“Every vote matters, more this year than perhaps any time in history.”
These are the words of environmentalist Jane Goodall at a session of the World Economic Forum in Davos at the start of this monumental year.
Bangladesh, home to some 170 million people, went first in an election boycotted by the opposition party. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina secured a record fourth consecutive term in office, maintaining her title as the world’s longest serving female head of government.
This was followed by Lai Ching-te of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) securing 40.1% of votes to become the next president of Taiwan.
Then there was Iowa’s Republican presidential caucus — the launch of the US presidential primary season — in which former President Donald Trump scored a record-setting win, enforcing his position in the running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, ahead of the general election in November.
Voting will also take place in over 60 countries including India, South Africa, Egypt, the UK, the EU, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, and Mexico. These elections will range from the gargantuan — such as India’s multi-day legislative elections (the largest in the world) and the world’s biggest single-day vote in Indonesia — to the smaller North Macedonian presidential election.
Will Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress party lose the power it’s held for 30 consecutive years in post-apartheid South Africa? Will the European Parliament continue to see a surge in far-right extremist parties? And, when Donald Trump and Joe Biden face off again in the US, as predicted, will the results be any different from those in 2020?
At a moment when both democracy and the future of the planet and people on it are in peril thanks to the climate emergency, dwindling civic space, and ongoing conflicts, the stakes have never been higher — not just for the countries going to the polls but for everyone, everywhere. Here’s what you need to know.
Is my country going to the polls?
Here’s a list of all the countries holding elections in 2024.
Algeria, Botswana, Chad, Comoros, Ghana, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Senegal, Somaliland, South Africa, South Sudan, Tunisia, and Togo.
In the Americas
Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, the United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Mongolia, South Korea, South Ossetia[a], Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Taiwan, and Turkey.
Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the European Union, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova, North Macedonia, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Slovakia, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
Australia, Palau, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.
What’s at stake?
Votes this year could mean developments on or changes to some of the most important issues impacting every single living being on the planet. To say the stakes are high would be an understatement.
The Doomsday Clock, a symbolic countdown to human extinction, has stayed at 90 seconds to midnight, the closest it had been since it was established in 1947.
Founded by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the symbolic Doomsday Clock is updated regularly to illustrate global threats the Bulletin considers existential, including nuclear war, biothreats, artificial intelligence, and the climate emergency. Striking midnight represents the end of the world.
These are just some of the issues that will informally be on the ballot this year — and could turn back the clock.
The Climate Crisis
As Samantha Burgess, the deputy director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), summed it up: “2023 was an exceptional year, with climate records tumbling like dominoes."
Once you’ve found out if your country is going to the polls this year, do your own research on what candidates’ climate records and policy proposals are, and how their climate plans compare to what science says is needed.
Wars & Conflict
According to the Council on Foreign Relations’s Global Conflict Tracker, there are currently 32 ongoing conflicts worldwide. The tracker categorizes conflict into three groups: “worsening,” “unchanging,” and “improving.”
Of those worsening are the Israel-Palestine conflict, the war in Ukraine, the war in Afghanistan, violent extremism in the Sahel, the civil war in Myanmar, the confrontation over Taiwan, instability in Haiti, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, ethnic conflict and violent resource competition involving ethnic militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the power struggle in Sudan, and instability in Pakistan.
According to International IDEA’s 2023 Global State of Democracy report, half of all countries have seen declines in at least one indicator of democracy over the past five years. In fact, last year, global freedom declined for the 17th consecutive year.
The most serious setbacks were the result of war, coups, and attacks on democratic institutions. Russian President Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine while fresh coups and other attempts to undermine representative government destabilized Burkina Faso, Tunisia, Peru, and Brazil.
What’s more, previous years’ coups and ongoing repression continued to diminish basic liberties in Guinea and constrain those in Turkey, Myanmar, and Thailand. Afghanistan’s Taliban regime also barred girls from receiving an education and several governments and occupying powers used violence to destroy cultures and change the ethnic composition of populations in 21 countries and territories, according to Freedom House.
However, International IDEA’s report also concludes that public mobilization and engagement is crucial toward reversing these trends.
Bryan Walsh, Vox editorial director, calls it “the democracy paradox.” While a record number of people will be exercising the most fundamental democratic act, democracy itself has rarely been more under threat.
As the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and founder of the investigative news site Rappler in the Philippines, Maria Ressa, warned: “We will know whether democracy lives or dies by the end of 2024.”
What else can I do?
We know all of this is a big pill to swallow, and you might feel as though yours is a small vote in an ocean of ballots, but we want to remind you that your voice matters. The world is going through a storm right now, and you can help decide who gets to captain the ship in your region, and in the world overall.
- Find out if your country is holding elections this year.
- Check your voter registration status or register to vote. If you're in the US, head to Global Citizen partner HeadCount to check your voter registration status and register if needed.
- Do your research on candidates and party policies.
- Share the knowledge with your friends.