The year in 2012

However you look at it, the Year of the Dragon is going to be an auspicious one – in Britain there’s the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, while the other four permanent UN Security Council members are in the throes of an election year. No wonder the Mayan’s predicted the end of the World in 2012…

Big ballots

This year four out of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council will be embroiled in leadership elections. Russia opens the batting on 4 March with their presidential elections which polls predict will see strongman Vladimir Putin back in the Kremlin. That could trigger nation-wide protests from the opposition similar to those that followed the parliamentary elections.

France follows suit on 22 April (with a second round on 6 May) with a much closer race between incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and the inexperienced leftwing Francois Hollande, who was parachuted in after scandal forced Socialist favourite Dominique Strauss-Khan to bow out. Don’t rule out far-right Marine Le Pen, who will push all the populist buttons and may spring a surprise for the second round, just like her father did in 2002.

It’s all change in China at the 18th Party Congress in October where a new President and Politburo will be elected. It’s thought that Vice-president Xi Jinping is a shoo-in and it’s expected that most of the old guard will be retiring.

The US finishes the big ballot year with presidential elections on 6 November. Will Barack Obama win a second term or will the Republicans field a candidate to unseat him?

Elsewhere in Latin America elections to watch include Venezuela on 7 October where incumbent Hugo Chavez faces his biggest challenge yet; and will the PRI in Mexico make a comeback on 1 July?

In the Middle East, the democratic processes that started with the Arab Spring last year may bear fruit with elected governments taking over from interim ones. Presidential elections are due in Egypt and Yemen and what will a poll in Palestine mean for the Middle East Peace Process? Keep an eye on Iran’s parliamentary elections in March and the progress of the opposition Green Movement as an indicator for the presidential elections next year.
Closer to home, diplomats will watch eagerly to see who Londoners will elect as the next London Mayor in May – and how will this affect City Hall’s relations with its big diplomatic community?