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Updated Feb 12, 2024, 6:12am EST

Global Election Hot List: Pakistan, US, Senegal

Al Lucca
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The News

This year is being defined by elections. With so many votes around the world, it can be hard to keep track of them at all.

This week: Imran Khan scores an upset in Pakistan, accusations of a coup in Senegal, and Panama’s grocery mogul may be barred.

In this article:

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Know More

1. Pakistan

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Unexpected outcome

Legislative election Feb. 8, 2024

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The party of former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was removed from office in 2022, subverted expectations by emerging as the largest political force in spite of an election ban. Khan appeared to supporters in the form of an AI-generated video to announce his election win, even as rival, and fellow ex-premier, Nawaz Sharif claimed victory. Though independent candidates backed by Khan placed first, the group does not have a majority, and will need to seek allies in order to form a government. Khan is a cricketing legend in Pakistan, whose star-powered success weaves into a theme of political wins for celebrity candidates across the past decade.

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2. US

RNC resignation

Presidential election in November 2024

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The potential resignation of the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee could set up another major battle within the GOP. In spite of her staunch loyalty to Trump, Ronna McDaniel is considering resigning, possibly as early as this month, following the South Carolina primary. Her replacement will likely be the result of intra-Trumpist jockeying among Republicans.

3. Senegal

Election postponement

Presidential election in December 2024…?

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Senegal’s election has been postponed until December, prompting critics to declare an “institutional coup.” The move marks a major shift from the country’s otherwise stable democratic tradition, with opposition parties demanding the immediate reinstatement of the original Feb. 25 election date. With West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS having recently been undermined by the announced exit of three of its 15 members after military takeovers, the Senegal decision is already raising concerns of increased instability.

4. Ghana

Opposition call to arms

Presidential election in December 2024

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Ghanaians were urged to “arm themselves with weapons” when they go to vote, in shocking comments by the deputy general secretary of the nation’s main opposition party. The inflammatory comments have created a “tone of tension” ahead of general elections in December, where Ghana will elect a new president. One analyst went so far as to describe the statement as a “direct assault on the principle of peaceful elections,” fearing that the call could lead to election-day violence.

5. Panama

Top candidate likely barred

Presidential election in May 2024

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The frontrunner for Panama’s upcoming presidential election will likely be barred from running after losing a corruption appeal, throwing the race into disarray. Ricardo Martinelli, former president of Panama — and former head of the Panamanian grocery chain Super 99 — fled to Nicaragua as soon as the ruling was made, although his immediate reaction suggested that he’d attempt to mount a campaign anyway. Martinelli, a conservative, led all polls for the May presidential election, and his endorsement could still be a decisive factor in determining the outcome of the vote.

6. Spain

Galicia votes

Regional election in February 2024

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In Spain, the region of Galicia will vote on Sunday in a contest between a left-wing nationalist movement and the long-entrenched conservative party. Polls show a tight race, though the conservatives win on balance. The Galician Nationalist Bloc, a progressive movement with factions that range from support for more autonomy to outright separatism, appear to have expanded their support since the last election, planting themselves as the leading force on the left.

7. Costa Rica

Historic upset

Local elections held February 4th, 2024

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Costa Rica’s capital saw a historic upset in recent local elections, with a millennial candidate scoring an extremely rare defeat of the National Liberation Party in San José. Diego Miranda, a historian with links to the left, campaigned against widespread corruption blamed on the long-time incumbent. “We have defeated the 33-year dictatorship of Johnny Araya in San José,” Miranda declared after winning a contest that was determined by just a few points.

8. Hungary

Two-tailed dogs

Local and EU elections in 2024

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The Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party, a satirical grouping known for promising “free beer and eternal life,” is competing this year in local and EU elections in Hungary. In an interview with Balkan Insight, party co-chair Gergely Kovacs suggested that Hungary could rejoin the European Union — despite already being a member — in order to receive “twice the EU funds.” Kovacs currently serves as a local legislator in a district of Budapest, where he aims to be re-elected in this year’s vote. “I promised to earn a lot of money, pave the road in front of my house and erect a grand statue of myself. But only the road is done so far,” he said.

9. Japan

LDP defeat

Local election held February 4th, 2024

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Costa Rica wasn’t the only country to experience a major municipal upset last week: In Japan, the nationally dominant Liberal Democratic Party lost a mayoral race in one of its strongholds. Maebashi, the capital of Gunma prefecture, flipped from LDP control to the opposition, with sitting mayor Ryu Yamamoto ousted in a near-landslide. The victory startled observers of Japanese politics, as Gunma is considered one of the LDP’s “conservative kingdoms.” New mayor Akira Ogawa is also the first woman elected mayor in the city’s history.

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Notable

  • Finland’s presidential election saw center-right candidate Alexander Stubb elected, in what turned out to be a closer race than expected.
  • Azerbaijan’s president was re-elected with 94% of the vote amid a vast opposition crackdown.
  • In Ireland, which is absent a major far-right party, 35% of voters answered that they would “vote for a party or candidate with strong anti-immigrant views.”
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