5 Key International Elections to Keep an Eye On in 2013

After an eventful 2012 in terms of political events, 2013's political agenda shows no signs of slowing down. This new "post end-of-the-world" year will be marked by a series of national elections around the world not to miss, here are a few:

1) Israel general elections: Israel will be among the first country to enter the election race in 2013. On October 9 2012, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced early general elections. These elections that were normally scheduled to take place in October will now be held January 24. The reason behind this was the inability to pass the 2013 budget before the end of the year. Indeed, the budget draft prepared by the Finance Minister, Yuval Steinitz, included severe austerity measures that had no chance of being adopted by the majority party components.

This early election is an opportunity for Netanyahu, to renew his legitimacy among Israeli, and placing himself as the only guarantor of security against Iran, the regional turmoil and global economic crisis. It's also a way to give a second look to the Israeli-Palestinian issue with U.S. President Barack Obama, after supporting his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Calling the election earlier also, somehow, outdistances Netanyahu's most fervent opponents like the new Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovitch, or the former executives of the centrist party, Kadima, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert. In fact, he caught them on the hop in term campaign if they didn't expect the election this soon. It's of no surprise that his party Likud and their ally, the ultra-national Israel Beiteinu, remain the favorite to collect the most seats in the Knesset. 

2) Italian general elections: After having spent 13 months at the helm of the government, the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti resigned last December, immediately after 2013 budget vote by the Parliament, paving the way for new elections on February 24 and 25.

Monti was appointed, in November 2011, by the Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano, at the head of a non-elected "technical government" to help Italy out of the crisis financial. He is likely to face former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who until then was supporting him. The later once cleared the way for Monti to deal with financial threats against the country. But now he criticizes actions taken by the government and appoints himself as the savior of a country "on the edge of the precipice," undermined by unemployment and an increasing taxation.

His return to the political scene, last November, not only surprised his critics but also massively frightened markets. That day the Italian stock exchange finished last in Europe, losing nearly -1%. Berlusconi even threatened to withdraw Italy from the Euro zone if the European Central Bank did not do the necessary to lower interest rates.

This Italian election's outcome is still very uncertain. In fact, the current government does not have the guarantee of having a majority of seats in the parliament. The only certainty is that the majority of European leaders altogether with the markets only trust Mario Monti. They want to see him carry on as head of the government so as to ensure the continuation of the reforms already launched. Failing to maintain himself in power could lead to some changes in policies in the country.

However, despite being acclaimed everywhere else, Monti remains very unpopular in Italy, especially because of harsh austerity measures. A majority of Italians don't want his reelected. In a survey conducted by SWG institute, December last year, 62% of them said they were opposed to his return.

And according to the latest poll (by Tecne research institute), if people were to vote to date, the Italian left would get the majority of seats. In fact, the Democratic Party (PD) and its ally Left, Ecology and Freedom, are leading with 40% of voting intentions. While the People of Freedom (PDL) of Silvio Berlusconi and his allies of the Northern League, would have 25% of the vote. Monti and his alliance, "With Monti for Italy," only arrive in the 4th position with just over 12% of the votes. But 50% of electorate are still undecided or might abstain. So to be followed!

3) Kenyan presidential elections: After 10 years under the rule of Mwai Kibabi, nearly 14 million Kenyan have registered to vote for their new president in the coming election to be held on March 4.

Two main contenders come to light out for this race: the current Prime Minister Raila Odinga with his running mate is the Vice President Kalonzo Mysyoka. They are representing an alliance of several political parties under the name Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD). Opposite to them there will be the Deputy Prime Minister, Uhuru Kenyatta together with his fellow candidate William Ruto, a former minister. They are also part of a coalition of parties known altogether as the Alliance Jubilee.

In its program the Alliance Jubilee commits into working on the youth unemployment (currently 1.2 million youth aged 20-24 are out of jobs), resolve lands issues - responsible for recent unrest in the coastal areas of the country - and improve the rule of law. However, it should be noted that Kenyatta and Ruto have both been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, for their alleged role in inter-ethnic massacres of 2007 and 2008. Their trial will resume in April, just after the second round.

Odinga, meanwhile, promises to work for fair development in all the regions of the country and to exploit new mineral resources such as gold or petrol — recently discovered in Kenya — so that all citizens could benefit from them.  

The Odinga-Mysyoka coalition is currently leading in the polls (Infotrack Harris) and is largely the favorite to win the election. But, there is still some hope for Kenyatta-Ruto if the other too many independent candidates manage to nibble some shares of Odinga votes. The verdict will be known at the second round in April.

