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The Hot List

Updated May 21, 2024, 4:56pm 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.

Germany – Extremist party
Legislative elections in 2025

A German court declared the anti-immigrant nationalist AfD to be “officially suspected of extremism.” A lower court had previously put the party under state surveillance after deeming it to be subversive of democracy, with the new ruling ratifying the stance. The court’s decision follows the ascendancy of ethno-nationalist elements within the AfD, cited directly in the ruling as evidence of intentions within the party to transform Germany into a “two-tier society” privileging those “judged to be ethnically German.” And just days ago, the party's head EU candidate gave an interview stating that not everyone "who wore an SS uniform was automatically a criminal" – a stance that could end up breaking apart the wider European far-right. The prospect of banning the AfD outright has also been floated, with calls progressively intensifying.

ArrowGermany last appeared on the Hot List at #3, looking at the AfD's embroilment in a spy scandal.
Joey Pfeifer
Mexico – Likes, not votes
Presidential election on June 2, 2024

With less than a month to go until Mexico’s general election, attempting to go viral has become a philosophy for candidates. Across TikTok, Mexican politicians have taken to obsessively seeking engagement through dancing and “chasing memes.” The overall approach has been heavily criticized during one of Mexico’s most intense campaign periods yet, with analysts lamenting a lack of substance on critical issues like security. But in a country with a young electorate, where 76.5% of the population uses TikTok, the allure of “drawing eyeballs” can be irresistible. As political scientist Alejandra Lopez warns, however: “A like is not a vote.”

ArrowMexico last appeared on the Hot List at #1, with frontrunner Claudia Sheinbaum's scientist background.
Italy – New face
Legislative elections in 2027

Italy’s prime minister may be losing favor among her own base, with a far-right general rising. Robert Vannacci has “monopolized the nation’s political conversation” with his book The World Upside Down, described by Foreign Policy as a “compendium of ultra-conservative personal philosophy.” Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, despite having roots in Italy’s post-fascist movement, has faced criticism from some of her own supporters eager for a more aggressively right-wing political agenda. That potentially leaves an opening for Vannacci — or figures like him — to stage a revolt from within Meloni’s ranks.

ArrowItaly last appeared on the Hot List at #5, with the struggles of Melon's fellow far-right leader Matteo Salvini.
Joey Pfeifer
Kuwait – Parliament freeze
Legislative elections held on April 4, 2024

Kuwait’s emir froze the country’s Parliament, prompting fears he could move to get rid of the body entirely. After clashes with national legislators that resulted in the previous Parliament being dissolved — prompting the country’s fourth election in four years — Kuwait’s emir appears to have reached his boiling point, suspending the legislature and throwing its future into question. Kuwait’s status as a rare semi-democracy among neighbors like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which feature “largely symbolic” legislatures, could now face reversal, though Kuwait has its own slate of human rights issues.

ArrowKuwait last appeared on the Hot List at #6, with the results of the most recent legislative election.
Spain – Socialist surge
Regional elections held May 12, 2024

Catalonia’s Socialists won a big victory, as parties in support of independence were relegated below a majority. The PSC achieved its “best result since 2003,” while a struggling separatist movement declined from 74 combined seats out of 135 to just 61 in the new Parliament. However, a divided political landscape for unionist parties will necessitate the PSC reaching out to independence supporters in order to govern, a situation which could lead to new elections if negotiations go south.

ArrowSpain last appeared on the Hot List at #8, looking at the emergence of the separatist far-right in this election.
Joey Pfeifer
Panama – Uncertain terrain
Presidential election held May 5, 2024

Will Panama’s new president live up to his promises? Jose Raul Mulino ran as the definitive successor to Ricardo Martinelli, a businessman and former president who presided over an economic boom. Many Panamanians still have fond memories of Martinelli’s term, and gave Mulino a first-round win after he campaigned firmly on Martinelli’s legacy. Mulino will have steep work cut out for him to make progress in Panama’s “more uncertain political and economic terrain,” though, and resting on nostalgia may not prove an effective strategy for long.

ArrowPanama last appeared on the Hot List at #5, with the newly-elected mayor of Panama City.
Tunisia – Sarcastic quip
Presidential election in 2024

The latest episode in Tunisia’s ongoing crackdown on dissent involves a lawyer jailed for making a “sarcastic quip” on television. Tunisia’s Lawyers Council denounced the arrest of Sonia Dahmani and called for a “nationwide general strike to be held by all lawyers.” Dahmani’s crime: questioning whether Tunisia is really “extraordinary” in a discussion on migration to the country, responding to the president’s racist claims about a “conspiracy to push thousands of undocumented migrants from sub-Saharan Africa to Tunisia.” Tunisia will hold its presidential election this fall, with prospects already dim for its democratic conduct.

ArrowTunisia last appeared on the Hot List at #9, with a look at President Kais Saied's ongoing crackdown against dissent.
Joey Pfeifer
USA – Bob Ferguson
Gubernatorial election on November 5, 2024

Washington state’s attorney general Bob Ferguson has threatened legal action against opponents Bob Ferguson and Bob Ferguson, citing a little-known state statute. The two other Bob Fergusons immediately dropped out following the cease-and-desist letters. In Washington state, it is illegal to run for office “with a surname similar to a person who has already filed for the same office” — if they’re “widely known” in politics. One Bob Ferguson told The Seattle Times his “dream” of running for office was “destroyed” by the attorney general’s action.

ArrowThe USA last appeared on the Hot List at #7, featuring Howard Dean's potential plans to run for governor in Vermont.
Taiwan – How Tsai won
Presidential election in 2028

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen is exiting office with an unprecedented approval rating of 60%. The comparison with former presidents of Taiwan is “night and day,” according to one analyst interviewed by TaiwanPlus News. Tsai ascended to lead the Democratic People’s Party amid infighting and bounced back from a presidential defeat in 2012 to win in the next election, harnessing a wave of support from 2014’s sovereigntist Sunflower Student Movement. Her victories in 2016 and 2020 were also some of the biggest in Taiwanese history, winning those elections by 25 points and 19 points respectively.

ArrowTaiwan last appeared on the Hot List at #4, with the DPP government's plans to take down statues of Chiang Kai-shek.
Joey Pfeifer
X/Ishin no Kai

Japan’s rising star party Ishin may have fading momentum, with “struggles to set themselves apart.” For years, Ishin no Kai has been considered the looming force within Japanese politics, leveraging its success in Osaka Prefecture to a stunning expansion of support in the 2021 general election. But by-election losses and a mayoral miss in Daito, part of Osaka, might have derailed the party’s path to power. Journalist Takuya Nishimura, quoted in The Japan Times, suggests that Ishin “needs to distinguish itself more from the LDP,” given the broadly conservative stances of both parties.