Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012: The Year of Presidential Elections

Happy New Year! After the slew of general elections in Canada in 2011, this year will be relatively quiet at home: it is likely that only Alberta and Nunavut will head to the polls.

However, internationally, 2012 will be a big electoral year, specifically in presidential countries. The 19 largest economies of the world (by purchasing power parity) are divided as follows:
- 5 monarchies: Japan, UK, Spain, Canada, Australia
- 4 with presidents that are not popularly elected: China, India, Germany, Italy
- 1 with a president that is not the head of state: Iran
- 9 with head-of-state presidents that are popularly elected: US, Russia, Brazil, France, Mexico, South Korea, Indonesia, Turkey, Taiwan

Fully 7 of the 9 countries in the last category will have a presidential election in 2012. This is a very rare occurrence: if these 9 countries' presidential election schedules remain unchanged (either by law or events), this only happens once every 60 years. Here's a brief rundown of these seven elections:

- January: Taiwan. Like every presidential election in this country, this one will have a profound impact on China-Taiwan relations, which may deteriorate if the pro-independence candidate Tsai Ing-Wen beats the incumbent Ma Ying-Jeou. This race is very tight. 4-year term. Legislative elections, where the ruling party is expected to hold on, will be held concurrently.

- March: Russia. Vladimir Putin will probably win, but it will be interesting to see the extent of the vote rigging, the reaction to it, and whether Putin needs a second round. 6-year term (for the first time). Legislative elections were held in December 2011, spawning mass protests over irregularities and claims that Putin's United Russia would not have won a majority in a fair vote.

- April/May: France. Socialist François Hollande will probably defeat incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and take over the presidency. There is an outside chance that Sarkozy does so poorly that far-right candidate Marine Le Pen makes it to the second round. 5-year term. Legislative elections to follow the presidential election.

- July: Mexico. The incumbent cannot run since presidents here are limited to a single 6-year term. Legislative elections will be held concurrently.

- August: Turkey. This will be the first popular election for President, who is mainly a figurehead. 5-year term. Legislative elections were held last year.

- November: United States. You all know what this is about. 4-year term. Legislative elections will be held concurrently.

- December: South Korea. The ruling Conservatives are much more hawkish toward North Korea than the Centrist/Liberal opposition. The Conservative incumbent cannot run since presidents here are limited to a single 5-year term. Legislative elections will also be held this year, in April.