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The Hot List

Updated Jun 15, 2024, 12:17pm 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.

India – BJP fortress
Legislative elections through June 2024

The state of Uttar Pradesh embodies Modi’s troubles in India’s election, with a shocking win by opposition parties. The socialist Samajwadi Party won 37 seats compared to the BJP’s 33, in a state where Hindu nationalism has been pronounced in governance. Uttar Pradesh is led by BJP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a hardline monk who has been described as an “extremist” by international outlets. It is also the site of the Ram Mandir, a controversial temple constructed on the site of a historic mosque, a symbol of the BJP’s religious campaigning in this election. The BJP even lost the constituency where the Ram Mandir is located.

ArrowIndia last appeared on the Hot List at #1, with the decline of Modi's BJP in this election.
Joey Pfeifer
South Africa – Looking for allies
Legislative elections held May 29, 2024

After hitting a rock-bottom result in legislative elections, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress will be forced into a dicey search for coalition partners. Giving up more than 17 points compared to last election, the ANC only took around 40% of the vote, leaving few options for a workable majority. Now, the party will have to decide between centrists in the Democratic Alliance or left-wing insurgents in the Spear of the Nation movement, which tore up ANC support in KwaZulu-Natal and won the state with nearly a majority. The decision could be decisive to the future of South African politics, as the ANC enters into a new phase of attempting to undo its decline.

ArrowSouth Africa last appeared on the Hot List at #1, with the ANC losing its majority in historic fashion.
Japan – ‘Worse than 2009’
Legislative elections in 2025

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s tenure may be on the rocks, with one LDP legislator declaring the political environment may be “worse than 2009” for the ruling party. The remarks came from Shinjiro Koizumi, Japan’s former environment minister, at an LDP meeting in Yokohama. The local LDP leader in that city also spoke in favor of Kishida’s resignation, as a leadership review looms this fall.

ArrowJapan last appeared on the Hot List at #4, looking at the race to be governor of Tokyo.
Joey Pfeifer
UK – Reform U-turn
Legislative elections on July 4, 2024

Brexit leader Nigel Farage made a U-turn with an announcement to officially run for Parliament with his Reform UK party in the upcoming election. Farage has made repeated attempts at standing for Parliament in the past, none of them successful. However, the weakness of the governing Conservatives presents a clear opportunity for the nationalist Farage, as his party polls just points away from second place. While Reform UK is unlikely to make much of a dent in terms of seats, the party could still devastate the Tory vote.

ArrowThe UK last appeared on the Hot List at #5, looking at the candidacy of Jeremy Corbyn.
Mexico – Monterrey defeat
Municipal election held June 2, 2024

Likes did not translate into votes for one “Instagram influencer” candidate running for mayor of Monterrey, who was previously profiled by Rest of World. Despite polls that saw Mariana Rodriguez tied with former Mayor Adrian de la Garza, her candidacy ultimately fell short. Rodriguez’s run generated significant attention for her social media audience, which prompted regulators to wonder whether reforms were needed to address disparities with candidates who have fewer followers. Rodriguez, who ran with the Movimiento Ciudadano party, is also the first lady of Nuevo Leon state.

ArrowMexico last appeared on the Hot List at #1, with Claudia Sheinbaum's presidential election victory.
Al Lucca
Chad – Autocratic system
Presidential election held May 6, 2024

Chad may have transitioned away from its military junta, but an authoritarian stance still marks its government. Citizens of Chad “are bracing themselves for another round of authoritarian rule,” The Conversation said, pointing out state repression conducted before, during, and after the recent presidential vote. Opposition figures were assassinated prior to the election, competing candidates have declared the vote rigged in the aftermath of the results, and the results themselves were announced under the threat of military force.

ArrowChad last appeared on the Hot List at #8, with opposition accusations of a rigged election.
Turkey – Mayor imprisoned
Local elections held March 31, 2024

A recently elected Kurdish mayor from the left-wing DEM party was sentenced to 20 years in prison, provoking political turmoil in Turkey. Hakkari Mayor Mehmet Siddik Akis was found guilty of belonging to the Kurdistan Workers Party, a left-wing militant group outlawed as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government. The decision ignited protests across the country, and was slammed by the opposition CHP, with party leader Ozgur Ozel saying the “will of the people” had been “disregarded” in Hakkari.

ArrowTurkey last appeared on the Hot List at #1, looking at the presidential potential of Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu.
Joey Pfeifer
Romania – Far-right forgery
EU Parliament elections through June 9, 2024

In Romania, nationalist leader George Simion has been accused by prosecutors of “election fraud.” The allegations concern a request from Simion to forge lists of backers in support of an independent candidate for the European Parliament. Simion’s nationalist party, AUR, emerged in recent years to become competitive in Romanian polling, with a focus on unification with the neighboring country of Moldova. He described the investigation as an attempt to “manipulate public opinion to get AUR out of the electoral competition.”

ArrowRomania last appeared on the Hot List at #6, with a European election alliance between major parties.
Iceland – Second go
Presidential election held June 1, 2024

Iceland’s new president is businesswoman Halla Tomasdottir, who previously ran for the office in 2016. Tomasdottir defeated a slate of candidates that included the former prime minister, who resigned in order to seek the role, and a comedian who served as mayor of Reykjavik. The “mostly ceremonial” role nevertheless is seen as a “uniting figure” in Iceland, representing the country on the world stage. Until entering the election, Tomasdottir served as CEO of nonprofit The B Team.

Iceland last appeared on the Hot List at #9, looking at the candidacy of Halla Hrund Logadottir.

Joey Pfeifer
Reuters/Jana Rodenbusch

Recent elections around the world have been characterized by anti-incumbent backlash, as described in a new article from the AP. Parties in government have seen – or are anticipating – grim results at the ballot box, with a major example in South Africa, where the dominant African National Congress suffered a historic loss of its majority. Perhaps most staggering is a recent string of 20 consecutive election losses for incumbent parties in Latin America, based on research from Harvard professor Steven Levitsky. A kaleidoscope of reasons could explain the phenomenon, as social media has ratcheted up political polarization across the board. “One of the greatest tests” of this new dynamic? The US presidential election, where President Joe Biden will stave off a challenge from a radicalized Trump campaign.