Elections in Europe – fringe benefits?
Ukraine goes to the polls in a neck-and-neck February run-off between the glamorous Yulia Tymoshenko and rival Viktor Yanukovich, who was defeated in the disputed 2004 elections. This time Russia and the EU are staying out of the fray.
The Dutch and British savers will be watching closely to see if Icelanders vote to pay back 3.8bn euros in March.
In Hungary conservative Fidesz leader Viktor Orban seems tipped to make a comeback in the April elections, and will David Cameron follow his example in Britain a month later? Or will a hung parliament give the Lib Dems the balance of power?
In June, can the new Party of Citizens Rights break the deadlock between the Social and Civic Democrats in the Czech elections, and in the Polish poll will centre-right PM Donald Tusk decide to take on Lech Kaczynski?
Meanwhile, financial woes will dominate the debate in cash-strapped Greece (February) and Latvia (October).
It’s make or break this year in the Bosnian elections in October, where they face a choice between a future in Europe or a retreat to into the politics of fear and nationalism.
Other polls are due in Austria (April), Slovakia (June) and Sweden (September) – and will the Turkish Cypriot vote in April bring reunification of the island closer or will it slip further away?
Elections in Asia – testing times
Sri Lankans participated in their first post-war vote, which was a resounding victory for incumbent Mahinda Rajapakse, who defeated the LTTE last year to end a 40-year civil war – but will his one-time ally and rival candidate, General Fonseca, eventually accept defeat?
Iraqis go to the polls in parliamentary elections in March in the first real test of the country governing its own affairs.
In The Philippines three contenders are vying to take over from Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo: Senator Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino (son of former president Corazon Aquino), wealthy businessman and senator Manny Villar and deposed former president and movie star Joseph Estrada.
The Burmese also cast their votes sometime this year, but pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi – who was cheated out of an election victory 20 years ago – is still under house arrest. Will the junta play fair this time?
Afghanistan’s elections have been postponed to September – will more money and soldiers on the ground bring about a satisfactory result?
Also due to cast ballots are Tajikistan (February), Laos, (April), Japan (July), Azerbaijan (September), Bahrain (November) and Jordan.
Elections in the America’s – is the pendulum swinging?
Chile opened the batting in the Latin American electoral year with a victory for the centre-right. In Costa Rica, Otto Guevara, of right-wing fringe party, Libertarian Movement (ML), has come from behind to challenge Laura Chinchilla of the incumbent Liberal National Party (PLN). Will the February election reinforce the trend to the right?
Meanwhile Colombians will cast their votes in the presidential elections in May but will the Constitutional Court – and the Colombian people – decide to let strongman Alvaro Uribe run again?
By contrast, in October, Brazil’s ever-popular President Lula will stand down. In the running to take over is his anointed successor, Dilma Rousseff. Will she join the growing cast of female Latin American leaders?
In neighbouring Venezuela, Hugo Chavez wants 75 per cent of seats in the September parliamentary elections in order to seal his revolution but this time the opposition may want to spoil his party.
Similarly, the US mid-term elections in November will be seen as a referendum on Barack Obama’s radical policies. After the shock by-election defeat in Massachusetts, will the Republicans be able to wrest control of the House and scotch the President’s plans?
Also due to vote will be the Dominican Republic (May) and Suriname (May).
The people of Haiti were due to vote in parliamentary elections but in the wake of the earthquake that is unlikely to happen as scheduled.
The Palestinians were also due to go to the polls but bitter rivalries between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Fatah, which rules the West Bank, have made an election highly unlikely.
If they agree to an Egyptian-brokered deal, a poll could be held in June, but don’t hold your breath…
Elections in Africa – a ray of hope?
Madagascar’s young president Andry Rajoelina has threatened to discard power-sharing arrangements and press ahead with a unilateral legislative election in March – but will this deepen the island’s political crisis?
Meanwhile, the Sudanese go to the polls in April in the first elections since the peace deal of 2005, ending a 21-year civil war. Can they make the power-sharing agreement stick?
Observers are cautiously optimistic that presidential elections in Burundi – which will include former rebels – will mark the beginnings of a normal society, while in neighbouring Rwanda and Tanzania, it’s business as usual with both incumbents likely to win.
Will Togo follow suit or can Kofi Yamgnane, a former French Secretary of State in the Mitterand cabinet, take the presidency? And All bets are on Meles Zenawi holding on to the presidency in Ethiopia. Hopefully there’ll be no bullets with the ballots this time.
Egyptians will cast their ballots in parliamentary elections set for May in which it is predicted that MPs sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood will lose ground.
Other African nations due to hold elections include Sao Tome & Principe (February), Central African Republic (March), Ethiopia (May), Chad (November), Burkina Faso (November) and Equatorial Guinea (December).
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