More than half the world’s population will go to the polls this year, in what observers call a major test for democracy. Here are the key races so far and still to come.

In 2024, more than half of the world’s population, an estimated four billion people in more than 50 countries, are expected to head to the polls, according to an estimate by The Economist. It is the first time in history that so many people will have the opportunity to put a mark on a ballot in a single year. Those elections include some of the world’s biggest and most populated countries: India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Russia, Mexico, the United States, as well as the European Union.

Many of the elections will be crucial tests of democracy in their countries and regions. This has led some observers to describe 2024 as a global make-or-break year for democracy, columnist Doug Saunders wrote in a Globe and Mail column published late last year.

Every year, U.S.-based non-profit organization Freedom House assigns a Global Freedom Score to every country and a select group of territories in its annual Freedom in the World report. The scores measure the degree of civil liberties and political rights in every nation, categorizing them as Free, Partly Free, or Not Free. Here are some major elections to watch in 2024, which also outline this year’s Freedom House rankings. This piece will be updated as elections occur.

Table of contents • Map • Elections so far • Still to come • Other dates

Overview: Which countries are voting, and how free are they?



Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina secured a fourth straight term on Jan. 7 in a controversial election fraught with low voter turnout, violence and a boycott from the main opposition party. Ms. Hasina, 76, is the longest-serving prime minister in the country’s history.

In her most recent 15 years in power, Ms. Hasina has been credited with turning around Bangladesh’s economy and the key garment industry. But critics accuse her of authoritarianism, human-rights violations, crackdowns on free speech and suppression of dissent.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party refused to accept the election outcome, saying Bangladeshi voters have rejected the government’s one-sided election. The party boycotted the vote after Ms. Hasina refused to cede power to a caretaker government to run the poll.

On the eve of the election, polling booths were set ablaze and four people were killed in a train fire that the government described as an arson attack. At least 18 arson attacks had preceded the Jan. 7 vote.



Taiwan elected Lai Ching-te of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to be the island’s next president on Jan. 13, giving the DPP a historic third consecutive victory. Mr. Lai faced a fierce challenge from both the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and the upstart Taiwan People’s Party, outperforming polls to secure around 40 per cent of the vote despite warnings from China not to vote for him.

During his victory speech, Mr. Lai said Taiwan “stands on the side of democracy.” He also promised to safeguard Taiwan “from continuing threats and intimidation” while pursuing exchanges and co-operation with China.

Beijing has regarded Taiwan as its sovereign territory and has threatened military action in order to achieve “reunification.” China has ramped up diplomatic, trade and military pressure against Taiwan, including firing missiles into its waters and staging large-scale war games around the island at periods of high tension.



Pakistan’s general elections were held on Feb. 8 against a backdrop of intense military presence, pre-poll rigging and the continuing influence of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), which is backed by the country’s powerful military establishment, was expected to win the vote and reinstate former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Instead, independent candidates affiliated with Mr. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party secured the most seats in parliament.

Mr. Khan came into office in 2018 as the military’s preferred candidate and an anti-corruption reformer. During his four-year term, he became increasingly critical of the military and of Pakistan’s ties to the United States, favouring much closer relations with Russia and China. In 2022, his party was ousted from office in a parliamentary non-confidence vote.

He then faced a series of charges that saw him banned from politics for five years. In May, 2023, after he was arrested on additional charges, his supporters rioted, attacking military bases across the country. This led to further charges. When parliament dissolved that August, the military decided to delay national elections and install a caretaker government.

The 2024 election has been so directly controlled that some informed observers are describing this as a new, more overtly military-led era in Pakistani politics. For example, the military shut down the country’s entire cellphone and mobile-data network on election day.

The vote took place at a moment of crisis in Pakistan, as stubborn 30-per-cent inflation and steep currency devaluation have coincided with violent conflicts on its borders with Afghanistan, Iran and India, as well as terrorist upsurges in the country’s west and north – meaning that both the economy and large swaths of national policy are dominated by the military.



Tens of millions of Indonesians voted on Feb. 14 in the world’s third-largest democracy, spanning thousands of islands and three time zones, to choose a successor to President Joko Widodo and some 20,000 other office holders.

Final results will be released in March, but early counts suggest a first-round victory for Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, running on a ticket with Mr. Joko’s son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka.

To avoid a runoff, which would be held in June, Mr. Prabowo needs to win more than 50 per cent of the national vote in a three-way race against former governors Ganjar Pranowo and Anies Baswedan.

Mr. Prabowo, a disgraced special forces commander once banned from entering the United States because of alleged human-rights violations during the Suharto dictatorship, has pursued the presidency for decades, through means both fair and foul.

