year of elections

“two of the most basic propositions of contemporary international relations are that world politics is a realm of inherent uncertainty and that is characterized by a natural absence of harmony. Practically every one knows that nothing in world politics is inevitable and harmony is virtually nonexistent.” – Robert Keohane (professor International affairs Princeton)


Let’s call 2012 the year of the elections. Or maybe we should call it the year of uncertainty.

Elections inevitably create inherent uncertainty. New ‘management’ <politician leadership> translates into undoing or stopping predecessor initiatives <which even if it is a good idea creates inefficiencies and uncertainty>, initiating new initiatives and while most often not implementing a completely new ideology they bring in new ideas and thinking.

Oh. All that is called ‘inherent uncertainty.’

Regardless. With an election looming in the good ole USofA  it is easy for us Americans to be thinking me, me … and … well … me. and maybe we should take a minute to look at the bigger global picture and reflect on the fact we are closing in on the end of the year of elections <which inevitably will crete the ‘year of the election aftermath in 2013’ but that is a separate post>.

And because I have had this discussion with several friends … some elections are more elections than other elections <huh?> … but regardless of how democratic an election is, or is not, it represents change in governments (and the discussions that take place along with governmental changes).

A third of the world’s nations will be holding local, state, or national elections in 2012.

What does that really mean? <reprise the quote>

It is a realm of uncertainty and nothing is inevitable <and I imagine harmony is a wishful thinking>.

Where are the elections?

Several Middle East, “Arab Spring” countries, will be testing democracy and where that actually leads, and eaves, them ideologically.

59 countries will have elections local, state or national). There are 193 countries in the world so that’s about a third of the world’s nations. 26 of these may see a change in national leadership. Altogether, these elections affect over 50% of the world’s population which also represents about half of the world’s GDP.

And a lot of the change is concentrated in the world’s most powerful countries.

Four out of the five U.N. Security Council members will see changes … some at the top … all within the government infrastructure.

Russia, China, France, and the U.S. These four countries alone represent 40% of the world’s GDP.

Of all of them, China will not have democratic elections, of course, but it will see the biggest, wholesale change at the top. 70% of the country’s leadership will be new.

All have major implications for international affairs.

As I stated in the discussion with a friend (who debated that China “wasn’t really having elections”) politics & elections have several levels.

There is the immediate, pragmatic level of the struggle of those vying for power.

There is also the underlying struggle of ideas … between left and right, between liberalism, pluralism, conservatism and autocracy <and  number of other things which I am sure I have missed>.

Occasionally, this type of political activity concludes dramatically <ideologically> …. like France in 1789, Russia in 1917, eastern Europe in 1989 and the Arab world in 2011.

More often, though, the faces change more quickly than the ideologies, especially in democracies, and the pattern is obvious only in retrospect.

For example, few in Great Britain realized how important Margaret Thatcher would be when they elected her in 1979.

Even fewer Americans spotted the arrival of a new brand of conservatism when Barry Goldwater was resoundingly defeated in the 1964 presidential election.

2012 stands a good chance of being pivotal, both in terms of people and a clash of ideas.

Some of these elections and leadership changes involve nothing more than personnel shifts.

Others will create the foundation for fundamental debates about the future course of a country.

In the end?

It could mean a shift so that we will see a different Europe, a different China, and a different America in the next few years.

So while things have seemed pretty chaotic up to this point I would suggest we all buckle up because all that chaos is going to create a different spin as this year comes to a close and 2013 arrives.

Why do I feel so strongly about this <beyond the obvious personnel changes and what comes with that change>?

There is a lot in play … even more so if you consider the battle for ideas.

In the 1990s, with the Soviet Union vanquished, it was fashionable to talk about the end of history, and the inevitable triumph of Western liberalism, both economic and political. But the past decade has been more difficult for those who foresaw a freer, more open world.

September 11th 2001 was a shocking reminder that a violent minority had always dissented from the West’s creed of liberal democracy.

More recently, the West’s financial crisis has raised doubts about the worth of liberal capitalism coinciding with the continuing rise of undemocratic China which creates the perception <or reality?> of  the supposed strengths of one-party efficiency.

In addition, authoritarian regimes in the emerging world have plenty of excuses for ignoring Westerners lecturing them about privatization and human rights.

Asian autocrats are once again talking about Asian values being different.

And it seems that idea is gaining momentum among some Western business leaders as they become increasingly fed up with the partisan gridlock in Washington, DC and the dysfunction of the euro zone. In fact many business leaders look enviously at the swift decision-making in Beijing … the rapid permission given for their new factory, the road built speedily to their new software center.

That all means that in 2013 ideas of all sorts are likely to clash and create inherent uncertainty … because no one is completely right … nor is anyone completely wrong.


But in the end.

We in the US have an election coming up.

Maybe more than 40% of all registered voters will actually vote.


By the way.

That is less than 50% <or less than half the people who could vote to any of you challenged by percentages>.

Isn’t that why people get a vote?

All I can say as we near the end of the year of elections is that if you do not vote than you cannot say anything in 2013 … the year of the election aftermath.

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Written by Bruce