Upcoming elections

A preview of 2004's international elections

Dateline 01 January 2004

This year will see more people voting in free elections than ever before. American presidential elections coincide with elections to the European Parliament only every 20 years. That last time that happened tbe European Union had only 10 members, while this year it is 25. The world’s largest democracy, India, also plans a general election, as does Indonesia, and there will be a presidential election in Russia.

Here is a brief rundown.

March: Presidential election in Russia. Incumbent, Vladimir Putin was favourite for re-election even before his supporters made sweeping gains in the Duma elections in December and is now all but assured of victory.

April: In the Indonesian Parliamentary elections the governing Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) faces a tough challenge in contests that should provide clues to the result of the later presidential election. Indonesia is the world’s largest Islamic country, with 85% of Indonesians at least nominally Muslim, and al-qaeda affiliated terrorists campaign for an Islamic Republic incorporating Muslim parts of Malaysia and the Philippines. Both PDI-P and the second placed Golkar – linked to the former Suharto dictatorship – are largely secular parties. Any upswing in support for the smaller Islamic parties, such as the Centre Axis, would undoubtedly concern the Bush administration.

May: Spain, a key ally of the United States in Iraq war, under Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, faces a general election. Aznar is stepping down and his People’s Party will be lead by Mariano Rajoy.

June: Europe: the (by then) 25 nations of the European Union will elect the European Parliament. The member states choose their own voting systems and polling days but no votes are counted until all the countries have voted. Elections are often seen as indicators of national political trends so Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair and especially the vulnerable Schroeder administration in Germany will be watching the results carefully.

July: Indonesian Presidential election. President Megawati Sukarnoputri is seeking re-election. She remains the front-runner despite the likelihood of her party losing ground in Parliamentary elections, which could do much to establish which of the opposition parties is best placed to challenge her.

October: Indian general election due by this date. PM, Atal Behari Vajpayee, leads a coalition of more than 20 parties, which he has skilfully held together. His own BJP has performed well in recent state elections, and this may tempt him to call the national poll ahead of schedule. Though the BJP includes Hindu-nationalist groups, it depends on more moderate parties to hold onto power and is likely to run a mostly secular campaign. The main challenger is likely to be the firmly secular and moderately socialist Congress Party, led, as usual, by a member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, in this case Sonia Gandhi, the Italian born widow of former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi.

Copyright (C) Quentin Langley 01 January 2004

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