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Sat, 24 February 2024

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A landmark number of elections in 2024 will revitalise democracy around the world

(Alamy)

4 min read

There has been much comment on how, during 2024, there will be democratic elections in much of the world.

Over two billion people will go to the polls to choose their national leaders. They will include those in the United States, India (with a larger population than China) and, of course, the United Kingdom.

These reminders are a welcome antidote to repeated assertions that democracy is in decline, and dictatorships and autocracies, like China and Russia, are in the ascendancy.

It is worth getting these assertions into perspective. In Europe, out of 44 countries, no fewer than 42 are democracies. Only Russia and Belarus are the exceptions. Hungary still has proper elections but other freedoms have been eroded. Poland, which many feared was sliding into dictatorship, has just ousted its authoritarian government and replaced it with one committed to democratic and liberal values.

Likewise with much of the rest of the world. The Americas, with a total of over 30 states, have only three, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, which are, in effect, dictatorships.

Asia has dictatorships, including China, Vietnam, North Korea and Myanmar but that is balanced by Japan, India and South Korea, while Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan have renounced dictatorship in recent years and become healthy democracies.

The Middle East is poor on democracy and always has been. Only Israel, and Iraq, to a very limited degree, have proper elections. Africa is mixed but its major countries, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya are amongst those that have embraced democracy.

It is significant how Russia, under Vladimir Putin, feels that it has to pretend it is democratic. It will have a presidential election; everyone will be expected to vote and there will be one candidate to vote for! No one is fooled but even Putin feels he has to go through this charade as otherwise he might not appear to his own people to be legitimate.

But how important will the results of this year’s elections be for the world as a whole? I will concentrate on the four most important: the US, India, South Africa and the UK.

In the US it is not yet certain that either Joe Biden or Donald Trump will run for the presidency. Biden would not announce any decision to not run before March or April. A president not going for a second term risks becoming a “lame duck president” from the day of the announcement . At present, I believe he intends to run.

We will survive a second Trump presidency, appalling though it would be

Trump must be seen as the favoured candidate for the Republicans. Nikki Haley is emerging as his main opponent. She is, at present, far behind him in the polls but once the primary elections begin anything could happen.

We will survive a second Trump presidency, appalling though it would be. He would not control the Senate and could lose the House. The Supreme Court has already shown they will not be bullied by the White House.

My main concern would be for the future of Nato under Trump, who has criticised it in the past. But Trump loves power. Why would any American president withdraw from an alliance that is, by far, the world’s most powerful, and of which the US is its undisputed leader?

India will, almost certainly, return Narendra Modi for another term in power. Under Modi India has become more Hindu nationalist. But Modi is aware that at least 25 per cent of India’s population are not Hindu. Modi cannot ignore that if India is to survive and prosper.

South Africa’s election will also be crucial. The ANC, Nelson Mandela’s party, has been losing its grip on power and so may lose when South Africans go to the polls.

In regards our own forthcoming election in the UK the future is not what it used to be! I will simply remind my Conservative colleagues of Churchill’s wise advice: “The trouble with committing political suicide is that you live to regret it.”  

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