Election Year

AROUND 40 countries representing almost half the world’s population will either elect new rulers or endorse existing ones in the year ahead. This doesn’t mean we can look forward to a global festival of democracy.

The balloting spree kicks off in Bangladesh on Sunday, and is likely to conclude with what is billed as the most consequential election of all — the Nov 5 contest that will decide whether Donald Trump returns to the helm of the unparalleled hegemonic power.

In between, there will be polls in India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Russia, along with Mexico and other nations. A British election need not be called until 2025, but Rishi Sunak is expected to go early given that, amid the rising stench of Tory incompetence, his party’s prospects are likely to deteriorate. Although Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to extend the genocidal military campaign in Gaza to avoid a reckoning with voters disenchanted by his fascist government’s innumerable failings, any extended hiatus in Israel’s war of aggression could provoke circumstances necessitating a fresh election.

The unprecedented bloodbath in Israeli-occupied territories will also influence US elections. There is mounting evidence that disenchantment among younger America­­ns, including many who are Jewish by faith or ancestry, with the Biden administration’s aid for a Middle Eastern country sla­u­­ghtering hundreds of civilians — mostly children and women — every day will deter them from helping to re-elect Joe Biden.

Meanwhile, pro-Zionist lobbyists and their collaborators are determined to defeat the few members of Congress who dare speak up for Palestinian rights or question the subsidies that help to sustain the Israeli war machine. The success rate of previous efforts along these lines is unimpressive, but the trend is nonetheless a cause for concern in a country where cash is often king in poll contests.

Don’t count on a festival of democracy.

Beyond that, there is no guarantee that legal or constitutional challenges will thwart Trump’s quest to become only the second president in US history to serve non-contiguous terms. Would his return to the White House spell the end of the world as we know it, as sections of the US media portend? Perhaps. The appalling state of the world can hardly serve as an advertisement for the status quo, but the kind of shake-up a second Trump presidency might entail offers even more troubling possibilities.

The likelihood of unwelcome eventualities is widespread, however. In the subcontinent, the common factor is waves of repression: the Awami League in Bangladesh (Hasina Wajed appears to have blocked out memories of her father’s fate after he chose a similarly authoritarian route), the powers that be in Pakistan and the Modi regime in India are equally determined to perpetuate their rule. For varying reasons all three are likely to succeed. The next president of Indonesia is likely to be Prabowo Subianto, a Suharto-era general whose extended record of atrocities earned him a ban from entering the US. But it will undoubtedly be rescinded if he wins, as it was for Modi.

In South Africa, the African National Congress — indelibly associated with Nelson Mandela, but hardly reflective of his ideals — could deservedly lose its majority after years of poor governance and corruption. For all its flaws, though, the ANC has consistently supported the cause of Palestinian liberation, and its government deserves appreciation for lodging a case against Israeli genocide at the International Criminal Court last week.

The electoral trend in Europe is broadly from the centre right to the far rig­ht, partly because, with minor exceptions, the left has effectively ceased to exist. Latin America offers clearer choices and, left or right, Mexico will get its first female president this year. In Russia, all possible alternatives to Vladimir Putin have been imprisoned or exiled, yet a fatuous poll exercise is deemed necessary to provide a dubious source of legitimacy. War-torn Ukraine, understandably, won’t bother with an election that was due this year. It would have garnered a lot more sympathy had it empathised with the kindred plight of the infinitely worse-off Palestinians. But Volodymyr Zelensky left that to Putin.

The presidential election in Taiwan next week, reportedly skewed by Chinese interference, could determine not only the island’s fate but that of its region, depending on the winner’s attitude towards Beijing.

No election result is likely to help divert the planet from the fast lane towards climate catastrophe, let alone reverse the trend whereby extreme poverty, hunger and homelessness coexist with billionaires, culinary extravagance and empty palaces. The forces of the right can only offer more of the same, and the forces of the left in most parts of the world are either moribund or minuscule. Happy new year, anyone?

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