The List

Elections to Watch in 2010

From a popular uprising in Iran to a political sea change in Japan to democracy on a massive scale in India, national elections provided some of the most memorable moments of 2009. Here are 10 to watch in the coming year.

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UKRAINE

Type: presidential

Date: January 17

What to watch: What a difference five years makes. In 2005, current Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko took power in a popular uprising known as the Orange Revolution, defeating the Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovych after a disputed first-round result. But Yushchenko has had less success as a president than as a revolutionary.A faltering economy and ongoing corruption scandals have left Ukraine with the least popular government on Earth.

The president is trailing badly to Yanukovych and his one-time Orange ally Yulia Tymoshenko. In another odd twist, the one-time nationalist firebrand Tymoshenko has made nice with Vladimir Putin since the election and is now said to be the Kremlin's preferred choice. Interference by Russia in the event of a disputed election is another concern.

HALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

IRAQ

Type: parliamentary

Date: March 7

What to watch: After months of sectarian bickering and political wrangling, Iraq's parliament finally agreed in December on a law to pave the way for nationwide elections. The parliament will be expanded to 50 seats, with a number of districts gerrymandered to give more seats to the Kurds, who believe they were underrepresented in the previous arrangement. Although Iraq's parties still largely break down along sectarian lines, their political alliances have grown more complex.

Most notably, Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has formed an alliance with a number of Sunni parties to head off a challenge from Shiite religious parties led by hard-line cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. As always, security is a concern, and authorities claim that a recent spate of bombings in Baghdad are the result of insurgents attempting to derail the election process. Whatever the result, the elections will be a test of the Iraqi state's ability to function as the United States begins to draw down its combat forces.

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PHILIPPINES

Type: presidential

Date: May 10

What to watch: Filipinos will see a crowded field of familiar names on the ballot this year. Former President Joseph Estrada, overthrown in 2001in a popular uprising amid widespread corruption allegations, is planning to retake the presidency. He is likely to face billionaire businessman and politician Manny Villar, who as speaker of the House of Representatives presided over Estrada's impeachment proceedings. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino, son of late president and democracy icon Corazon Aquino, has also announced he will run. Despite the soap opera, Vice President Noli de Castro will be tough to beat if he throws his hat in the ring.

Meanwhile, in the lawless southern Philippines, tragedy struck in November when 57 people were killed while trying to register a local candidate, part of a recent upsurge in clan violence that is expected to worsen as the election approaches.

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images

AFGHANISTAN

Type: legislative and local

Date: May 22

What to watch: After 2009's presidential election debacle, Afghanistan will get another chance in 2010 with national legislative and regional elections. If anything, though, these elections could be an even tougher challenge with more than 3,000 candidates running nationwide. In Afghanistan's violence-wracked south, voting will be particularly difficult. It remains to be seen if the widespread fraud and mismanagement of the last parliamentary elections in 2005, combined with the disappointment of the presidential election, will dampen Afghans' once considerable enthusiasm for the election process.

CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images

EGYPT

 

Type: parliamentary

 

Date: May 22

What to watch: In 2005, candidates from the officially banned Muslim Brotherhood party -- running as independents -- managed to win one-fifth of the seats in parliament. Since then, however, the government has carried out a crackdown against the Islamist group, arresting hundreds of members and banning them from holding seats in the parliament's upper house. Vote-rigging in favor of President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party should be expected.

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COLOMBIA

 

Type: presidential

 

Date: May 30

What to watch: President Álvaro Uribe -- whose crackdown on Colombia's drug cartels and FARC rebels have made him overwhelmingly popular -- is attempting to amend the country's term-limits laws so that he can run again. If he succeeds, Uribe, with an approval rating of nearly 70 percent, will be nearly impossible to beat, though winning a third time will likely result in a blow to his considerable international reputation and draw comparisons to his archrival, Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, who has also come under fire for amending term limits. If not, his designated successor, former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, would be considered the favorite over Liberal Party leader Rafael Pardo.

GUILLERMO LEGARIA/AFP/Getty Images

BRITAIN

Type: parliamentary

Date: May

What to watch: Criticized for everything from his handling of the financial crisis to an ongoing lawmakers' expenses scandal to the release of a convicted Libyan terrorist, Prime Minister Gordon Brown is staggeringly unpopular, and his Labour Party suffered its worst defeat in 40 years in last June's local elections. Barring a miracle, Labour's 12-year dominance of British politics is coming to an end, paving the way for the rise of Tory leader David Cameron, a self-described "liberal Conservative" whose views, beyond opposition to Brown, remain somewhat unclear. The far-right British National Party, which has enjoyed recent success in local and European elections, is looking to make gains as well, thanks to widespread dissatisfaction with both mainstream parties.