There is a lot of stake in this election. For the first time in history, Kenyans will also vote for their senators, governors and local officials. But the presidential also comes after the highly contested election of Mwai Kibaki, in December 2007, which had led to violence that had 1,133 people killed, 3,561 injured and nearly 663,921 others displaced. And most people already fear that such a scenario might repeat.

4) Iranian Presidential elections: Who will replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? The question will be unraveled on June 14, when the Iranian people will be called to elect their new president. Although formal candidacy are few for now, this presidential is likely to be a conservative one. Indeed, the race will probably see a confrontation between the incumbent conservatives' allies and his, even more conservative opponents close to the supreme guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Few names have emerged on each side. In Ahmadinejad's camp it's his close adviser and the very controversial Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie who is said likely to run for his replacement. Mashaie is at odds with religious leaders and hard line conservatives due to his controversial statements, like the one on Iranian and Israeli peoples' friendship. The other possible candidate could be Mostafa Pourmohammadi, who was a former interior minister of Ahmadinejad. He reportedly announced, mid-December that he could also run for the presidency, although his decision was said not definite.

On the "opposite" side, to date there is the alliance formed by the mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, and Ali Akbar Velayati a foreign affairs adviser to the supreme leader, and Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, a conservative member of parliament. The three are expecting the most competent and in good position of them to run for the presidency. Other names include the one of chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili and parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, but nothing official yet.

As for reformist candidates, they have been unusually in quiet mode from the electoral game. The two most notable reformist candidates would be Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammed Khatami. But they haven't really spoken out. Other names have been circulating like that of Mohammed-Reza Aref, former vice president of Khatami, who has expressed his interest to the presidency. The reformist strongly contested Ahmadinejad re-election in 2009. The election results had triggered strong protests and fierce repression from the authorities. Dozens of people were killed during the unrest.

The Iranian people will also vote for their municipal councils and local councils who manage the villages, as they are scheduled in the same day.

For now it isn't clear on who will take part in the race or not, as candidacy have been announced and denied right after. The only certainty is that Ahmadinejad’s on the leave and whoever would replace him will be conservative.

5) German general elections: The "event of the year" in Europe will, undoubtedly, be the general elections in Germany, scheduled September 22. The current chancellor, Angela Merkel is expected to win her third mandate in the head of the German federal government.

Unlike Italian Mario Monti, her popularity is skyrocketing; in fact 80% of Germany is content with her. She is credited the economy's good health and has impressed on how she handled the crisis in Europe, particularly, by protecting German taxpayers against those lax southern Europe countries such as Spain and Italy.

Angela Merkel's main challenger in the chancellor race is her former Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück, who is representing the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Steinbrück is of economics background and famously renowned for his financial orthodoxy standings and his expertise concerning European matters. He advocates for better financial markets regularization, prone the establishment of a legal minimum wage and an increase in education spending.

According to the polls, it is clear that Steinbrück will have a tough time trying to dislodge Merkel from the chancellor seat. Her political formation, the Christian Democrat and its ally the Christian Social Union (CDU –CSU) are leading with 41% intents votes, their highest rate since 2006. Whereas the SPD together with their ecologist allies accumulate 40% of vote intentions.

However in case of victory, Angela Merkel could not consider further center-right coalition. Her other ally, the liberal party FDP, with only 5% votes credited, would not be able to make it in the parliament. It is most likely that she form an alliance with the conservatives and Social Democrats, as the one that was in power between in 2005 and 2009.

Merkel has been in the head of Germany's government since 2005. Winning a third term will make her the second world leader to have to withstand the crisis, after U.S. President Barack Obama, where others like the former English Prime Minister Gordon Brown, ex-French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Spanish Zapatero or former Italian Prime Berlusconi have failed.

5) Other elections will be take place around the globe in 2013, including legislatives elections in Jordan  (January), where for the first time Parliament will elect the Prime Minister so far, appointed by the King. Also in Pakistan in May, where already three governments have been taken down as a result of coups since the country got its independence in 1947 or Guinea Conakry (May), where it could be the end of the so long transition period and uncertainty generated by a coup in 2008. Not forgetting the presidential and legislative elections in Tunisia, to be held in June. Will the Islamists party Ennhadha, who have been challenged by the Salafists, keep their majority of seats in the parliament? Stay tuned!