Iran to Putin: A News Junkie's Guide to the Most Decisive Upcoming Elections

From a surging hardliner in Iran to the UK's doubling down on Brexit and a looming presidential election in Russia, here is everything you need to know about key upcoming elections

Iranian cleric and presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi, center, stands among his supporters, during a campaign rally in Tehran, Iran, April 29, 2017
Iranian cleric and presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi, center, stands among his supporters, during a campaign rally in Tehran, Iran, April 29, 2017 AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi

A wave of right-wing populism has been roiling global politics in the last year, putting strongmen into power around the world and sending liberals into bewildered retreat. 

Last May, the Philippines elected the self-declared killer and “Trump of the East,” Rodrigo Duterte, in a surprise victory quickly followed by the shock result of the Brexit referendum in June. Come November, U.S. President Donald Trump mortified pollsters by smashing Hillary Clinton in the electoral college and this April, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a referendum that expanded his powers. 

These last 12 months have proven the power of the people to reshape world politics, even if the French voted for the centrist candidate last week, avoiding any reshaping at all. The right-ward shift has left many worried for the future of liberal democracy, and also that the next round of national elections will just make matters worse, which is possible. Here is a brief review of races to come, and their predicted outcome.

Iran, presidential election, May 19

Iran’s presidential election comes with the caveat that all candidates in the Islamic Republic must prove loyalty to the country's mullahs and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The choice is therefore between candidates approved by Khamenei, which means there is no real opposition to the status quo, leading commentators to question the legitimacy of Iranian democracy.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani speaking at a conference in Tehran, on January 28, 2017.
Iranian Presidency, AFP

International observers heavily favor so-called moderate Iranian President Hassan Rohani for another term, but he faces Ebrahim Raisi, an up-and-coming conservative firebrand. Raisi seems bent on closing Iran to outside influences again and jacking up the price the country gets for its oil. He is also alleged to have taken part in a 1988 purge of opposition members that may have killed as many as 15,000 people, according to Human Rights Center of Iran. 

WHO’S TAPPED TO WIN: Rohani and the Ayatollah, no matter what.

United Kingdom, general election, June 8 

British Prime Minister Theresa May calling for early elections outside 10 Downing Street, April 18, 2017
TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS

British Prime Minister Theresa May believes the snap election she called will increase her Conservative Party’s majority in U.K. Parliament. While Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is climbing in the polls, May is still tipped to win – by a large margin – not least because Corbyn, who campaigned against Brexit, says the referendum outcome was clear and is now awkwardly campaigning to lead the U.K. out of the European Union.

WHO’S TAPPED TO WIN: May and the ghost of Nigel Farage.

France, National Assembly, June 11 (The second round will be held on June 18)

One month after France’s presidential election in which centrist Emmanuel Macron defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen, France will elect the 577 members of the National Assembly. The election will be a very nontraditional one, as France’s new president belongs to a party he founded just prior to his presidential campaign, which is untested and unprepared for local elections.

French president-elect Emmanuel Macron waves to the crowd as he delivers a speech at the Pyramid at the Louvre Museum in Paris on May 7, 2017, after the second round of the French presidential election.
PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP

Nevertheless, his party, re-branded "La République En Marche" will be contending for all 577 parliamentary seats. Macron’s party faces stiff competition from more established political forces, including Le Pen’s National Front, which has had its strongest showings in local elections.

WHO’S TAPPED TO WIN: Time will tell.

Russia, presidential election, March 31, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin sits at a meeting with a Chinese official in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, April 26, 2017.
Alexei Druzhinin/AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been accused of hacking elections in the United States, France and Germany in a plot to discredit western democracy, may stand for a second consecutive term, which would be his fourth as president. He hasn’t said so yet, but the odds that he’ll stand down and relinquish his unchecked power over Russia seem remote.

WHO’S TAPPED TO WIN:  You already know.

Israel, general election, TBD