Upcoming Elections (Besides Ours) That Could Change Everything

A News Analysis

It’s only September of 2011 and already we are being flooded with news and analysis and updates about the 2012 election, to the point where it feels overwhelming.

Time to bust out the red state/blue state maps again.

But there are a number of other upcoming elections around the world that are worth paying attention to, because their impact may well be just as serious and long-lasting.

Egypt 2012

What it is: The first presidential election since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak last spring.

When it is: No date is set, but the candidates are asking for a date as early as possible, perhaps in February or March

Who is running: There are seven candidates, including Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency who is a long-time democracy advocate and a key figure in the Tahrir Square protests,

and Abdel Moneim Abul Futuh, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic fundamentalist group with an ideology similar to that of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, and similar groups.

Why it will change everything: Essentially, the 2012 Egyptian election will be the first real test of the “Arab spring” and how much it has gained. Just how pro-Western, or not, are people in the Middle East? Now that they are free to choose, will Egyptians side with the radical demonstrators and demand far-reaching reforms, or will they feel they have been forced to accept too much change at once and elect someone more conservative to tone things down? Will the new government be pro-Western, anti-Western, or somewhat ambiguous on the matter? How will that impact Egypt’s role in the Israeli-Arab peace process?

Essentially, the legacy of the Arab spring will be determined on that as-yet-unscheduled election day, and the ripple effects will be felt throughout the Middle East. It will set a precedent for other countries in uprising, like Libya. If Egypt can have a stable, democratic transition of power, it might serve as an example for Iraq and Afghanistan and help those countries regain peace and stability. US foreign policy in the region is already feeling the changes brought by the revolutions. How far things change, and where the new leaders stand in regard to the West, will impact our troops on the ground and the cost of putting gas in the tank.

Germany 2013

What it is: Elections to the German Bundestag. After the election, the political party or coalition with the most seats will choose a Chancellor and form a government.

When it is: Between September 1 and October 27, 2013; possibly earlier if current chancellor loses a vote of no confidence (a rare procedure).

Who is running: Although it is too early for candidates to be announced, the election will almost certainly pit the coalition of current Chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured, above) against the Social Democratic Party and The Left, two liberal parties that have been winning elections on the local level. Small parties on the political fringe have also been winning a surprising number of local elections. One of the political parties in Merkel’s coalition is considering breaking rank and running on its own. It’s looking like the election will be a menagerie of different groups competing for influence, and when the results are in it may be some time before a “winner” is clear.

Why it will change everything: For the past six years, Merkel has been the most powerful voice in the European Union, and whenever a problem arose, she has taken the center stage in mediating a resolution. But the current euro debt crisis is threatening to send German voters over the edge. As Greece, Ireland, and Portugal come close to defaulting on their debts, Europe’s leaders have been trying to stop up the leaks with expensive bailouts. Guess which country has had to pay the most to bail out their neighbors.

Germans, naturally, are getting tired of this. Some are seriously considering dropping the euro entirely. Or somehow getting Greece to leave the euro. But there is also pressure to try to solve the crisis by increasing the EU’s powers, not decreasing them.

As I mentioned above, voters in Germany have in recent local elections decided to vote for anyone but Merkel’s party. But who takes over in 2013 may not just decide the future of Germany, but of all of Europe. If a new chancellor decides to just ignore the EU’s demands and refuse to pay up, or if the EU’s most populous member state abandons the euro, it could be the beginning of the end of union itself. On the other hand, we still have two years to go, and by then the whole situation may have changed. Maybe the EU would have sorted this euro crisis out, and Germans would be forgiving and reelect Merkel’s coalition. In that case, we may be on our way to seeing an EU team at an Olympics in our lifetimes. Either way, the implications for a United States that depends on Europe for trade, travel, military support, diplomacy, and almost everything else will be affected by the seismic shifts across the Atlantic.

Scotland 2014

What it is: A referendum on independence from the United Kingdom.

When it is: Sometime in the second half of the Scottish Parliament’s term, meaning 2014 at the earliest.

What are the issues?: In 1603, King James VI of Scotland also became King James I of England. Although the two countries now had a common monarch, they were still fully sovereign, independent nations with their own governments, laws, institutions, militaries, currencies, and religions. The border between the two was still as tightly controlled as before, and Scottish nationals in England were legally treated as foreigners.

It wasn’t until a century later that a bankrupt, desperate Scottish Parliament was bullied by the English one into accepting the Acts of Union, a treaty that merged England and Scotland into the United Kingdom. The two countries were, on paper, equals in this merger. Except the capital was to be London, and the currency was to be the English pound, and the Scottish military was absorbed into the English one, and the Scottish government was disbanded and the English one was to rule the combined kingdom, and the “new” British Parliament was just the old English one with a few extra seats for Scottish delegates. Naturally, more than a few in Scotland didn’t like the plan at all, but two failed uprisings later they were compelled to acquiesce.

Since that time, there has been a current in Scottish politics known as the Scottish nationalist movement, that seeks a Scotland under Scottish control, though there is some disagreement over what that entails. In the 1970s, the political watchword was “devolution” – giving Scotland its own government to handle some local matters while staying within the United Kingdom. In 1999, Scotland was given its own Parliament and government again.

For the Scottish National Party and a handful of smaller political factions, though, nothing short of independence is acceptable. So when the SNP won a majority in the Scottish Parliament in the last election, they naturally promised a referendum on independence.

At first, this might seem a simple issue, but it really isn’t. Scotland is economically linked to England in many, many ways, not the least of which being that Scotland is a huge source of oil. Would independence mean their own currency? Their own military? What about Scotsmen and women in the British armed services right now?

There is also the question of whether Scotland would keep the monarchy or become a republic, and the question of whether they would try to stay in the European Union or not.

Why it will change everything: If Scottish voters vote “yes”, it won’t mean anything will be done right away. The election is nonbinding, as nowhere in British law is there a provision for breaking up the United Kingdom. That said, it would be political suicide for the British government to go, “You know, I understand you want independence, but we’re just not going to give it to you.”

We all know...

...how that has worked out...

...for the British in the past

So, most likely, there will probably be a few years of debate over the issues I pointed out above, but in the end Scotland would be an independent country again. If that happens, it could be quickly followed by an independent Wales. Then there is Northern Ireland, which is disputed between the UK and Ireland. In essence, the United Kingdom would cease to be and England would be all on its jolly lonesome.

Aww, poor guy.

But let’s say Scotland votes “no”. Repeated polls put support of independence at only between 20 and 40%. If the results show an overwhelming “no” vote, it would probably devastate, or even kill, the Scottish nationalist movement. It would also mark an important historic turning point: ever since World War II, the number of countries on the planet has steadily increased. Perhaps Scotland’s decision could put an end to that trend, and make it even less likely that any new countries would be created. Considering the UN had to rearrange the seats to fit South Sudan, I think this might be a welcome relief for some.

You must buy new maps every year or two! Muwahahaha!

Information from BBC News, CNN, Wikipedia, and other sites.