Elections are due next year in some of the world’s biggest democracies, including the US, India and Indonesia, heralding the possibility of significant political upheaval across the globe.
All eyes will be on the US, where a former president could be running for a second term while facing a raft of serious criminal charges. But numerous other political currents are swirling, including concerns about how artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies might impact voting, as well as growing environmental movements and the looming prospect of a global recession.
As ever, US election coverage has dominated the international media. The Trump presidency is still regarded as one of the most chaotic in recent memory and so the prospect of the 45th US president returning to be the country’s 47th is causing global intrigue.
Joe Biden’s advanced age (he will be 81 on polling day next November) has also raised questions and while neither his nor Trump’s nomination is yet secured, it is looking like an increasingly foregone conclusion, said The Conversation – “2024 looks to be 2020 all over again”.
India, meanwhile, is “entering the most dangerous phase of its existence”, said The Wire, with the country’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, “falling back on the one antidote with which he is familiar… stirring up hatred of Muslims and other minorities”.
With opposition splintered and in disarray, Modi will win a third term in 2024, according to Arvind Panagariya, an Indian-American economist and professor of Indian political economy at Columbia University.
Not only this but “India [will] jump from the fifth position to become the third largest economy in the world during the current decade”, Panagariya predicted in an article for The Times of India, which itself will have huge global ramifications.
Another of the world’s largest democracies, Indonesia, is also due to hold an election next year. “With a population of 270 million, Indonesia’s presidential elections in some ways resemble those of the United States, with massive rallies and enormous sums of money spent,” said Foreign Policy.
Its three leading candidates – incumbent president Joko Widodo and challengers Ganjar Pranowo and Prabowo Subianto – offer “three distinct paths for Indonesia: the continuity of an imperfect but democratic brand of politics, a reactive authoritarianism that harkens back to the era of the dictator Suharto, or a move to embrace growing religious radicalism”, the site said.
The UK is also likely to head to the polls in 2024, with many pundits suggesting Labour could rebound from 2019 (its worst performance in 80 years) straight to a Commons majority. If it does, the party’s leader Keir Starmer is expected to occupy a centrist space and will face significant headwinds, not least because he is likely to “inherit an economic mess”, according to The Guardian’s economics editor Larry Elliott.
The rise of AI is “already affecting” the 2024 US election, said Axios, “in ways that could reshape how campaigns are run and how voters are informed – or misled”.
“If 2008 and 2012 were the Facebook elections, this will be the AI election – but it’ll be massively more disruptive,” said Tom Newhouse, vice-president of digital marketing at Convergence Media, a Republican firm that uses AI.
Fake images and videos are being created using AI for use in campaign ads, said Axois. The technology is “also being used to improve fundraising efficiency by targeting prospective donors and voters”, the site said, and it “can also be used to flood voters with disinformation”.
Next year will be “a critical litmus test to decide who is in control: citizens and their democratically elected governments or big tech”, said Ellen Judson, from the think tank Demos, in The Guardian. “We urgently need to address the impact of AI on politics before it happens, rather than when things go wrong.”
Environmentalism and populism
Populism emerged as a powerful political force over the last two decades, ushering in a new breed of leaders from Brazil to Hungary, Turkey and the US. More recently, the environmental movement has become a source of similar upheaval across national and international politics.
Australia’s so-called “teal” independent candidates – most of whom had conservative fiscal politics combined with green views on climate – managed to “upend Australia’s election”, said The Guardian, defeating the country’s conservative Liberal/National coalition in key seats and helping usher in a new Labor government.
A similar challenge emerged in European politics, said the Financial Times. The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), Europe’s largest political party, fought the last EU-wide elections “almost as environmentalists, championing the EU’s ambitious plan to cut emissions and nourish nature”, the FT said. In 2019, the EPP said that its Green Deal was its “man on the moon moment”.
Now, however, the pendulum appears to be swinging back the other way. Approaching the European elections in June 2024, “with populist and hard-right parties gaining ground, [the EPP] has shifted to counter – or even adopt – them”.
Economists continue to predict that growth will continue to contract into 2024, potentially triggering recession, though in the US “the downturn will be mild, as recessions go”, according to Bill Conerly in Forbes.
“Memories of the 2008-09 recession are unfortunate because this one will certainly be much milder,” Conerly said. “Most families and businesses will feel it in news headlines rather than their own experience. But the more cyclical parts of the economy will have to face a downturn.”
What impact will the downturn have? “In the short term the answer is grim,” said The Economist. Amid numerous other shifting political forces, economic weakness, whenever it arrives, “could exacerbate geopolitical risks”, it concluded.