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BRAZIL

Type: presidential

Date: October 3

What to watch: With President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva constitutionally barred from running for a third term, his relatively unknown chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, trails São Paulo state's popular centrist governor, José Serra, in opinion polls. However, Rousseff should benefit from campaigning with the hugely popular Lula, and the one-time guerrilla fighter can expect to win the support of smaller left-wing parties in the event of a runoff. Neither candidate should be expected to deviate much from Lula's market-friendly brand of center-left leadership.

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UNITED STATES

Type: legislative

Date: November 2

What to watch: Like all midterm elections, next year's Senate and House races will be widely seen as a referendum on Barack Obama's presidency. Down eight seats in the Senate and 79 in the House, the Republicans have a lot of ground to make up to retake control of Congress, but with major debates pending on health care, climate change, and Afghanistan strategy, there are plenty of opportunities to score points at the president's expense. Obama's escalation in Afghanistan and compromises on health care have also angered much of his liberal base. If Democratic candidates begin distancing themselves from the White House, it could be a bad sign for Obama in 2012.

HLA HLA HTAY/AFP/Getty Images

BURMA

 

Type: parliamentary

 

Date: Unknown

What to watch: Burma has not held an election since 1990, when the country's military rulers dismissed a landslide victory by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) and confined her to house arrest. The country has largely been an international pariah since then, though there are signs that the Obama administration is looking to improve relations. The junta has not yet revealed the date or procedure for the election or whether the NLD will be allowed to participate. In the likely event of voter fraud, it will be interesting to see whether popular protests erupt, or whether the regime's brutal crackdown during the 2007 monks' protest succeeded in intimidating the opposition.

 

 

The List

The 10 Worst Predictions for 2009

Ten pundits and politicians whose prognostications for this year completely missed the mark. 

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"I do know this. At the end of this first year of Congress, there will be an energy bill on the president's desk."

Rahm Emanuel on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, April 19, 2009

The bill the White House chief of staff was optimistically referring to, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, passed the House in June and included the cap-and-trade system for limiting carbon emissions that Emanuel described as "our goal."

The White House had hoped to have an energy bill passed by the time Obama traveled to the climate change conference in Copenhagen, but the legislation has stalled in the Senate and been largely marginalized by the ongoing debate over health-care reform. Senate leaders are now hoping to take up the debate again in the spring, leaving the president able to make only provisional commitments in Denmark.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

"Declaring that his work is done, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will announce he'll leave the Fed upon the expiration of his four-year term as chairman on Jan. 31, 2010. While mostly not his fault, the recession has hurt his standing with the Obama Administration -- and it also has worn him down on a personal level. He'll be succeeded by Lawrence Summers, former Treasury Secretary under the Clinton Administration."

BusinessWeek, Jan. 2, 2009

Obama announced on Aug. 25 that he was reappointing Bernanke -- Foreign Policy's top Global Thinker of 2009 -- to a second term, praising him for his "calm and wisdom" and crediting him with putting "the brakes on our economic freefall." Bernanke is facing a tough sledding in his Senate confirmation hearings, but his support from the Obama administration is robust, and, for what it's worth, Time magazine has just named him its "person of the year."

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"While the precise impact of the fall resurgence of 2009-H1N1 influenza is impossible to predict, a plausible scenario is that the epidemic could: produce infection of 30-50% of the U.S. population this fall and winter, ... lead to as many as 1.8 million U.S. hospital admissions during the epidemic, ... [and] cause between 30,000 and 90,000 deaths in the United States."

Report to the President on U.S. Preparations for the 2009-H1N1 Influenza, President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Aug. 7, 2009

Although U.S. President Barack Obama's science advisors were careful to point out that the exact impact of H1N1 couldn't be predicted, no other possibilities besides the "plausible scenario" above were presented in their report. The dire numbers, particularly the 50 percent infection rate, were widely reported in the media. The reality turned out to be far milder. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this fall there were 33,490 confirmed hospitalizations, 1,445 deaths, and 56,410 cases from all types of flu total as of Dec. 5. A bad flu season to be sure, but nothing close to what the advisors were expecting. Visits to the doctor for swine flu declined throughout November and early December.

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"The economy went into freefall and is still falling and we don't know where the bottom will be until we get there and there's no sign that we are anywhere near a bottom."

George Soros at Columbia University, Feb 20, 2009

Billionaire investor George Soros has a reputation for prognostication and is widely credited with having seen the current recession coming. But he got a bit overzealous in early 2009, declaring the crash the "collapse of the financial system." He also dismissed the Obama administration's stimulus measures as insufficient, saying "radical and unorthodox policy measures'' were needed to prevent a financial meltdown on the scale of the Great Depression. However, just one month after his fire-and-brimstone speech at Columbia, Soros told Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, "The economic freefall has been stopped, the collapse of the financial system averted. National economic stimulus programs are starting to take effect. The downward dynamic is easing." So much for no end in sight. Soros feels a global recovery is likely in 2010.

