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Updated Jan 22, 2024, 8:54pm EST

Global Election Hot List: The US, Pakistan, and Indonesia

Al Lucca
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The News

2024 will be defined by elections. With so many votes around the world, it can be hard to keep track of them at all. This week: A court decision creates electoral chaos in Pakistan, Turkey’s opposition gears up for local elections, and the far-right gets a lift in Finland.

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Know More

1. Pakistan

Election symbol ban causes chaos

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Legislative election on Feb. 8th, 2024

Al Lucca

The party of Pakistan’s cricket star ex-prime minister has been barred from using their well known cricket bat symbol, compounding political chaos in the run-up to February’s election. Political parties in Pakistan use distinct symbols to be easily recognized by voters, many of whom speak an array of different languages and some of whom are illiterate. Instead, candidates for Imran Khan’s PTI will run as independents, potentially putting them at a disadvantage. Polls have shown that PTI could win a majority of seats in the upcoming election, so attempts to block a leading party could be a recipe for turmoil.

2. USA

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Iowa fallout

New Hampshire Primary on Jan. 23, 2024

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Former President Donald Trump’s thumping win in Iowa set the stage for a pivotal showdown in New Hampshire on Tuesday. The results from the Iowa caucus spurred billionaire Vivek Ramaswamy and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to drop out of the race, while a new poll showed Nikki Haley tied for first place in New Hampshire. The Trump campaign may be consolidating new endorsements, but past primaries have shown that a major early state upset can flip national polling on its head. For any prospect of vanquishing Trump in the GOP primary, it’s clear the road runs through New Hampshire.

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3. Indonesia

TikTok transformation

Presidential election on Feb. 14, 2024

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The “brutal general” leading Indonesia’s presidential race has employed TikTok to launder his image for the voting public, to devastating effect. Prabowo Subianto is alleged to have committed human rights abuses while serving in the military during the dictatorship of his father-in-law, Suharto. With viral posts that feature Subianto dancing and cuddling with cats, however, his social media campaign is attempting to portray him as “just a harmless grandpa,” according to academic Alexander R. Arifianto — banking on young Indonesians’ unfamiliarity with his background.

4. Turkey

Opposition test

Local elections in 2024

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Turkish local elections in May will serve as the opposition’s first major test since falling short in last year’s presidential polls. With the country’s largest city once again at stake, incumbent Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, a critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sees the elections as an opportunity to “send a message” to the government. Imamoglu’s party delivered a shock defeat to the ruling AKP in Istanbul five years ago.

5. Senegal

Accusations of French meddling

Presidential election on Feb. 25, 2024

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A Senegalese presidential candidate has accused his rival of benefitting from French interference, after the government revoked his dual citizenship. Karim Wade, the son of former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, forfeited his status as a French citizen in order to run in February’s election. His opponent, Thierno Alassane Sall, described the French government’s decree as “blatant interference” indicative of “neocolonialism.” “Françafrique must die,” said Sall, alluding to the French sphere of influence in Africa. Wade was ultimately excluded from the ballot on Saturday.

6. El Salvador

Bukele dominates

Presidential election on Feb. 4, 2024

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El Salvador’s strongman President Nayib Bukele continues to dominate the polls, just weeks ahead of elections. Even independent pollsters see virtually no opposition to Bukele in the upcoming vote. Despite calling himself a dictator, staking the country’s finances on Bitcoin, and circumventing the constitution to run for a second term, Bukele has won fans domestically and across the region for his harsh crackdown on gang violence, and appears set to remain in power for at least another five years.

7. Finland

Far-right candidate expands support

Presidential election on Jan. 28, 2024

Al Lucca

In the final weeks of Finland’s presidential campaign, far-right parliamentary speaker Jussi Halla-aho has closed in on making the run-off. In December’s Kantar Agri poll, Halla-aho was 11 percentage points away from a second round; now, the gap is only 6 points. While a Halla-aho appearance in the run-off still seems unlikely, his Finns Party has seen similar last-minute surges in the past. The Finnish Supreme Court convicted Halla-aho of hate speech in 2012.

8. Cyprus

Ultranationalist party hits record high

Legislative election in 2026

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An ultranationalist movement founded as a de facto offshoot of the Greek neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” party hit a polling record of 17%. This represents an increase of around 10 points from ELAM’s 2021 election result of 7%. ELAM seeks to unite Greece and Cyprus, and has published material on its website valorizing the authoritarian Greek leader Ioannis Metaxas. For a party that can accurately be described as fascist, 17% of the vote is a staggering figure.

9. Mongolia

Constitutional changes pose issues for democracy

Legislative election in 2024

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After changes to the constitution, observers of Mongolia’s election warn an unfair environment could tarnish the campaign. According to The Diplomat, larger districts implemented in this election could disadvantage candidates without established networks of support, including younger candidates, as it is more difficult to campaign across a wider area within the country’s 14-day campaigning time limit. But an expanded Parliament offers opportunity for greater representation, and new constraints are accompanied by the enhanced role of social media in voter outreach.

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Notable

  • Pernille Vermund, the Danish far-right leader featured in last week’s Hot List for dissolving her party, has a new team: the Liberal Alliance.
  • Support for parties making up Ireland’s coalition government hit a low for this term, with the next legislative election about a year away.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the source and date of a prior poll in Finland. It was Kantar Agri, and in December.

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