JAVIER MAMANI/AFP/Getty Images
Date: Jan. 25, 2009 and Dec. 6, 2009
Who's running: A
constitutional referendum supported by president Evo Morales and opposed by governors
of Bolivia's eastern states
What's at stake: Bolivians will go to the polls on Jan. 25
for a referendum on a new national constitution. Championed by President Evo
Morales, the new constitution would empower Bolivia's indigenous majority and
increase state control over the economy. Reforms will establish a limit on the
size of large land holdings and provide for the redistribution of revenues from
Bolivia's gas fields. The referendum is
fiercely opposed by Bolivians in the wealthier, gas-rich eastern regions, many
of whom are of European or mixed-race descent. Tensions have occasionally
spilled into violence, as anti-Morales protesters seized government offices and
launched a series of strikes in August.
Nevertheless, observers expect the constitution to gain the
support of a majority of voters. Assuming that occurs, early elections will by
held on Dec. 6, 2009 for president, vice-president, and congress. If Morales
wins both contests, he will have cemented his legacy on Bolivian politics.
Expect the governors of Bolivia's four eastern states to actively campaign
against Morales in both elections.
DAVID BUIMOVITCH/AFP/Getty Images
Date: February 10, 2009
Who's running: Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud), Tzipi Livni
(Kadima), and Ehud Barak (Labor)
What at stake: The
outcome of Israel's assault on Gaza
will likely affect the course of the snap elections to the Israeli Knesset,
triggered following the resignation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Kadima candidate Tzipi Livni is currently serving as foreign minister, while
Labor's Ehud Barak is the defense minister. Livni's primary challenger is Likud's
Benjamin Netanyahu, who brought Likud back from a crushing defeat in 2006 to
emerge as the favorite to be Israel's next prime minister. Kadima, meanwhile,
is attempting to poach the left-leaning voters of Labor, which risks descending
Netanyahu has a well-deserved reputation for hawkishness on
security matters, earned during his previous term as prime minister and his
opposition to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Gaza withdrawal plan. His election would
challenge the negotiations between Syria
and Israeli that have been held under Turkish mediation, and would likely make
the removal of major settler outposts in the West Bank
impossible. With Hamas also holding a firm grip on power in Gaza, the two equally intransient foes would
be poised for more violent confrontations.
PABALLO THEKISO/AFP/Getty Images
between March and May, 2009
The African National Congress (ANC), the Congress of the People (COPE), and the
Democratic Alliance (DA)
What's at stake: The ANC has governed South Africa since the end of
apartheid in 1994, but some cracks may finally be showing in the run-up to this
spring's election. Jacob Zuma, who defeated outgoing President Thabo Mbeki last
year to emerge as head of the ANC, has long been a divisive figure in South
African politics. In 2005, Zuma faced charges that he raped the daughter of a
prominent ANC family, for which he was later acquitted. Zuma dodged another
legal bullet in September 2008, when a judge dismissed, on procedural grounds,
longstanding charges against Zuma of corruption in a South African arms deal.
The controversies surrounding Zuma, as well as his narrow
margin of victory over Mbeki, has created fissures in the ANC. Mbeki loyalists,
led by former Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, bolted the ANC to form COPE. The
rival party has already performed impressively in by-election campaigns and has
attracted close to 500,000 supporters, according to party leaders.
SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images
soon, perhaps in April
Who's Running: Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas's
What's at stake: In
the wake of Israel's assault on Hamas infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, a Hamas
victory in the presidential and legislative elections - if they are held at all
-- for the Palestinian Authority would signal Palestinian endorsement of Hamas's
implacable resistance to the Israeli regime. In the absence of reconciliation
between Hamas and Fatah, Abbas will most likely face off against Ismail
Haniyah, a Hamas leader and former prime minister of the PA. Hamas emerged
victorious in the 2006 legislative elections, wining 74 seats to Fatah's 45.
Hamas staged an armed takeover of the Gaza Strip in the
summer of 2006, triggering a rift between the two factions which persists to
this day. These elections could allow the Palestinian parties to form a unified
political front against Israel,
or cement the rivalry between Hamas and Fatah. Polls taken before the Israeli
offensive showed Abbas and Fatah leading by a healthy margin in both the West
Bank and Gaza. Abbas
had hoped that a new round of elections, or the threat of them, could force
Hamas to take a more accommodating outlook towards reconciliation talks. The
duration and the severity of the Israeli campaign in Gaza, however, could leave his plans in
Date: April or May, 2009
Who's running: Manmohan Singh (Indian National Congress), L.K Advani (Bharatiya Janata
What's at stake: Following the terrorist attacks that rocked the financial center of
Mumbai in late November, leaving more than 200 dead and 300 wounded, members of
the ruling Congress Party feared voters would punish them in the upcoming
elections to the Indian legislature. However, that appears increasingly
unlikely. Congress notched surprise victories in three state elections in early
December over the Hindu nationalist BJP.
the BJP tried to turn that election into a referendum on security, it appears
that development issues such as access to clean water and electricity were
foremost on voters' minds. India
has been hit hard by the global economic slowdown - industrial production has
fallen for the first time in 15 years - and it appears that these economic
concerns may still trump fears of terrorism.
