After a dramatic 12 months in global politics, there’s little chance of respite in 2019.
From the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China to the world’s biggest election in India, and the likely departure of the UK from the EU to campaigning ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, another hectic year lies ahead.
China’s annual Two Sessions are traditionally held in March, and big celebrations are expected later in the year to mark two major anniversaries: 70 years since the foundation of the PRC on October 1 and 20 years since the return of Macao in December.
Global trade disputes were a feature of 2018, and will no doubt be on the agenda once again at the Boao Forum for Asia on south China’s island province of Hainan.
Analysts will be watching closely to see if the consequences of tariffs imposed over the past year lead to a drag on global growth in 2019, and Boao attendees will be gathering shortly after a key date: March 1. That’s when the three-month deadline for ongoing trade negotiations between China and the U.S. hits.
It’s far from just China that has been targeted by the Trump tariffs, with fears in Brussels and Tokyo that the White House still plans to impose additional charges against their respective auto industries.
Trade may not be a major issue when voters in all EU member states — 27, assuming Brexit takes place as planned on March 29 — go to the polls in May to choose a new European parliament, but the results will inform how the bloc approaches its internal and external affairs over the next five years.
A new parliament means a new president of the European Commission, and with populists on the rise and Britain — probably — heading for the exit a shift in direction for the EU could be on the cards.
Over 150 million voters will likely cast ballots in the EU elections, but in India the potential electorate is 800 million plus — making the polls, expected in April, the world’s biggest democratic exercise.
Eyes will be on whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi can hold off a challenge from an invigorated Rahul Gandhi, and there will be an avalanche of elections in other emerging economies too. Ballots are due to be cast in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Afghanistan, Greece, Poland and Ukraine.
Elections will also be held in Africa’s two biggest economies, with President Muhammadu Buhari aiming for reelection in Nigeria and incumbent leader Cyril Ramaphosa campaigning for the support of South African voters.
Two new leaders in major Latin American countries — Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil — will be hitting their strides, in a year in which BRICS will head to Brazil, APEC leaders will gather in Chile and a presidential election will be held in Argentina.
Further north in the U.S., President Donald Trump looks to have another action-packed year lined up: starting it with a government shutdown, the Democrats poised to take over the House of Representatives and the Mueller investigation inching closer to conclusion.
The contest to challenge Trump in the 2020 election will also heat up, with over 30 Democrats mulling a run for the White House and a few Republicans weighing up a primary challenge against the incumbent president.
Some of the political drama can be foreseen, but surprises doubtlessly lie ahead.
As former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan is reputed to have replied when asked what he feared could cause his government problems: “Events, dear boy, events.”