KARACHI: A foreign policy expert said at a seminar on Tuesday that the people across the globe want better economics and fewer wars and since there’s no unified global economic order, the world seems to be heading towards a headless, leaderless year of transition.

“This is the year of turmoil for all of those who believe in the liberal order because everything stands challenged as the world goes to election,” said Dr Maria Sultan, the chairperson of the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute University.

She was speaking at the seminar — Election Year 2024: Implications for the International Community — organised by the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA).

She began her presentation by saying that it’s considered that this is going to be the super election year — 75 countries are going to election this year, which means 4.2 billion people will decide what’s going to the future of world affairs.

The list includes European Union, (22 countries) and the seven most populous countries in the world — Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Mexico, the US and Russia — which means 50 per cent of the world population will cast vote.

Scholar Maria Sultan observes no political party is in position to have decisive victory in Feb 8 polls

On Pakistan, the scholar said none of the political parties will be in a position to have a decisive victory.

“This is the first time that all those who are under 40 (years of age) will be casting vote. There’s a global economic recession, so the bigger question is not just who comes to power but what are going to be the global preferences. This is also the year in which global conflicts are no longer considered welcome, the latest war being in Ukraine and now the situation in Gaza.

“One of the results of these conflicts has been international migration. There are not only migrant trends in the US but also a reverse trend in Russia where migration is happening as a result of war in Ukraine… This is the first time when immigrant populations are having an impact on elections outcome. As a result of the mass migration that’s happened in Europe, it is believed that the EU is more likely to have a reverse trend in more nationalist governments,” she said.

After focusing on Taiwan, Indonesia and Russia (with the biggest factor being whether Putin will manage to retain majority) Dr Sultan shed light on India, “One of the key factors in India is that it is moving away from party-focus to individual-focus. We all know about Hindutva, but what we don’t know is that there’s a structural review in India. They are disempowering anybody who is not Hindu, legally, to a state of statelessness.”

She said in India if you’re an Indian and non-Hindu, the national register has put conditions such as, ‘you must have land documentation 12 years prior to 1947.’ And if one doesn’t have land rights in India, one can be put in detention centres. She added the BJP for the first time is facing an existentialist crisis where the BJP has become synonymous with Modi.

Dr Sultan then shifted her attention to the UK and the US. With respect to the US she opined it’s for the first time that we’re looking at a bipartisan disconnect as both presidential nominees [Trump and Biden] are facing cases. Underlining the Trump phenomenon in terms of the voting population, she explained it as ultra-nationalism, anti-immigration and anti-war.

Concluding her presentation, she said democracy as its understood stands extremely challenged; people want better economics and less wars. “Since there’s no unified global economic order, the world seems to be in transition. We’re actually heading towards a headless, leaderless year of transition. This is the year of turmoil for all of those who believe in the liberal order because everything stands challenged as the world goes to election.”

Former Ambassador Mustafa Kamal Kazi was the second speaker. He said, “More voters than ever before in history will go to polls. The results will be consequential for years to come. The polls will test even the most robust of democracies. In some cases they may strengthen the hands of leaders with authoritarian leanings. From a distance the elections appear to be a spectacle of self-government but at a closer range the picture gets cloudier. Even in countries that are considered beacons of democracy, the credibility of election results has come under challenge. The last presidential election in the US [which cost $21bn] is an example.”

He said, “[In 2024] funding from Wall Street, powerful pro-Israel Jewish lobbies and the military industrial complex will be of decisive importance. It was craving for Jewish funding for the November 2024 elections that both President Biden and the Congress remained indifferent to full scale Israeli genocide in Gaza and Occupied West Bank. By rejecting Washington’s much trumpeted two-state solution and still receiving political support and weapons, Netanyahu demonstrated who ruled Washington.”

Ambassador Kazi said, “In some countries the balloting will be neither free nor fair. According to many analysts, nationalism and parochial politics will drive the outcome of elections in many countries, including the US.”

Mr Kazi pointed out that elections are no guarantee for democracy but it is also true that democracy does not exist without elections. After that he spoke specifically about some countries.

Earlier, PIIA Chairperson Dr Masuma Hasan introduced the two distinguished speakers to the audience.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2024

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