The Year in 2014 – Big ballots

Big ballots

When it comes to making electoral history, 2014 doesn’t get much bigger: more people will vote in elections this year than in any other in history.

That’s because this year countries forming the BRICS and the newly-minted ‘MINTs’ (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey)– some of the world’s giant emerging democracies – take to the polls.

South Africa opens proceedings with a historic vote in April, which also marks the 20th anniversary since the first democratic elections were held. It’s likely that the ANC will dominate as it has done for the past two decades, but what impact will the death of the ANC’s hero, Nelson Mandela, have on the polls?

General elections follow in the world’s largest democracy, India. If you believe the polls, India will have a centre-right coalition government come May, with the opposition National Democratic Alliance in charge and Narendra Modi at the helm. But what impact will a more hardline government have on relations with its neighbour, Pakistan?

Indonesia may provide a MINT-fresh new entrant to politics in the form of charismatic Joko Widodo (aka Jokowi) – provided he throws his hat in the ring. If he does, it’s likely that the PDI-P will return to the President’s Office in July.

As for the T in mint, Turkey will have presidential elections in August, the first time the president will be elected directly and parliamentary elections scheduled from 2015 may be brought forward.

How Brazil fares in its hosting of the Football World Cup is likely to have an impact on Dilma Rousseff’s popularity at the polls in October.

So far she’s the frontrunner, but if rioting returns to the streets, that could change…

And speaking of rioting, some of the more volatile parts of the world are also engaging in watershed elections this year. Presidential elections in Lebanon will take place in May in a tense atmosphere where the conflict raging in neighbouring Syria could spill over.

In September people in Afghanistan will pick a new president who faces the challenge of leading the country into a post-occupation era.

The spirit of the stalled Arab Spring may be re-ignited – with Egypt’s constitutional referendum out the way, it’s hoped the country can hold Parliamentary and Presidential elections to end the military rule.

Tunisians meanwhile are celebrating the approval of the most liberal constitution in the Arab world which opens the way to elections before the close of 2014.

Meanwhile Libya has yet to write its constitution – but after years of wrangling it may finally elect a constituent assembly to draft it and set the democratic process in action.

Back in the developed world, it’s a huge year for Europe, with parliamentary elections in May and the appointment of a new commission and likely new president. With the economy still ailing and anti-migration rhetoric high, will we see a lurch to the right – making it even harder to reform a club that so badly needs it?

Over the pond in the US it’s time to check the political pulse of the world’s superpower in the mid-term elections in November.

And here in the UK, all eyes will be on the Scottish referendum on 18 September. Will Scots vote to secede or stay in the Union? Will a feel-good factor of the Glasgow Games have an impact? It’s all to play for and the results may be closer than anyone dare think.