Iran’s election to fill seats in the Majlis on March 1 will be the country’s first vote since mass demonstrations in 2022 gripped the Islamic Republic following the death of a young woman who had been detained for allegedly not following state rules on proper dress. Disputed election results have fanned the flames of dissent in Iran in the past, including the 2009 Green Movement protests, considered at the time the biggest demonstrations since the 1979 revolution.
Subcontinent strained: Pakistan and India
Both Pakistan and India are heading into contentious elections in which the winners could reshape international relations, altering dynamics in the strategic Indo-Pacific region, where, like Africa, the U.S. and its allies hope to bolster ties as a bulwark against Chinese and Russian influence.
India is set to hold general elections between April and May, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is expected to hold on to its majority, if not gain seats, in the Lok Sabha. But India’s opposition parties accuse Modi of undermining the country’s democratic institutions, jailing and intimidating journalists and using state investigative agencies to target political opponents. They also accuse the BJP of sanctioning and condoning violence against India’s Muslim minority and promoting Hindutva, a school of Hindu nationalist thought that wants to cement Hindu hegemony in India.
Modi and his allies have said the Indian government’s actions against journalists and activists are needed to combat “terrorism” by Islamist and Maoist groups.
Pakistan, meanwhile, is still grappling with the aftermath of populist Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ousting. Khan, a famed cricket player, was first elected in 2018 and promoted better ties with India and China. He was removed from office in April 2022 after failing a no-confidence motion and was arrested in May 2023 on corruption charges, which sparked widespread protests at the time and continues to roil the South Asian country. Pakistan’s Parliament was dissolved last August ahead of anticipated elections in November. However, a dispute over the boundaries of some electoral constituencies prompted Pakistan’s electoral commission to delay the general election until February 2024.
Strict new social media laws will be a factor in both countries’ campaigns after they each moved to rein in platforms in recent years under the auspices of combating disinformation, raising fears of censorship from some opposition forces.
Continent-shaker: European Parliament
The European Parliament election is the second-largest vote by population in 2024, behind India. Traditional parties are nervous that a possible rise on the European far-right could coincide with a Trump comeback. That scenario could again rankle transatlantic ties that have just started to repair under Biden, complicating coordination with the continent’s closest ally as the European Union continues to face the Russia-Ukraine war on its doorstep.