In a rousing victory speech to supporters, Mr. Prabowo promised to create a government consisting of “the best Indonesians.”

Rival campaigns have warned of widespread fraud, without providing evidence, and vowed to contest the result.



Vladimir Putin secured an unprecedented fifth term as president of Russia on March 17 in what many are calling a “sham” and “stage-managed” presidential election. The Central Election Commission announced that Mr. Putin, who has been in power as president or prime minister since 1999, had won another six-year term with almost 88 per cent of the vote – a sharp rise from the 77.5-per-cent support he claimed in 2018.

The Kremlin also claimed a record voter turnout at 74 per cent for an election that generated almost no public debate or excitement. There were widespread reports of ballot-stuffing, as well as of people being forced to vote in the Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine.

If he serves the entire six-year term, Mr. Putin will surpass Joseph Stalin’s 29-year reign and become Russia’s longest-serving leader since Catherine the Great.

More remarkable than the official figures were the crowds of Russians who turned out at polling stations across the country – and Russian embassies around the world – to show their opposition to Mr. Putin and their respect for Alexey Navalny, who died on Feb. 16 in an Arctic prison camp. Russia’s beleaguered democrats and world leaders have accused the Kremlin of murdering the country’s most popular opposition figure.

Participants in the action were responding to a call from Ms. Navalnaya, who asked that Russians carry through with the Noon Against Putin protest – arriving en masse and voting for anyone but the incumbent or spoiling ballots – an action that her husband designed from behind bars shortly before his death. In the eyes of many, Ms. Navalnaya is now the leader of those who want to see a different Russia than the authoritarian, militaristic version that Mr. Putin has built over his quarter-century in power.



India’s general elections were held from April 19 to June 1, and staggered over a period of six weeks.

Voting in the world’s largest democracy stretched over seven phases, with different states voting at different times. Over 970 million voters – more than 10 per cent of the world’s population – will elect 543 members for India’s Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, for a term of five years. The results will be announced on June 4.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are campaigning to be re-elected for a third straight term. Currently, the BJP is projected to win a majority. The results from the December state elections gave a big boost to the BJP as it swept up the regions of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan from the Indian National Congress, the country’s main opposition party.

A victory would make Mr. Modi only the second prime minister after Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s independence hero and its first prime minister, to win a third straight term.

The elections come at a time when India is facing multiple challenges, including rising unemployment, attacks by Hindu nationalists against the country’s minorities, particularly Muslims, and a shrinking space for dissent and free media.

South Africa


South Africa held its pivotal national elections on May 29 after a day of unexpectedly long queues and heavy voter turnout in many regions. South African officials are counting millions of ballots in an election that could determine the fate of President Cyril Ramaphosa and his long-ruling African National Congress (ANC).

In the most competitive election race since the end of apartheid in 1994, the ballots featured a record 70 political parties, including 31 newly registered parties, along with 11 independent candidates. Its unpredictable outcome has also sparked a surge of voter interest, seemingly reversing the long-standing decline in turnout, if the early indications were accurate.

Final results from the election, declared official on June 2, show that the ANC received 40 per cent in the national vote, down from 57 per cent in the last election. This leaves it dependent on other parties as it seeks to extend its 30-year grip on power since the famed all-race vote of 1994 that ended apartheid and brought it to power under Nelson Mandela.

The results will throw South Africa into weeks of uncertainty as the ANC will now need to look for a coalition partner or partners to remain in the government.

The ANC’s decisions in the coming weeks will determine its political and ideological future. It could seek support from the liberal Democratic Alliance (DA), a pro-business party that won 22 per cent of the vote, which would please the markets and ensure stability. Or it could opt instead for deals with Mr. Zuma’s party or the fourth-biggest party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), both of which are pushing for radical policies on land expropriation and nationalization of banks and mining companies.

The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, was on around 21 per cent. The new MK Party of former president Jacob Zuma, who has turned against the ANC he once led, came third with just over 14 per cent of the vote in the first election it has contested. The party – which named itself after the ANC’s former paramilitary wing, uMkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”) – wants to abolish the constitution and the current parliamentary system, transferring power to traditional tribal kings and queens.



Claudia Sheinbaum has won a landslide victory to become Mexico’s first female president, inheriting the project of her mentor and outgoing leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador whose popularity among the poor helped drive her triumph.

Sheinbaum, a climate scientist and former mayor of Mexico City, won the presidency with between 58.3 per cent and 60.7 per cent of the vote, according to a rapid sample count by Mexico’s electoral authority. That is set to be the highest vote percentage in Mexico’s democratic history.