Date: June 12, 2009
Who's running: President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former Majlis Speaker Mehdi Karroubi, and maybe Tehran
Mayor Mohammad Qalibaf and former President Mohammed Khatami
What's at stake:
Critics have blamed Ahmadinejad for the worsening state of the Iranian economy,
which has been further damaged by plummeting oil prices. In November, 60 of
Iran's economists published a letter accusing Ahmadinejad's policies of
producing skyrocketing inflation rates and high unemployment. Furthermore, the
letter charged, Ahmadinejad's tension-making interaction with the outside
world, with causing foreign investments to flee the country.
Former President Mohammad Khatami has yet to declare whether
he will be a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections. If the Iranian
public rallies to Khatami, it could potentially pave the way for a
rapprochement between the U.S.
Don't, however, count Ahmadinejad out yet. He still retains an important trump
card: the support of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader.
Maxi Failla/AFP/Getty Images
Date: July 5, 2009
Who's Running: The National Action Party (PAN), the
Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), and the Institutional Revolutionary
What's at stake: The term of President Felipe Caldern, the leader of PAN, has been marked
by an increasingly aggressive, increasingly bloody, and increasingly
controversial war against Mexico's powerful drug cartels. Drug violence claimed
nearly 5,000 lives in 2008.
elections will determine whether Caldern maintains support in the Chamber of
Deputies to continue his drug war. In the 2006 elections, PAN claimed 206 out
of the 500 total seats in the Chamber of Deputies, while the leftist PRD won
127 seats. The PRD has been critical of Caldern's confrontational approach,
and has called for a National Agreement to Combat Organized Crime, which would
include a discussion on the legalization of drugs. If the PAN emerges
victorious, Caldern will have a
free hand to continue his prosecution of the drug war. If the PRD gains
strength, he may find himself hamstrung by a hostile legislature.
ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images
Date: Scheduled for July 2009; the U.N. has
recommended that they be delayed to avoid the rainy season in southern Sudan
Who's running: President
Omar al-Bashir of the National Congress Party (NCP) and Salva Kiir of the Sudan
People's Liberation Movement (SPLM)
What's at stake:
These presidential and legislative elections are an important milestone for the
Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in 2005 between the predominantly
Arab government in Khartoum
and the southern-based former rebels and marking the end of the second Sudanese
civil war. The rival factions have been building up their arms in anticipation
of the elections, hoping to expand their support through extra-democratic means.
This has lead to increasingly frequent clashes, particularly in the contested Southern Kordofan region.
Meanwhile, President Bashir finds himself embattled both
internationally and domestically. A prosecutor for the International Criminal
Court has requested a warrant for his arrest, accusing him of genocide and war
crimes in the Darfur region. Kiir, the head of
the southern SPLM who has been Bashir's partner in a unity government since
2005, has announced that he will oppose him in the coming elections. Even if Bashir
manages to cling to power, a strong showing by the opposition could foreshadow the
secession of Southern Sudan in a vote
scheduled for 2011, in accordance with the CPA.
CLEMENS BILAN/AFP/Getty Images
Date: Sept. 27,
Who's running: Angela Merkel (Christian Democratic
Union), Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Social Democratic Party)
What's at stake:
While the United States and
most of Europe pass ever-larger stimulus
packages to combat the global economic downturn, Chancellor Angela Merkel has
remained a lonely voice in opposition. Her insistence that Germany would not get involved in a competition
to outdo one another with an endless list of new proposals, which she deemed
senseless, earned her the nickname of Madame No across Europe.
The approaching Bundestag elections will test whether German voters approve of
her low-key approach to the financial crisis.
Merkel's Christian Democratic Union currently forms a grand
coalition government with its main rival, the center-left Social Democratic
Party, which has nominated Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier as its
leader. While current polls suggest that Merkel will beat Steinmeier, it does
not appear that either party can increase its support enough to form a
governing coalition with one of Germany's smaller parties. Thus, many expect
the grand coalition, which Der Spiegel
dubbed a loveless marriage and a recipe for political paralysis, to continue.
Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images
Date: Late 2009
Who's running: Hamid Karzai, former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, and current Finance Minister Anwar
What's at stake: This presidential election will not
only gauge President Karzai's success at weathering charges of corruption and
ineffectiveness, but the extent to which the U.S. military has succeeded in
dealing with the renewed Taliban insurgency. Karzai's brother is believed to be
the head of a drug trafficking group involved in the opium and heroin trade.
More damaging to his reputation inside Afghanistan,
Karzai's government is perceived to be largely ineffective outside of Kabul, unable to provide
security of basic social welfare programs.
Smelling blood, Taliban leader Mullah Omar has rejected
Karzai's requests for reconciliation and called for a boycott of the upcoming
elections. If the U.S.
military cannot co-opt or defeat large segments of the Taliban insurgency
before the election, Afghans in the provinces may not be able to vote, or could
be attacked by the Taliban at polling stations. Such a fiasco could destroy
Karzai's legitimacy and cause the U.S.
and its remaining allies to question their commitment to Afghanistan.