Photo: AP Images
Six of 59 countries holding elections in 2012 are members of the G20. In terms of the global economy, the most important political changes will take place in the U.S., France, Russia and China, according to a new report by Citigroup.These four countries account for 40 per cent of global GDP and hold four of five permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council.
After the protests surrounding the December 2011 Russian parliamentary elections, the March 4 2012 presidential election will be closely watched for signs of rigging. Putin is however expected to win.
What's at stake: If the results of the election are challenged Putin's return to power is expected to encounter resistance that hasn't been seen since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. For now markets are waiting to see if Putin implements reforms or if there will be a return to more centralized power.
According to Citi analyst Kingsmill Bond:
'...This is the first time since the year 2000 that the Russian market has had to factor in domestic political risk; the market's immediate response to the urban protests has been to widen the Russian discount by 200 points, slightly more than 10%. We believe that this uncertainty could continue beyond the elections, as market participants wait to see what kind of regime Putin will lead in his 3rd term as president.'
Upcoming Iranaian elections have been showing the power struggle between those who support President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and those who support the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
What's at stake? This will be the first election since the disputed 2009 presidential poll. The parliamentary election is also expected to test the legitimacy of the Islamic regime and could set the stage for the 2013 presidential election.
Source: Financial Times
Greece faces elections in April to replace its technocratic government. Its co-ruling conservative party New Democracy wants snap elections as soon it gets its new bailout and no later than April 8. For now, Antonis Samaras' New Democracy is leading opinion polls.
What's at stake? With Greece continuing to be Europe's weakest link, everyone will be watching the elections to see if it can cobble together a government that will pull it out of the debt crisis and ease pressure on Europe.
Recent polls show a widening gap between French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist candidate François Hollande, placing the latter in the lead.
What's at stake? France plays an important role in the resolution of the European debt crisis, which makes its elections important to investors. Hollande has said his focus will be to balance the French budget by the end of 2017 and said his main opponent is 'the world of finance'. He also said he will reneogtiate eurozone economic policy with German chancellor Angela Merkely and propose a new Franco-German pact.
Citi's European equity strategist Jonathan Stubbs says the banking sector is getting increased attention from both sides of the political divide. Sarkozy for instance said he plans to introduce a tax on financial transactions.
South Korea's ruling Grand National Party changed its name ahead of the upcoming elections to Saenuri or New World Party. It is unclear what the outcome of the elections will be after it lost the Seoul mayorlty last year.
What's at stake? North Korea has said that it will try to influence South Korean elections to see the liberal opposition take power away from the conservative ruling party. North Korea would like to see a more conciliatory regime in place.
Source: The Nation
Military rulers had said they would hold presidential elections by the end of June. But with protests breaking out, the head of the ruling military council has told electoral officials to speed up preparations for the election. Nominations for president will be accepted in March, a month ahead of the original date.
What's at stake? While Egypt remains under martial law, the military council has said it would turn over power after the presidential elections. Relations between the pro-democracy group that emerged during the Arab spring and helped oust Hosni Mubarak, and the military rulers, have grown strained. All eyes will be on Egypt's presidential elections because of its importance in the Arab world.
Source: Al Jazeera
Josefina Vazquez Mota, Andres Manuel Lopez Obradaor, and Enrique Pena Nieto are the three top contenders for Mexico's presidential elections. The country is also expected to see a new governing party.
What's at stake? With organised crime still a pressing issue and the economic divide between the rich and poor continuing to grow, everyone is watching the elections looking for reform changes.
Source: The Washington Post
The President is elected by members of parliament. Pranab Mukherjee the incumbent finance minister and vice president Mohammad Hamid Ansari are top contenders for the post.
What's at stake? The Presidential candidate could set off spats between Congress and the opposition BJP. The President will also have to contend with a challenging general election mandate in 2014 while forming a government. Current prime minister Manmohan Singh's government has been riddled with charges of corruption and is struggling with inflation.
This will be Angola's third election since its independence in 1975. It is unclear if president Jose Eduardo dos Santos will lead his ruling MPLA party in the upcoming elections. Santos has help power since 1979.
What's at stake? Citizens of oil rich Angola are still largely poor and discontent with how the country is run. They are also tired of the amount of power Santos holds.
2012 will see a transition of power to the fifth generation leadership this year.
What's at stake: The simultaneous political transitions in the U.S. and in China will test bi-lateral relations between the two countries. China's dual elections, the October 2012 leadership transitions and the March 2013 government reshuffle, come at a time when China has exhausted its traditional growth model. Investors will be looking for signs that China is rebalancing the economy by increasing domestic consumption. The main challenge for the new leadership will be maintaining the economic status quo.
Opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez has dropped out of the presidential race. The opposition party is throwing all its support behind Henrique Capriles, who will challenge President Hugo Chavez.
What's at stake? Venezuela is grappling with a 27.6 per cent inflation rate, and Chavez has warned of government interventions to businesses and has threatened to nationalize companies to bring down prices. The country has also been grappling with rising crime and Chavez who is recovering from cancer is looking more vulnerable.
Source: The Huffington Post
Polling data so far has given few clues to the results of the presidential elections. But the presidential post isn't the only one to watch, equally important will be the president's ability to work with Congress. Many expect Republican's to control the Senate.
What's at stake? According to U.S. equity strategist Tobias Levkovich President Obama's re-election or loss will affect investor sentiment surrounding financials, health care and energy sectors, as well as defence stocks, which together account for about 40 per cent of the S&P 500's market cap. While the presidential race gets all the attention, it is Congress that calls the shots on the federal government spending.