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Updated Jan 9, 2024, 6:23am EST

Semafor’s Inaugural Global Election Hot List

Our picks for the world’s most interesting elections and the stories defining them.

Al Lucca
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The News

2024 will be defined by elections: Some 2 billion voters in places such as Taiwan, Finland, India, Indonesia, South Africa, and dozens of other places — including, of course, the United States — will cast ballots this year.

With so many elections, it can be hard to keep track of them at all. That’s why we’re assembling the top election stories from around the globe into a weekly list. Informed by in-depth polling, international reporting, and local expertise, we’ll alert you to the big trends and the coming surprises in this unstable new global politics.

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Know More

1. Taiwan

Presidential elections on Jan. 13, 2024

Al Lucca

Taylor Swift becomes an issue in Taiwan’s presidential election. Jaw Shaw-kong, the vice-president candidate for the China-friendly Kuomintang, claimed in a debate that the pop star was shunning performances in Taiwan because of “geopolitical risk” — suggesting better relations with Bejing would make her likely to visit. That forced the Ministry of Culture to issue a statement listing major bands that had played in Taiwan. Jaw, a media commentator, is known for his bombastic rhetoric on Cross-Strait relations.

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2. Sri Lanka

Presidential elections in 2024

Al Lucca

A candidate from a communist party is dominating polling for this year’s presidential election. Anura Kumara Dissanayaka, or AKD for short, leads the People’s Liberation Front, which is known for attempting violent revolution on two separate occasions in Sri Lanka. The latest survey, taken in October, gives him a lead of over 20 percentage points. This will be the first Sri Lankan presidential election since the 2022 political crisis that led to a total government collapse.

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3. US

Presidential elections in 2024

Al Lucca

Early primary states could shake up the race for the Republican nomination. Recent polling has seen Nikki Haley surging in New Hampshire, where voters go to the polls in less than three weeks. While Donald Trump remains dominant in national polling, upsets in early contests have the potential to fling the national primary into flux. One in particular to watch: Haley’s home state of South Carolina, among the last states to vote before “Super Tuesday.”

4. Indonesia

Presidential elections in 2024

Al Lucca

A right-wing authoritarian candidate has taken a commanding lead in the race to be the country’s next president. Prabowo Subianto, the minister of defense who rose through politics as the son-in-law of Indonesian dictator Suharto, now appears capable of winning the election outright in the first round. Subianto — who claimed fraud after the last election, and has been described as a “military strongman” in the past — was the runner-up in the last two presidential elections. This time, he’s forged an alliance with his former rival, even nominating his son for VP.

5. Pakistan

Legislative elections in 2024

Al Lucca

The millennial son of Pakistan’s first woman prime minister has been nominated once again as his party’s general election candidate. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari led the Pakistan People’s Party in the 2018 election, when he was 29. He’s not the favorite, though: Polls show the party of ousted ex-premier Imran Khan surging in the midst of a political crisis, but his exclusion from the ballot presents a high degree of uncertainty.

6. South Africa

Legislative elections in 2024

Al Lucca

The prospect of the African National Congress losing power is more real than ever. The most recent surveys place them near or under 50%, an almost unthinkable outcome in the country’s democratic history for the party that ended apartheid. Speculation has centered on whether the ANC will enter into an alliance with the Economic Freedom Fighters, a far-left party with a reputation for radical confrontation, including frequent brawls in parliament.

7. Portugal

Legislative elections in 2024

Al Lucca

Monarchists could enter the Portuguese parliament after joining a conservative alliance. The People’s Monarchist Party “strongly questions the current republican system,” according to its party program, and wants a referendum on the issue. Currently, the party only holds seats in a regional legislature, where its members are part of the government.

8. Brazil

Municipal elections in 2024

Al Lucca

São Paulo’s mayoral election is emblematic of ex-President Jair Bolsonaro’s persistent influence. His former environment minister, who is targeting the role, could stand aside amid rumors that Bolsonaro will instead endorse the incumbent. Mayor Ricardo Nunes is in a technical tie with Ricardo Salles, a close ally of the former president, a survey that has supporters hoping Bolsonaro will reverse his stance.

9. Poland

Presidential election in 2025

Al Lucca

The country’s new parliamentary speaker has drawn comparisons to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanks to his showmanship. After hosting Poland’s “Got Talent,” Szymon Holownia has been applying his entertainment experience to politics, calling for Poles to “stock up on popcorn” for the legislative term ahead. With a presidential election looming next year, “Sejmflix” — so named after Poland’s lower house of parliament, the Sejm — could catapult Holownia further into the spotlight.

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Now What?

Keep an eye out as the Finnish presidential campaign heats up, with the election towards the end of the month.

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Notable

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