3+1 Political Topics You Should Pay Attention To in 2020

Andrew Martin via Pixabay // CC

No one could say that 2019 was a boring year when it comes to politics. An impeachment was started against Donald Trump, House of Commons failed to vote the Brexit (twice), and the Conservatives win the by-elections (again), Justin Trudeau won the elections, but he has a minority government, the European elections redrawed the political map in the European Union, and German ex-minister, Ursula Von der Leyen became the new President of the European Commission, Hong-Kong raised its voice against China, and Green politics became one of the most important questions in the world politics as well.

After such an exciting year like 2019, what could we expect from 2020? 

The New Conservative-Green Government in Austria

After the “Ibiza-gate”, it seemed that Sebastian Kurz, the leader of ÖVP, got a chance to win the absolute majority in the by-elections.

The radical FPÖ party weakened after the Strache-affair. Social-democrat SPÖ could not offer a real alternative, because of its internal strife. The Greens had not gained enough votes to enter the Parliament in 2017. And liberal NEOS was to young to become a real threat to the ÖVP.

However, in the elections, Kurz gained 37.5% of the votes, which is a great result in the Austrian election system. Still, ÖVP needed to find a coalition partner for the term.

Surprisingly, Greens gained 26 seats in the National Council and almost beat FPÖ. As a result, after the election Kurz offered the coalition to Werner Kögler’s party, and Greens were not the one’s to miss this opportunity.

The new, Blue-Green coalition was set up officially in January 2020. It is a really interesting entity: it is based on a radical refugee policy, an impressive action plan to make Austria carbon-free by 2040, a rethought tax law, and a new Minister of Justice, who is also a Bosnian refugee.

It is hard to say how long this coalition will last, but it is already remarkable that a party that did not gain a seat in 2017 has become a governing party in 2019. This is a real success of the Greens – the party achieved its best result in the elections, became the second most influential party in Austria, and a governing party, for the first time in history.

And this could be a meaningful sign as well: green topics might be the hottest in the new decade.

Middle-East Is (Still) on Fire

This topic is on the list every year. Some of the conflicts started in 2012 during the so-called “Arab Spring”, some of the countries, like Turkey, have already been on the battlefield for years, but they increased the intensity of their conflicts last year.

And there is a player who has been present in the area, but tried to avoid any kind of interaction with its enemies… until now.

In January, the United Sates of America, a country that tried to minimalize its activity in the Middle East in the last decade, killed Qasem Soleimani in Iraq.

Soleimani was the Major General of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is a branch of the Iranian Armed Forces. His main duty was to help Iran’s “Shia-export” campaign in the Middle East. His presence in Iraq was a threat to the stability of the country… at least according to President Donald Trump, who ordered Soleimani’s execution.

The Major General’s murder is not only a military issue in Iran. Soleimani was a national hero, respected by everyone in the country. And the assassination happened only a few weeks before the Iranian national elections, so now every prime ministerial candidate tries to make the most aggressive campaign and to figure out how Iran could take revenge on the USA for the murder of the beloved Soleimani.

However, we must also emphasize that the real leader of the country is not the prime minister but Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran. He knows that if Iran is too aggressive towards the US, the American military will be more involved in the region. And Iran is too small to fight against the United States.

However, Khamenei also needs to be hard, because if he is too compliant, the people will riot against him. Because of this, Iran had some retaliatory actions against the U.S. forces in Iraq, but not as heavy as was Soleimani’s murder.

The real question is who would fight in the war in this already unstable region? Both countries have a large number of allies and even more enemies, who already have their own problems.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan tries to oppress Kurds in Syria. There will be the third election in Israel within a year.

Pakistan and India are fighting over Kashmir. Saud-Arabia’s regime needs reforms to survive this decade.

There is a slim chance that this conflict will become the next world war, but it is important to bring it to a close as soon as possible and not to allow it to escalate into a local or a regional war. Because if one domino is flicked, it could overturn the whole table quickly.

U.S. Presidential Election

In 2016, many people were afraid that the victory of Donald Trump would cause the end of the world. Well, the odd billionaire won, but the cataclysm did not come this time.

He tried to fulfill his promises, and some of them actually became a reality as he had imagined. Still, most of them are still merely empty words.

However, all of Donald Trump’s successes and failures have been overshadowed by the impeachment prodecure. Mr Trump may have abused the power of the presidency when he negotiated with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in 2019. He is also accused of obstructing Congress by refusing to co-operate with the congressional inquiry.

The piquancy of the story, besides the fact that Mr Trump is the third president impeached in the U.S. history, is that the presidential elections will be held in America this year, and Trump has had a good chance of winning… so far.

However, the investigation could cause problems for the incumbent president. The right wing of his voters will likely vote for Donald Trump again, but the center might stay home… or vote for his opponent.

The trouble President Trump has caused is not enough to lose the election. In 2020, democrats need to offer a better candidate to be able to win.

The primaries will start in February, and it is hard to say who will be the democratic candidate. There is the popular former vice-president, Joe Biden; the “radical” social democrat, Bernie Sanders; the Wall Street critic, Elizabeth Warren; Andrew Yang, who supports universal income; and nine other candidates who want to be the next president of the United States.

The Democratic party needs this victory. In 2016, Donald Trump beat the party with a populist campaign, so they need to show that he is not unbeatable. At the same time, a creative, liberal campaign could help defeat populism.

The primaries start on 3 February in Iowa, and the presidential election will be on 3 November, so this topic will accompany us throughout the year.

+1 Brexit (for Real This Time) and Its Afterlife

Yes, this topic has been on the table since 2016, but it looks like it will end this year, and the British will leave the European Union.

It has not been an easy ride, and most of the problems were caused by British politicians who were not able to decide what they want. However, after two by-elections, four ineffectual votes in the House of Commons, thousands of negotiations, and even more debates, the House of Commons passed the withdrawal agreement on January 9, 2020. Still, the story does not end here.

First, the House of Lords will start to analyze the agreement. Even if they do not have the right to reject it, they could send it back to the House of Commons with their comments and suggestions for an amendment. After that, the Queen will need to sign it. And the real excitement will start after that.

The main problems will be caused by Scotland and Northern-Ireland. They are both dissatisfied with the agreement and with the whole Brexit as well. They want to remain in the EU, but it is unclear how they want to do it.

There are rumors that Northern-Ireland may leave the United Kingdom and unite with Ireland, and if they will not do that, the UK will probably have to face the anger of Irish separatists. This could be the beginning of a new civil war.

On the other hand, Scotland already announced that they will hold a new independence referendum. Boris Johnson tries to prevent it, but he will have to agree to it eventually, because it would be an undemocratic move to forbid it, and it would cause more problems to London.

The real question is whether an independent Scotland would be able to join to the European Union, or whether the opponents of the independence (like Spain, or Romania) would prevent it.

However, these questions will not be answered any time this year, because there will be a transition period that will last until the end of 2020. This means we will not see all of the consequence of the Brexit within the next twelve months.

And this is precisely why this topic is a +1 in the list: we will probably see it resurface in 2021 as well.

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Zsolt Nagy
Republikon Institute