The ruling coalition was also on track for a possible two-thirds super majority in both houses of Congress, which would allow the coalition to pass constitutional reforms without opposition support, according to the range of results given by the electoral authority.

Opposition candidate Xóchitl Gálvez conceded defeat after preliminary results showed her taking between 26.6 per cent and 28.6 per cent of the vote.

“For the first time in the 200 years of the republic I will become the first woman president of Mexico,” Sheinbaum told supporters to loud cheers of “president, president”.

The country headed to the polls amid deep political divisions and security struggles as drug cartels meddle in regional races and kill candidates with impunity – even as the current president and his protégé campaign on the promise of Mexico becoming a safer country than it has been over the past five years.

At least 32 candidates and potential candidates have been killed in the 2024 election cycle, according to the Violence and Peace Seminar at El Colegio de México. Integralia, a consultancy, recorded at least 749 cases of political violence over the nine months leading up to May 28 – nearly double the 382 cases recorded in the 2017-18 election cycle.

Under the Mexican constitution, the president is limited to a single six-year term. No one who holds the office is permitted to run for or hold the office again.

European Union


Every five years, citizens of European Union countries elect their representatives in parliament – known as members of the European Parliament (MEPs). This year’s elections, held between June 6 and June 9, will take place across all 27 EU member countries.

MEPs shape and decide on new laws that influence all aspects of life across the EU, including the economy, climate change and security. MEPs also elect the President of the European Commission, a position held by Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen.

Election days are divided across the EU countries over the four-day period. For example, the Netherlands will hold elections on June 6 while France will hold elections on June 9.



British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called an election for July 4 in a surprise move that he hopes will capitalize on early signs that the economy has begun to turn around.

“Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future,” Mr. Sunak said on May 22 at Downing Street, adding, “I will earn your trust and I will prove to you that only a Conservative government led by me will not put our hard-earned economic stability at risk.”

The decision to have an election in July, subverting expectations of a fall date, is a bold one by Mr. Sunak, given that the Conservatives trail Labour by as much as 20 percentage points in most opinion polls. The Tories also lost around half of their council seats in local elections earlier this month and was defeated in a by-election where their candidate won just 17.5 per cent of the vote and nearly finished third in a seat the party held.

Mr. Sunak, who became Prime Minister in October, 2022, will also have to convince voters that the Conservatives deserve re-election even though the party has been in government for 14 years and has gone through four leaders since 2019.

Under current laws – the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022 – Mr. Sunak had to call an election by January, 2025 and said for months that he planned to hold a vote in the second half of the year. But most observers, and many Conservative caucus members, expected that to mean sometime in the fall, rather than July.

United States


One of the most crucial elections happening this year is the United States’ presidential race. In a repeat of 2020, a rematch between President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump is imminent. The 2024 elections are scheduled to be held on Nov. 5.

After clinching enough delegates in the primaries, President Joe Biden has become the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party, and Mr. Trump for the Republican Party.

In a historic court ruling on May 30, Mr. Trump became the first former president in U.S. history to be criminally tried and convicted. He was found guilty on all 34 counts of doctoring business records to cover up a hush-money scheme before the 2016 election, mere months before he aims to recapture the White House. A New York jury convicted Mr. Trump of falsifying the records in order to hide a US$130,000 payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels.

The state conviction could result in prison time, but any sentence will likely be stayed pending appeal – and an appeal probably wouldn’t be decided until after the Nov. 5 election date. He faces three more criminal cases that have not been tried yet.

Justice Juan Merchan will sentence the former president on July 11, just four days before the Republican National Convention gathers in Milwaukee to formally nominate Mr. Trump for office.

It all means that when U.S. voters go to the polls, they will almost certainly have to decide whether to be governed by a convicted felon. But it remains to be seen what effect, if any, the verdict will have on the neck-and-neck rematch between Mr. Trump and President Biden.

South Sudan


South Sudan – the world’s youngest country, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after years of civil war – plans to hold its long-delayed first elections in December. The balloting would represent a key milestone but could be rife with danger and vulnerable to failure under current conditions.

Nicholas Haysom, who heads the UN mission in the country, told the Security Council in December, 2023 that voter registration details, a security plan and a way to resolve disputes are among the missing elements needed to ensure free elections that are “deemed credible and acceptable to South Sudanese citizens.”

Other key election dates to note

  • El Salvador: Feb. 4
  • Senegal: Feb. 25
  • Iran: March 1
  • Ukraine: March 31
  • Panama: May 5
  • Dominican Republic: May 19
  • Rwanda: July 15
  • Mozambique: Oct. 9
  • Mauritius: Nov. 30
  • Ghana: Dec. 7
  • Venezuela: December

The Globe and Mail, March 8, 2024