woman with a sign

A Troubling Year for Elections in 76 Nations

In 2024, more than half of the world’s nations will go to the polls, or some four billion people in 76 nations, the highest rate ever. Presidential elections, or those for national leaders, will take place in large countries including the United States of America (USA), Britain, Russia, India, and Ukraine, and not one of these is expected to have an easy time of it.

Mauritius: The Only Fully Functioning African Democracy

The Economist Intelligence Unit categorizes Brazil, India, Indonesia and the United States, as “flawed democracies meaning that elections are free, fair and allow for the possibility of change, but their political systems have weaknesses”. South Africa and Botswana, which both hold elections in 2024, also fall into this category. The Economist ranks only Mauritius, which will hold elections in November, as a fully functioning African democracy.

In many of the 2024 elections the ability to hold credible, free and fair elections is on the line. There are no awards for guessing who is likely to win in Russia, nor India. Ukraine’s outcome will influence the outcome of that war, with Volodymyr Zelenskyy seeing waning favorability among war-weary Ukrainian voters, although he still polls far higher than most world leaders. Election squabbles in the USA, Britain, South Africa, and Botswana are likely to be unseemly, and in some instances perhaps even deadly.

The ground is shifting now

The deadliest new conflict on the planet at present is orchestrated by Israel, which is not set to vote for a new leader until 2026. The country will hold municipal elections on January 30, and that could give an indicator of how Israelis view the government of Binyamin Netanyahu. Polls in November by researchers at Israel’s Bar Ilan University showed that less than four percent of Israelis trust Netanyahu. But another by the Israeli Democracy Institute of a small 518 sampling showed that most respondents supported the war, but felt the government had no plans for what to do once fighting ended and 56% wanted an amendment to the Nation-State Law, “to safeguard equality for non-Jewish citizens”, – or Arabs.

Writing in Foreign Affairs on December 29 on How Israel Could Lose America, Shalom Lipner notes: “What is abundantly clear, however, is that Israel’s latitude to pursue its stated war objectives would be vastly constrained were it not for the emphatic support of the United States… That ground is shifting now, especially as younger Americans express dramatically less affinity for Israel than older generations. Joe Biden …may well be the last Democratic president with impeccable pro-Israeli credentials… There is widespread concern that the 2024 [Israeli] budget will follow the same pattern of allocating resources for political patronage to religious parties at the same time that the United States is being called on to help offset the costs of the war.”

At home, the USA infrastructure is crumbling

But the appetite for funding endless wars in foreign places has abated in the United States. Childish quibbling in Congress has seen the past congressional term with the lowest rate of law-passing yet – just 20. A $105 billion aid package submitted by Biden to prop up wars in Israel, Ukraine and for Taiwan defense, has been frozen for three months, while Republicans argue for stronger southern border measures.

At home, USA infrastructure is crumbling. The Airports Council International, a US organization, reported in 2023 that virtually all airports needed upgrading, at a cost of some $151 billion. For one, there is a critical shortage of air traffic controllers dating back to President Ronald Reagan firing all when they went on strike during his administration. Subway stations are filthy and stink of urine, trains are old and decrepit.  The American Road and Transport Builders Association noted in 2023 that of the 600 000 bridges in the USA, 76 600 needed replacing and “42 400 are rated in poor condition and classified as structurally deficient. Motorists cross these structures 167 million times a day… At the current pace, it would take nearly 75 years to repair them all.”

Public debt projected to rise

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office notes: “Debt held by the public is projected to rise in relation to the size of the economy each year, reaching 118 percent of GDP by 2033 – which would be the highest level ever recorded, or 159 percent of GDP in 2053.” This might not concern the two geriatric presidential front-runners, but it should.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump (77) faces more than 90 charges in four different criminal cases. Two states have taken him off their ballots in terms of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, more are likely to follow until this goes to the Republican-leaning Supreme Court.

Democratic President Biden (81) is the only candidate for his party, a decision they are starting to rue. The young don’t like Biden. The latest NBC poll notes: “The erosion for Biden is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza, and among voters ages 18 to 34, with a whopping 70% of them disapproving of Biden’s handling of the war.” Gallup recently reported that his 39% approval rating was the worst of any president in modern times. The New York Times reports that African American voters, long the bedrock of the Democratic Party, are increasingly drifting to the Republicans. It’s worth listening to an excellent NYT podcast The Run-Up hosted by Astead Herndon about this on November 23.

Most uniquely horrible choice

Overall Americans dislike both candidates; thirty-five-year-old Andrew Collins of Maine said: “This is probably the most uniquely horrible choice I’ve had in my life.”

In the USA, with its 18th century Electoral College system, which does not allow for a one person one vote, but is rather weighted with smaller states having as much power as heavily populated states, this race is up in the air. There is likely to be a significant number of voters either staying away, or voting only for city and state officials, and not presidential nominees.

Amaryllis Gox, the campaign manager for conspiracy theorist, Robert Kennedy, who is also running, reassured supporters: “In a three-way dead heat, it’s 34 percent to win.” And although Electoral College delegates are supposed to vote the way their state did, they often don’t. The Washington Post reminds that: “Abraham Lincoln won 40 percent of the popular vote in 1860 when he ran against Stephen Douglas and two other candidates. He got 59 percent of the electoral college votes. Bill Clinton won 69 percent of the electoral college votes in 1992 against two rivals, while winning only 43 percent of the vote.”

In the US, it seems, the hubris of old men will lead to what the ancient Greeks always warned of: a fall. Some say it is still too early to predict the November 5 election. We have to hope that the British anniversary of Guy Fawkes lacks resonance here.

Charlene Smith is a multi-award-winning journalist, author, book editor, and writing coach. She is also an authorized biographer of Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *