist Chega (Enough) party surged, fueled by young Portuguese voters — winning 50 seats, up from 12. Luís Montenegro of the Social Democratic Party became prime minister.

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Status quo: Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, who was accused of carrying out human rights abuses in the 1990s, won more than half of the vote. He was seen as the candidate backed by popular outgoing President Joko Widodo, whose son is Subianto’s vice president.

Feb. 8, March 9: Pakistan

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Subtle swing: In a surprising turn that rattled the political establishment, candidates affiliated with the party of jailed opposition leader Imran Khan performed well above expectations. Former prime minister Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party — which was politically sidelined by the establishment after Khan ran afoul of the powerful military two years ago — was ousted in April 2022. Despite the initial shock, three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s party, Pakistan Muslim League (N), formed a coalition government and left the prime minister’s office to his younger brother Shehbaz Sharif. Asif Ali Zardari of the Pakistan People’s Party later won a second term as president.

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Status quo: President Ilham Aliyev of the New Azerbaijan Party won more than 90 percent of vote — his fifth consecutive term in the presidency, a post he’s held since 2004. A constitutional referendum abolished presidential term limits in 2009.

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Status quo: Incumbent and self-described “world’s coolest dictator” Nayib Bukele was reelected as president in a landslide, winning more than 10 times as many votes as his nearest rival. The millennial president has consistently seen high approval ratings, dazzling Salvadorans by adopting bitcoin as an official currency, building a “mega-prison” and dismantling the nation’s gangs — an iron-fisted crackdown hailed by supporters but rebuked by rights groups over due-process concerns.

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Subtle swing: In the tiny island nation in the Pacific where China and the United States are vying for power and influence, voters surprisingly ousted Tuvalu’s pro-Taiwan prime minister, Kausea Natano, who lost his Parliament seat. Politician and lawyer Feleti Teo replaced him, and Taiwan’s foreign affairs ministry welcomed the new leader, citing his “friendly stance” toward Taiwan.

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Status quo: Lai Ching-te won the presidency with 40 percent of the vote, extending the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party’s eight-year rule for an unprecedented third term and affirming voters’ rebuke of closer ties with China.

Other key elections still expected:

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  • July 15: Rwanda
  • July: Syria
  • July 28: Venezuela
  • Sept. 7: Algeria
  • Sept. 10: Jordan
  • Oct. 6: Tunisia
  • Oct. 9: Mozambique
  • Oct. 13: Lithuania
  • Oct. 20: Moldova
  • Oct. 26: Georgia
  • Oct. 27: Uruguay
  • Nov. 5: United States
  • November: Palau
  • Dec. 7: Ghana
  • Dec. 8: Romania
  • Dec. 22: South Sudan
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