An estimated two billion people in 50 countries worldwide could head to the polls in 2024, more than in any other year in history.
In June, the world’s biggest cross-border election will take place when more than 400 million people are expected to vote in the European elections.
But with high-stakes votes planned in populous nations such as the US, India and Indonesia, autocratic states including Belarus, Iran and Russia, and strategic allies Taiwan and the United Kingdom, elections within and beyond Europe’s borders have the potential to deeply affect the continent.
Potential government changes could decisively tip the geopolitical balance, affecting Western support to Ukraine, the conflict in the Middle East, trading relationships and the interconnected global economy.
The elections will also test the resilience of global democracies amid fears of increased democratic backsliding and hard-line authoritarian rule.
Euronews breaks down the 2024 elections set to shape Europe.
1. United States presidential election – 5 November
The spectre of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s return to the White House makes 2024 a potentially explosive year in global politics, and the stakes are high for Europe.
But Trump’s bid for president could be over before it starts. Colorado’s Supreme Court has ruled he cannot run in the state because of his actions ahead of the January 2021 Capitol Hill attack.
His comfortable lead over Republican rivals, however, means he could still win without standing in Colorado – but the ruling sets a strong precedent for similar lawsuits that could prohibit him from competing in other states.
A Republican takeover – whether Trumpian or not – could disrupt the West’s tightly aligned policy on Ukraine, as some wings of the party call for restricting military and financial aid to Kyiv.
It could also spell a return to trade disputes. The previous Republican administration under Trump slapped sweeping tariffs on European allies in an attempt to protect American producers. Both sides have agreed to a temporary truce, but Trump has vowed to introduce a 10% tariff on all foreign imports if he’s elected.
An administration change could also impact the ongoing talks to allow the EU to export critical minerals used to manufacture electric batteries to the US without being slapped with tariffs under the Inflation Reduction Act.
2. European elections – 6-9 June
In June, eligible voters in the EU’s 27 member countries will choose who represents them in the European Parliament, the bloc’s only democratically-elected institution.
A giant in terms of voter numbers, the election has suffered from feeble turnout and disinterest among voters who feel the EU is too far removed from their daily lives.
Projections of a surge in support for euroskeptic and far-right parties – buoyed by recent electoral successes in the Netherlands, Italy, Finland, and Sweden – are sowing doubts over the EU’s future path.
The latest polls put the far-right Identity and Democracy group at a record high of 87 seats in the 720-member hemicyle, meaning it could compete with the Liberals to become the parliament’s third-biggest party. This could put the far-right in a kingmaker role between the two main conservative and socialist groups who, although ideologically opposed, cooperate to ensure the functioning of the EU institutions in a ‘grand coalition.’
An economic downturn in major EU economies, brewing discontent in rural areas, climate change and migration are all set to be defining issues for the campaign.
The election will also decide who leads the next European Commission, with current President Ursula von der Leyen expected to run again, and trigger a major re-shuffle of the top EU jobs.
3. Portuguese legislative election – 10 March
A snap election was called by Portugal’s president in November, after socialist Prime Minister António Costa was forced to step down — but has remained in post in a caretaker capacity — amid a sprawling corruption probe.
The Socialist Party (PS) will hope its new leader Pedro Nuno Santos can cling to government in the Iberian country, which has been a bastion for the European left wing in recent years.
The polls suggest a tight race, with Nuno Santos’ Socialist Party and its conservative opposition, the Social Democratic Party, currently tied in the polls at around 27% of the vote.
But the left-wing stronghold could be the latest European country to see a far-right surge. Chega, a hard-right challenger party aiming to upset the traditional two-party system, is hot on the two mainstream parties’ heels at 17%.
Chega has been criticised for ‘poisoning’ the national debate with racist, anti-LGBTQ+, anti-immigrant, and anti-Roma rhetoric.
4. Belgian federal election – 9 June
Belgium will hold a double election in early June, with the European and federal elections taking place on the same day. The country of 11.6 million is known for its fractured politics and complex power-sharing arrangements, with no less than seven parties in its current coalition government.
The polls paint a highly familiar picture, with far-right Flemish independentists Vlaams Belang leading in Flanders, the Socialist Party ahead in Wallonia, while the liberals are tipped to win in Brussels.
With the current seven-party coalition on track to garner enough support to govern again, Prime Minister Alexander de Croo will want to use Belgium’s six-month presidency of the Council of the EU, which kicks off in January, to score political points at home.
But De Croo’s own Flemish conservative liberal party polls at historic lows on its home turf of Flanders. His decisive stance on the Gaza conflict and a government crisis following the recent terrorist attack in Brussels has led to a deflation in his support.
5. Austrian legislative election – expected by autumn
Austria’s election could prove to be one of the most critical as Europe struggles to withhold a far-right surge.
The far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) is currently polling at an impressive 30% of the vote. Its support has climbed steadily after its fall from grace following the 2019 Ibiza scandal, when then-Vice Chancellor and FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache was filmed eliciting political favours from Russian business contacts.
The party’s anti-lockdown policies during the Covid-19 pandemic, its criticism of the economic repercussions of EU sanctions on Russia and its populist policies have seen it slowly regain the faith of right-wing voters. It has also capitalised on infighting between centrist parties to consolidate its support.
If momentum continues, it is possible that the next Austrian chancellor could come from FPÖ ranks.
Other elections to look out for
Finland will elect its new President in January – David MacDougall has this preview.
Parliamentary elections will be held in Lithuania on 12 May, and Croatia by 22 September.
Ukraine’s presidential election is due to take place in the spring, but the law prohibits ballots under martial law. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has previously said holding wartime elections would be “utterly irresponsible.”
Russians will elect their next president on 17 March. But with independent media stifled and critics imprisoned or in exile, the path is clear for President Vladimir Putin to secure his next term.
Other bogus elections are scheduled in Iran on 1 March, and Belarus on 25 February.
General elections will take place in Indonesia on 14 February and in India between April and May. The Indonesian vote is set to be the world’s largest-ever single-day election with more than 200 million eligible voters.
Taiwan will head to the polls in presidential elections on 13 January.
The United Kingdom will hold general elections before the end of 2024, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed earlier this week.
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