2023’s crucial ballot boxes
Pablo Lacayo | Wednesday, February 1, 2023
As we settle into 2023, American politics has really simmered down to a near standstill. The country just emerged from the most enigmatic midterm cycle in recent history, with voters rebuking President Biden’s administration just enough to flip the balance of the House of Representatives while simultaneously giving the White House symbolic victories like a slightly bluer Senate and scattered victories for abortion protections across the country. As the new year rolls on, nothing exciting seems to be happening in Washington. Beyond the dramatic interlude during Kevin McCarthy’s chaotic election as Speaker of the House, the news have not been all that exciting for those with a keen eye for whatever goes on inside the Beltway. Perusing through the politics sections of the New York Times, Vox, CNN or Fox News rarely leads to interesting reads. For some reason, even stories like President Biden’s handling of classified documents or the impending debt ceiling impasse do not seem to garner the degree of attention and interest for the general public. It is still too early to even dream of 2024’s race for the White House, so it is only natural for everyone to look the other way regarding former President Trump’s quest for another shot at the Oval Office. Americans seem checked out of politics so far this year, and nothing of consequence appears to be coming anytime soon. Where will elections be interesting around the world this year?
Nigeria: Africa’s most populous country heads to the polls in late February, as Nigerians vote to elect Muhammadu Buhari’s successor. Buhari has been in office since 2015. Universal issues like youth unemployment, insecurity, stubbornly high inflation and access to education have all been important points of contention throughout the campaign, along with more unique ones like suppressing Islamist militants in Northern Nigeria. The election is contested by Nigeria’s two main parties, the incumbent All Progressives Congress and the People’s Democratic Party, as well as by a surging third party candidate running under the banner of the Nigerian Party. With over 93 million registered voters, this will likely be 2023’s largest democratic exercise.
Cuba: Although Cuba is a Communist one-party state, and its parliamentary elections will not yield any surprises, March’s elections are the first since the Cuban Revolution to not involve Fidel or Raul Castro. As the island nation wrestles with a steep economic crisis accentuated by COVID’s impact on its tourism industry, additional American sanctions, record immigration levels and sky high inflation, the sustainability of Cuba’s political model must be called into question. One cannot help but pay a close eye on the future of one of the world’s remaining Communist holdouts as it endures its toughest challenge since the Special Period in the 1990s.
Argentina: Several key players in Latin America have elected progressive or left leaning governments in the last few years, upending the region’s geopolitics. Argentina, Latin America’s third largest economy, is due to go to the polls this year as the country struggles against a 94.8% inflation rate, burdensome sovereign debt and a sluggish economic recovery since the pandemic. The incumbent governing coalition, built as a marriage of convenience between Peronism’s multiple factions, heads into the election highly fractured and deeply unpopular. As President Alberto Fernandez mulls a second term, voices within his own party scoff at the idea and are in the midst of maneuvering to replace him at the top of the ticket with someone deemed more palatable to the Argentine public. Juntos por el Cambio, Argentina’s largest opposition coalition is also likely to hold divisive primaries that pit various heavyweight politicians against each other, while libertarian firebrand Javier Milei threatens to upend the Argentine establishment in an independent bid for power. If the polls are to be believed, it is more likely than not that Peronism will be ousted come December, but the latent possibility of a three way race with markedly different visions for the country’s future keeps this as interesting as it gets.
Pakistan: After prime minister Imran Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote in April 2022, Pakistan returns to the polls this year along with Khan’s hope for a comeback. Pakistan’s democracy has always been fragile, and the country’s military is a repeat offender when it comes to taking over the country. Khan has a real chance of winning, but polling is scant and often unreliable, leaving this fall contest as one of the most intriguing ones to come.
Turkey Turkish President Erdogan has run Turkey since 2003, and this election will once again grant voters the opportunity to either reelect him or rebuke him. The Turkish economy has struggled with high inflation lately, and this election is perhaps Erdogan’s toughest challenge at retaining power in over two decades. Erdogan has attained a high profile on the international stage as of late due to the Russo-Ukrainian War, and this too will determine the choice Turkish voters make come May.
Elections in Guatemala, Spain, Thailand, Poland, Zealand and Greece will also dominate 2023’s electoral calendar, and all pose important consequences beyond their borders, as the decisions made by all these governments inevitably impact the lives of millions due to their regional and sometimes global significance. Even if they are not our home countries, they are still worth keeping up with, especially as the world becomes increasingly interconnected in this new age.
Pablo Lacayo is a senior at Notre Dame, majoring in finance while minoring in Chinese. He enjoys discussing current affairs, giving out bowl plates at the dining hall, walking around the lakes and karaoke. You can reach him at [email protected].
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.