If the seismic political shifts of 2016 weren’t enough, 2017 looks set to be just as eventful. Let’s take a look at the year ahead and in particular upcoming elections around the world. 

Netherlands, March 15th

The Dutch election is due to take place in just over three months, and much of the debate has been dominated by controversial right-wing populist Geert Wilders. The leader of the far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) has used anti-EU rhetoric, fear of Islamist extremism and uncontrolled immigration as fuel for his campaign.

The latest polls (as of December 17th) indicate he is edging ahead of his rival, the incumbent Mark Rutte, leader of the centre-right VVD. Wilders’ party has the support of between 20 to 25 per cent compared to the ruling VVD, which has fallen to between 15 per cent and 17.5 per cent. The Labour party (currently part of the ruling coalition), despite appointing the current social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher as campaign leader, continues to struggle in the polls.

What’s unclear is that due to nature of the Dutch political system, the PVV would need to form a coalition in order to succeed in forming a government, a proposition that currently looks unlikely

Iran, May 19th

Current President Hassan Rouhani will be seeking re-election for a second term in office in May. As a moderate, Rouhani will be up against hard-line critics. His landslide victory in 2013 shocked the world as he promised to repair relations with the West, improve the economy and establish a civil rights charter. In particular, the 2015 nuclear agreement saw a furthering of his democratic ambitions for Iran.

Rouhani’s re-election is contingent on a number of factors. The first concerns whether Donald Trump will uphold the US commitment to the Iran nuclear deal once in office. Having threatened to dismantle the agreement repeatedly during his election campaign, its fate is currently subject of much speculation.

The second factor regards the candidate the conservatives choose to represent them. In December, various conservative parties unveiled their candidates, a decision that currently looks to be long and arduous.

Third, the sudden death of former President Akbar Rafsanjani, who was expected to play a key role in aiding Rouhani in appealing to hard-liners, throws more doubt as to whether the next five months will see further polarisation in Iran.

France, April 23rd (first round), May 7th (second round)

France’s upcoming election has brought with it a conversation dominated by the rise of Marine Le Pen, leader of Front National (FN). Her staunch anti-immigrant rhetoric, criticism of multiculturalism and commitment to renegotiating France’s position in the EU has seen her rise in the polls.

Le Pen’s main rival is former Prime Minister, François Fillon. Representing the centre-right ‘Les Républicains’, Fillon has also vowed to take a tough stance on immigration, Islamist terrorism and the EU in the hope of retaining voters.

The most recent polls show Le Pen has taken a lead in the first round vote, polling at 26.5 per cent, a lead of 1.5 per cent over the Conservative Fillon. That said, projections still estimate that Fillon is expected to beat Le Pen in the second-round runoff in May.

Other important players to watch are the former economy minister Emmanuel Macron, currently polling in third place as an independent, as well as the eventual Socialist Party candidate, who will be named within the next two weeks. 

getty, globe

Kenya, August 8th

August’s election in Kenya will see incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta running for re-election. Kenyatta’s Presidency over the last four years has seen the economy grow steadily and last year saw his approval ratings rise. However, repeated Islamic militant attacks, public sector strikes and multiple corruption scandals have raised doubts about Kenyatta’s capability to the run the country successfully.

In recent weeks, opposition coalition group CORD (Coalition for Reforms and Democracy) announced a National Super Alliance (Nasa) alongside KANU (Kenya African National Union) in their joint bid to oust Kenyatta.

The main concern of the opposition alliance now is to elect their leader to rival Kenyatta. Raila Odingha, leader of the Orange Democratic Movement who has lost three elections, wants to take up the position but his contribution to Kenyan elections has been marred by violence. 

Clashes have already taken place between the police and protestors over the electoral process in 2016 and as electoral negotiations continue, the test will be whether the election can take place free of disruption.

Germany, September (date TBC)

Angela Merkel has been Chancellor of Germany since 2005 and is currently the EU’s longest-serving leader.

Running for a fourth-term, the last four years were defined by her commitment to austerity measures, open-armed response to over a million refugees and leadership in Europe’s united front against Russia in Ukraine.

The incumbent centrist leads the way in the contest against the far-right, a position upheld by Frauke Petry, leader of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. The AfD’s anti-EU and anti-immigration stance alongside their staunch position towards Islamic extremism has seen a growth in their popularity.

Local support for the AfD has grown across Germany in 2016 and as of January 13th, the right-wing movement  AfD is polling at roughly 13 per cent of the vote.

The same poll placed Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) at 36 per cent and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) at 21 per cent. Currently this is enough to retain the current ruling coalition, however if either party were lose any more seats they may need the support of either the Greens or Free Democrats to fill the gap. 

Other important elections: Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand, New Zealand, Lebanon, Rwanda, Angola, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Argentina, Chile and can be found by visiting the Global Electoral Calendar.

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