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The Hot List

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Updated Apr 13, 2024, 3:33pm EDT

Semafor’s subjective, dynamic ranking of the elections you should be paying attention to right now — based on their urgency, their importance, and their connection to the great political forces shaping our world.

1
India – Billionaire Raj
Legislative elections in April and May 2024

India’s billionaire class have “opened their wallets” to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the words of one Bloomberg columnist, cementing his rule with critical assistance during this election cycle. In spite of massive income inequality, Modi’s government has forged a reciprocal relationship with a “tiny class of super-rich” in India, the wealth of which has “barely trickled down.” This class has supported Modi through over $1.5 billion in funding, seeking favorable policies in what Bloomberg calls an “egregious quid pro quo” overlooked for his party’s Hindu nationalist stances. While Modi seems set to win this election, one wonders whether the approach is sustainable — or whether the opposition will eventually find an opening on the issue of inequality.

ArrowIndia last appeared on the Hot List at #5, featuring a candidate who has lost 238 elections.
Al Lucca
2
Slovakia – Consolidating power
Presidential election held on April 6, 2024

Slovakia’s presidential election featured a stronger-than-expected victory for a pro-Russia candidate. Peter Pellegrini placed behind during the first round in what was considered an upset loss, but reversed his fortunes to win the run-off on Saturday. Pellegrini, who leads a party within the government coalition, is anticipated to go along with policies favorable to Prime Minister Robert Fico, who has emerged as one of the most prominent voices against funding Ukraine among currently serving European politicians.

ArrowSlovakia last appeared on the Hot List at #3, with a feature on the surprise first round performance of this election's pro-EU runner-up.
3
Ukraine – Zelensky decline
Presidential election in 2024?

Two years after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, signs are emerging that voters may opt for a change in government in Kyiv, with both President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his party struggling. According to one poll, the president has fallen behind his former commander-in-chief, Zaluzhnyi, in voter support, while his Servant of the People party appears to have lost clout in Parliament. The developments add up to a sense that Zelenskyy and his movement may not be the future of Ukraine’s democratic politics, with his fortunes more in line with polls from before the invasion, when voters mostly perceived him as corrupt.

ArrowThis is Ukraine's first appreance on the Hot List.
Al Lucca
4
Chile – Right-wing lunge
Presidential election in 2025

Despite years of left-wing momentum in Chile, the country is poised for a total reversal in political alignment, with presidential election frontrunners ranging from a conservative mayor to an apologist for dictator Augusto Pinochet. Evelyn Matthei, mayor of Providencia, is the leading candidate by far in some polls, though does not cross into a first-round majority. Her opponent could be the last election’s runner-up, Jose Antonio Kast, a far-right figure who leads the Republican Party, a political home for supporters of the country’s Pinochet-led dictatorship and others with ultra-conservative politics. While Chile’s presidential election isn’t until the end of next year, the outlook so far is dim for the left retaining power.

ArrowThis is Chile's first appearance on the Hot List.
5
South Sudan – Fourteen years
Presidential election in 2024?

Fourteen years after elections were last held in South Sudan, a renewed push aims to hold them by the end of 2024 — though its success is far from certain. While the president has called for legislators to approve new elections, steep challenges remain to ensure the process fulfills its purpose, with one U.S. State Department official claiming they are not on track to be “credible.” South Sudan is currently the world’s newest globally-recognized independent country, having undergone two civil wars over the past decades. The last civil war is responsible for the election delay, with implementation of the peace and reconciliation of government and rebel forces still underway.

ArrowThis is South Sudan's first appearance on the Hot List.
Al Lucca
6
Kuwait – No change
Legislative election held April 4, 2024

Kuwait’s fourth election in five years saw few changes, with opposition parliamentarians maintaining their majority amid political “deadlock.” While mostly caused by procedural issues, this dissolution of the legislature was prompted by a personal dispute with the emir, Kuwait’s ruler. Those locked horns are unlikely to untangle themselves any time soon, as the composition of Parliament remained mostly the same: 29 opposition legislators out of a total of 50. One can only wonder whether a fifth election is just around the corner.

Kuwait last appeared on the Hot List at #6, looking at the emir's snap dissolution of parliament.

7
Cameroon – Circuit breaker
Presidential election in 2025

In the search for presidential successors to Cameroon’s 91-year-old leader Paul Biya, his secretary-general Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh would face an uphill battle. Per reporting from the Africa Report, Biya uses Ngoh Ngoh’s office as a “circuit breaker” for unsavory decisionmaking, offloading scandals until it “melts under the pressure.” Thus, while Ngoh Ngoh may be incredibly influential within Cameroon’s politics, his public image has been tarnished by the structure of the country’s regime. The ruling faction may opt for a name with less baggage in the event that Biya actually steps aside.

ArrowCameroon last appeared on the Hot List at #8, featuring opposition hope for a "renaissance."
Al Lucca
8
Hungary – Magyar movement
Legislative elections in 2026

In Budapest, opposition rising star Peter Magyar drew a crowd of 100,000 people, in a public show of defiance to Prime Minister Viktor Orban. As Magyar points out, two months ago in Hungary nobody knew who he was, but now he stands as easily one of the most prominent figures amongst the opposition. Magyar is an entrepreneur and former member of Orban’s party who uses his status as a former supporter to lay into the government. But Hungary has seen plenty of rising stars seeking to challenge Orban in the past, and none have been able to withstand the gauntlet of running against him. It’s just as easy to imagine Magyar suffering the same experience.

Hungary last appeared on the Hot List at #8, looking at its satirical "Two-Tailed Dog Party."

9
Italy – United States of Europe
EU elections on June 9, 2024

Italy’s pro-EU centrists have teamed up as the “United States of Europe” alliance in time for the European Parliament election. The alliance, which includes the Italia Viva party led by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi as well as the More Europe and Volt parties — advocates for European Union federalism and the creation of a “United States of Europe,” as the name suggests — support supplying far greater powers to a European government. While the idea may be a pipe-dream given Europe’s political reality, it’s a radical proposal that stands as a polar opposite to some of the nationalist fantasies of shattering the EU entirely.

Italy last appeared on the Hot List at #9, looking at the regional election in Abruzzo.

Al Lucca
THE BIG READ
REUTERS/Remo Casilli

One of Europe’s prominent conservative political groups was the de-facto guest of Cypriot ultranationalists at a recent “culture weekend” getaway, Politico reported. The ECR, home to parties like Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, palled around with figures from ELAM, a prospective member of the grouping with roots linking it to the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party from Greece. Golden Dawn’s leadership was imprisoned, but ELAM persists, witnessing some of its best polling yet in recent years. That ELAM could soon join the ECR’s ranks indicates the group’s level of comfort with some of Europe’s most extreme political movements — not exactly surprising, given the neo-fascist origins of Meloni’s own party.

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