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Chris Wallace: "Best guess: Will the president end up giving McChrystal the troops he wants, or will he change the war strategy?"

Charles Krauthammer: "I think he doesn't and McChrystal resigns."

Fox News Sunday, Sept. 27, 2009

On Dec. 1, Obama announced the deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. If you count the 7,000 troops promised by NATO, the new levels are close to the 40,000 requested by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Kabul. After the announcement, the general issued a statement saying that Obama had "provided me with a clear military mission and the resources to accomplish our task." Undeterred, Krauthammer -- who has made FP's worst predictions list for the second straight year -- blasted Obama in a Washington Post op-ed for ignoring McChrystal's advice.

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"Brown will be tempted to fight on, but if he is well advised and sensible, he will see that this cannot go on. He will concede what Tony Blair also eventually also conceded when the pressure grew too great -- that he has no wish to be an impediment to Labour's electoral success. He will step down soon, maybe today, certainly this weekend."

Martin Kettle, The Guardian, June 5, 2009

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's already precarious political fortunes took yet another turn for the worse in June when, amid a growing scandal over MPs' expense accounts, three of his cabinet ministers resigned one after another -- the last of whom, pensions secretary and close Brown ally James Purnell, called on the British prime minister to "stand aside to give our party a fighting chance of winning." Kettle's paper, the staunchly pro-Labour Guardian, recommended in an editorial that Brown step down. But after a failed revolt of Labour backbenchers and a cabinet reshuffle, Brown managed to hang on and now appears likely to stay in office until the bitter end of his term.

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"I'm very pleased to announce that we've had a breakthrough in negotiations in Honduras. I want to congratulate the people of Honduras as well as President Zelaya and Mr. Micheletti for reaching an historic agreement.... I cannot think of another example of a country in Latin America that having suffered a rupture of its democratic and constitutional order overcame such a crisis through negotiation and dialogue."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Oct. 30, 2009

Clinton was right that ousted President Manuel Zelaya and interim leader Roberto Micheletti had reached an agreement, but it wasn't a breakthrough and Honduras didn't overcome anything. The agreement was intended to return Zelaya to office for the remainder of his term, pending the approval of the Honduran Congress. Trouble is, the Congress didn't approve him. The agreement appears to have been little more than a stalling tactic aimed at international critics, particularly the United States, which was bought hook, line, and sinker by diplomats anxious to resolve the crisis. One month later, the United States reluctantly recognized Honduras's elections.

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"I think if they [Israel] are to do anything, the most likely period is after our elections and before the inauguration of the next president. I don't think they will do anything before our election because they don't want to affect it. And they'd have to make a judgment whether to go during the remainder of President Bush's term in office or wait for his successor."

John Bolton, Fox News, June 22, 2008

 "It will have to make a decision soon, and it will be no surprise if Israel strikes by year's end. Israel's choice could determine whether Iran obtains nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future."

John Bolton, The Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2009

An Israeli airstrike on Iran always seems to be just around the corner for former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, no matter what the circumstances. Around the same time as the Fox News statement, he expanded on his opinion in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, saying that an Obama victory would "rule out" military action. Nevertheless, a year later he was still saying, "you would have to bet" that Israel would soon launch an attack, Obama or not. To put Bolton's warning in perspective, he was advocating military action against Iran back in 2007, saying "our time is limited."

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"This is going to unleash rampant inflation around the world, rampant confusion in the currency markets. You're going to have currencies gyrating all over the world. Bond markets are going to start to collapse, and then we're going to have a real problem. The stock market understands this. They're unleashing an inflationary Holocaust because they don't know what else to do."

Jim Rogers, CNBC, Oct. 10, 2008

 

Famed investor and financial commentator Rogers made this prediction immediately before a G-7 summit in Washington at which finance ministers from around the world pledged "decisive action" to unfreeze credit markets. (Rogers thought it would be a better idea for them to "go down to the bar and have a beer and leave the rest of us alone.") Although Obama later committed the United States to almost $800 billion more in deficit spending, Rogers's prediction still failed to materialize. Inflation rates have remained in negative territory for most of 2009, and most predictions place it in the range of 1 to 2 percent in the year ahead. Rumors of the dollar's demise have also been greatly exaggerated.

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"If we do nothing, I can guarantee you that within a decade, a communist Chinese regime that hates democracy and sees America as its primary enemy will dominate the tiny country of Panama, and thus dominate the Panama Canal, one of the world's most important strategic points."

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), Dec. 7, 1999

Rohrabacher made this alarming prediction during a debate on the U.S. handover of the Panama Canal. His fellow hawk, retired Adm. Thomas Moorer, even warned that China could sneak missiles into Panama and use the country as a staging ground for an attack on the United States. Well, Rohrabacher's decade ran out this December, and all remains quiet on the Panamanian front. As for China, the United States is now its largest trading partner.