How people elect parliaments
After multiple world electoral dramas in 2017, the 2018 calendar year will be relatively quiet for parliamentary elections, with few major nations going to the polls.
The main event will probably be the highly contestable mid-term ballot for the United States House of Representatives and Senate, taking place in November.
Anticipation among US poll-watchers and electoral analysts is growing steadily that there will be a voter backlash against President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress. Whatever the outcome, the tension generated by the looming contest will heavily influence US politics throughout the year.
A number of nations will also be electing their presidents, notably Russia in March – although all observers assume that Vladimir Putin will easily walk into his 4th term of office.
The electoral year will commence with a poll in the tiny Mediterranean jurisdiction of Northern Cyprus, taking place on January 7.
Latin America will see significant legislative elections including those in Colombia (in March), Mexico (July) and Brazil (October), with all three also electing their Presidents this year.
Several African nations are due to re-elect their parliaments. For several (shown in lighter shade on the map above) exact election dates have not been set, but the current parliaments will reach their full term during the year.
In Europe the leading events will be the parliamentary elections in Italy (in March) and Sweden (September). Hungary’s election (due in April or May) will also be significant, since that nation currently has the continent’s most established populist-right government.
Italy has recently reformed its electoral system, abandoning a system of artificially enforcing the seats awarded to the leading political party. At this stage the Italian election looks like a very awkward three-way contest between the centre-left Democratic Party, the centre-right Forza Italia and its allies, and the more populist Five Star Movement. The latter may actually top the polls.
Forming an Italian government will likely be difficult. The outcome will add to the problem that several of the major European nations – the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain – will be governing with insecure parliamentary numbers.
But overall, the anxieties recently felt by European political establishments that far-right movements were on the rise will be significantly lessened through the coming year.
The Middle East will see elections in Iraq, and should also see long-delayed polls in Lebanon and – perhaps – in divided Libya.
Neighbouring Afghanistan and Pakistan will each hold elections just a week apart in July.
South-East Asia will see elections in Cambodia (July), Malaysia (due no later than August, but possible earlier in the year) and – assuming the military regime proceeds as planned – in Thailand (November).
Also keep an eye out for a possible early election called by the tenuous minority government in Éire.
Finally, Australia’s national government – currently holding office by a single-seat majority – may also be tempted (or even forced) to call an early election, even though one is not required until September 2019.
For details of each nation’s parliamentary electoral system, see the entries in this site’s catalogue of world assemblies.
In Canada, provincial elections are due to be held in Ontario (in July), New Brunswick (September) and Quebec (October).
The Australian states of South Australia and Tasmania (home to the single-transferable vote electoral system since the late 19th century) are due to hold elections by March and May respectively.
The South Australian poll, in particular, should be dramatic, with a non-aligned new party currently topping the opinion polls to outperform the nation’s two major parties for the first time in over a century.
The German state of Bavaria is due to hold an election between September and November.
A number of nations are also holding elections for their national Presidents.
The main event seems to be the Russian Presidential election in March, despite the event’s clear lack of competitiveness, or indeed even a level political playing field.
A number of Latin American and African nations are also due to re-elect their presidents, including Colombia (in May), Mexico (July) and Venezuela and Brazil (both in October).
After finally seeing the end of the long reign of President Robert Mugabe late in 2017, long-suffering Zimbabwe is due to hold presidential and legislative elections by September.
A small number of Europe’s constitutional presidents will also be chosen by their voters this year.