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Politics 2024: What to Watch

Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

Staff writer Mehmet Yusuf Temur examines the big issues which will likely pervade the 2024 political landscape.

The year 2024 marks a significant juncture in global politics, as more than half of the world’s population anticipate nationwide elections. This milestone, though seemingly triumphant for democracy, hides shadows of uncertainty as illiberal rulers become stronger and corruption spreads in various corners of the globe. This guide navigates through distinct trends shaping the political landscape, culminating in the unprecedented nature of the U.S. presidential election, a focal point that will make headlines across nations and continents.

Global Elections: A Mosaic of Democracy

As over 70 countries prepare for nationwide elections, the democratic process unfolds as a mosaic of diverse political landscapes. From the authoritarian turn in Bangladesh to the illiberalism under Narendra Modi in India, and the political dynasty aspirations in Indonesia led by Joko Widodo, democracy’s path is varied and complex. Meanwhile, Africa, with the greatest number of elections, grapples with growing disillusionment as coups become more common, signalling a potential shift towards acceptance of military rule.

Amidst this complexity, Mexico stands out as a beacon of progress, poised to elect its first female president. Simultaneously, in Britain, voters face a long-awaited election, which could result in a potential shift after 14 years of Tory rule.

The Rise of Generative AI

The emergence of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become a cornerstone in the evolution of business operations. McKinsey’s projection that three-quarters of generative AI applications will find their place in customer operations, marketing, sales, software engineering, and research and development underlines the transformative potential. Coders already benefit from tools like Copilot, a coding tool from Microsoft, while businesses worldwide explore bespoke AI solutions.

However, a divide has emerged between enthusiastic adopters and the cautious. Some businesses, like JPMorgan Chase, wary of legal risks and the potential for AI hallucinations, have banned certain AI tools. The divide raises questions about the pace and scope of AI adoption in various industries and regions. Expect more political discussions and international conferences on the regulation of AI in 2024, similar to the Bletchley Declaration that marked a collective commitment to enhance global cooperation on AI safety, with a focus on shared responsibility, risk mitigation, and increased international collaboration in frontier AI safety and research.

The Resource Race in a Net-Zero Global Economy

The pursuit of a net-zero global economy is reshaping the geopolitical landscape, driving nations to secure vital resources. Oil-producing giants like Saudi Arabia and the UAE are set to strengthen their positions, while the unexpected player, Guyana, enters the spotlight with substantial oil discoveries. The longevity of natural gas as a cleaner alternative extends opportunities to nations like Argentina and various African countries.

As the demand for metals crucial to building a low-carbon future intensifies, Chile and Peru find themselves at the forefront as major suppliers of copper. However, challenges arise as declining copper content in ores pushes miners towards riskier ventures, such as Barrick Gold‘s ambitious copper mega-project in the borderlands between Pakistan and Iran. While this may strengthen these countries’ international position, it is important to highlight the usual but substantial risks such as the Dutch Disease, where dependency on one commodity makes a countries’ other sectors uncompetitive.

Geopolitical Risks: A Make-or-Break Year

Against the backdrop of wars in West Africa, Israel, Gaza, and Ukraine, the geopolitical landscape stands on the precipice of transformation. The geopolitical risk, while currently tolerable by some measures, is evolving into a dynamic of instability. Populism, interventionist economics, and transactional globalisation define a new cycle, leading to challenges involving China, Iran, and Russia, and the fragility of the Western coalition.

The Ukraine war and Israel-Gaza conflict have served as pivotal moments, showcasing the West’s adaptation to a shifting global order. With Republicans in America divided over funding for Ukraine and the divisive Israel-Gaza conflict straining the traditional relationships in the EU and US, 2024 becomes a testing ground for the resilience of the post-1945 world order.

Navigating the Shadows of a Potential Trump Victory

Undoubtedly, the most impactful and closely watched event of 2024 will be the U.S. presidential election. Donald Trump’s presence looms large, dominating the Republican primary. The potential consequences of a second Trump term extend beyond the borders of the United States, influencing global perceptions of American democracy, international alliances, and economic policies.

1. Trump’s Grip on the Republican Primary

As the political stage gets set for the 2024 U.S. election, Donald Trump’s dominance in the Republican primary stands out prominently. Several polls position him ahead of the incumbent, President Joe Biden, especially in critical swing states. Notably, a New York Times poll reveals that 59% of voters trust Trump on the economy, a stark contrast to the 37% who express confidence in Biden. This shift in public sentiment, particularly among minority voters, poses a significant challenge for Democrats, with black and Hispanic voters showing signs of abandoning the party.

The primaries, far from weakening Trump’s position, have seen civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions strengthening his standing in the polls. While there are still 2 months until the first Republican primaries, he is more than 40 points ahead of his closest opponent in the national polls; and 2030 points ahead in early primary states.

2. Democracy at Home and Hostility Abroad

At a time when democracy faces internal challenges, a Trump return to the Oval Office raises concerns both domestically and on the international stage. The aftermath of the 2020 election saw Trump’s denial of its outcome, a move that not only promoted a falsehood but also demonstrated a calculated effort to manipulate and intimidate the American people. This perilous moment is exacerbated by growing hostility from Russia in Ukraine, Iran in the Middle East, and China across the Taiwan Strait and in the South China Sea.

The alignment of interests among these three nations, marked by a vision where might supersedes right and autocrats find security, poses a unique challenge to the existing international order. With preparations for Trump’s second term well underway within the MAGA (Make America Great Again) Republicans, the prospect of an organised Trump 2 administration raises alarms across global parliaments and boardrooms.

3. The Trumpian Agenda

Should a Trump victory materialise, the world would witness an unprecedented pursuit of retribution, economic protectionism and theatrical deals. Trump’s first term, marked by unexpected foreign policy successes, would pale in comparison to the potentially more damaging plans for a second term.

Protectionist instincts once contained, would be unleashed. The contemplation of a universal 10% levy on imports, a stark increase from current levels, threatens to reshape global trade dynamics. The impact on the American economy, already grappling with budget deficits of an unprecedented scale, would be significant, with potential inflationary pressures stemming from tax cuts.

4. A Shift in International Dynamics

While Trump’s first term saw unexpected positive outcomes, a second term would unfold against a changed global backdrop. Transactional approaches in foreign relations are not inherently problematic, but Trump’s unique blend of dealmaking and disregard for values presents unprecedented challenges.

The threat to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) looms large, with Trump’s inclination to end the Ukraine war potentially swiftly undermining the alliance’s foundational commitment, as in this scenario the world would witness how easily the U.S. can walk back on its previous security promises. In the Middle East, unconditional support for Israel could escalate regional conflicts, while in Asia, a deal with China might see the abandonment of Taiwan, posing risks of miscalculation with catastrophic consequences.

5. Thousands of Ballots Shaping the World

The impending U.S. election carries unparalleled significance, with its outcome poised to be a watershed moment. A Trump victory would affirm his most destructive instincts about power, potentially encountering less resistance in a second term with a Supreme Court decisively on his side. As America votes with the full knowledge of the potential consequences, its moral authority could decline, leaving the fate of the world in the hands of tens of thousands of voters in crucial swing states.

In 2024, the world will be waiting the decisions of these voters whose ballots will echo far beyond their immediate impact. The coming months will unfold with heightened anticipation, as nations grapple with the potential implications of a Trump victory and the reshaping of global dynamics that could follow. The election is not merely a national affair; it is a moment that will define the course of international relations and the world order at large. I believe it is not unfair to say that never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

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