2016 saw a rapid transformation in global politics. 2017 will witness many important leadership contests in several countries. The most prominent among them are listed and explained below.
France: The 2017 French Presidential election.
Iran: The 2017 Iranian Presidential election.
Germany: The 2017 German federal election.
The Netherlands: The 2017 Dutch general election.
China: The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
South Korea: The 2017 South Korean Presidential election.
India: The 2017 Indian Presidential election and Legislative Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Manipur, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Gujarat.
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The 2017 French Presidential election: France works on the two-round voting system. The election on 23 April is the first round. If no candidate wins with a majority, a run-off election will take place on 7 May. The run-off will only be between the top two vote winners from the first round.
The main political parties contesting the election are the Socialist Party, the Republicans, and the National Front. Incumbent President Francois Hollande of the Socialist Party dropped out of the race on 1 December 2015 due to low approval ratings. The Socialist Party is yet to announce its nominee for the election. Following their primaries, the Republicans nominated former Prime Minister Francois Fillon. The candidate of the National Front is Marine Le Pen.
The 2017 French Presidential election will be influenced by the spate of terrorist attacks in Europe in the past two years, economic stagnation, unemployment, and the extended state of Emergency that has been in effect since the November 2015 Paris Attacks. The rise of populism and Euroscepticism are also major players (especially since the victory of pro-Brexit groups in the United Kingdom and the Republican Party in the United States). Le Pen has been vocally advocating for a Brexit-styled referendum in France, and her polling numbers have consistently pointed to chances that she could be eligible for the run-off in May. While the National Front’s rise has already shifted the French politics to the right-wing ideology, a Le Pen victory will invariably up-end European politics.
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The 2017 Iranian Presidential election will take place on 19 May: Iran’s political system is highly complicated. Essentially, the main elections are to elect the President, the legislature (the Islamic Consultative Assembly), and the Assembly of Experts. The President is the head of Government while the Islamic Consultative Assembly is the chief legislative body. The Assembly of Experts elects the Supreme Leader of Iran, who serves as head of State and for all practical purposes has more power than the President. The Supreme Leader, in turn, selects the 12 members of the Guardian Council. All candidates for the Presidency, the Legislature, and the Assembly of Experts have to be approved by the Guardian Council.
The incumbent President Hassan Rouhani won a landslide victory in the 2013 Presidential election, a surprise victory which was hailed as a landmark event in modern Iranian history. Following the Iran Nuclear Deal struck with the West and the rolling back of West-imposed sanctions, the Iranian economy has been limping forward. However, Donald Trump’s victory and his vocal opposition to the Iran Deal will make the next few years tedious for Iran, which is still struggling with the consequences of the sanctions that have plagued its economy since 1979.
With hard-line factions in disarray, Rouhani is favoured to win a second term should he choose to announce his candidacy. But the candidate fray is yet to be announced, and each of them will have to be approved by the Guardian Council.
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The 2017 German federal election will take place before 22 October 2017: The German people will elect the 19th Bundestag (German equivalent of the Parliament) in 2017. The majority party in the Bundestag will, in turn, select the next Chancellor of Germany (equivalent to Prime Minister).
The main political parties are the CDU/CSU and the Social Democratic Party. Since 2013, Angela Merkel has led a grand coalition as Chancellor of Germany for the third time since 2005. With the Social Democrats disunited, most polls give Merkel high chances of a fourth consecutive victory.
The issue, though, is the margin of Merkel’s victory – if she wins, that is. A new party called the Alternative for Germany (AfD), infamous for its anti-refugee, anti-EU, and anti-Islam opinions, has gained considerable traction in recent months. In local elections in September 2015, AfD defeated Merkel’s party in her home State. Considering Merkel’s status as de facto leader of the EU and the rise of Euroscepticism across the continent, a Merkel defeat would have international implications.
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The 2017 Dutch general election will take place on 15 March: The Netherlands has experienced much political instability in this century. It saw five elections between 2002 and 2012 before a coalition of two political parties – the Labour Party (PvdA) and the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) – formed the Government in 2012 with incumbent Mark Rutte as Prime Minister.
Beside PvdA and VVD, the third main political party is the nationalistic and right-wing Party for Freedom (PVV) whose leader Geert Wilders has promised to withdraw the Netherlands from the European Union should PVV win. PVV currently leads other parties in opinion polls, and there is a talk of a grand coalition between other parties should no party win an outright majority in the 150-member House of Representatives.
If this happens, Dutch politics will see further instability. On the contrary, if PVV wins, Europe will see another far right revolt and the European Union will be tasked with further crises and uncertainty.
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The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China will take place before November 2017: If Iran’s political system is complicated, China’s is almost undecipherable. It is shrouded in secrecy and nepotism. The key to understanding elections in China lies in understanding the structure of the Communist Party of China.
The most powerful personality in China is the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. Since the 1990s, conventionally, the General Secretary has always been the President of China. The President is the head of State. The National People’s Congress (NPC) is the national legislature. Many Party bodies like the Politburo, the Politburo Standing Committee, and the General Secretary of the Party are elected by a body known as the Central Committee.
The next Central Committee will be elected by Party delegates at the upcoming National Congress. The Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee are slated to undergo much change as many of their current members are hitting the mandatory retirement age.
China’s political system is draped in secrecy, as such elections are largely the result of countless background dealings and subject to personal clout. Incumbent President Xi Jinping undoubtedly has full control of the Party and no intra-Party opposition to worry about. Nevertheless, due to the power of China’s economy, speculation about whether the National Congress will pick Jinping’s successor, and invariable transition of Party control to younger leaders, the 19th National Congress has been subject to several analyses and will be observed keenly.
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The 2017 South Korean Presidential election will be held before 20 December: 2016 was a tumultuous year for South Korea. The National Assembly impeached President Park Geun-Hye following revelations of corruption involving her friend Choi Soon-Sil who was branded as the shadow President for influencing Government decisions. Presently, Geun-Hye retains the title of President while the Constitutional Court reviews the impeachment motion, but her unpopularity has split the ruling Saenuri Party.
South Korea has evolved into a three-party system. The President serves for a single five-year term. The 2017 Presidential election will be a crucial one for the young democracy (the Sixth Republic began only in 1987) plagued by corruption scandals.
The 2017 Indian Presidential election will take place before 25 July: The President of India is the head of State. He or she is elected by an electoral college consisting of the elected members of both houses of Parliament, the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of all 29 States, and the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of the Union Territories of Delhi and Puducherry. The vote takes place by secret ballot, and the list of candidates is still speculative.
Uttar Pradesh, India: The 2017 UP Legislative Assembly election will be held before May 2017. Currently, the Samajwadi Party controls the UP Vidhan Sabha with Akhilesh Yadav as Chief Minister of the State. Leading players in the upcoming election include the SP, the Bahujan Samaj Party, and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Punjab, India: The 2017 Punjab Legislative Assembly election will be held before March 2017. Currently, a SAD-BJP coalition controls the Punjab Vidhan Sabha with Parkash Singh Badal as Chief Minister of the State. Leading players in the upcoming election include the current coalition partners, the Indian National Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party.
Legislative Assembly elections in Goa, Manipur, and Uttarakhand are expected to be held before March while Legislative Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat are expected to take place before the end of the year.