Comment Writer Sofiya Povoas assesses the health of democracy across the globe, as worldwide elections in 2024 are being shaped by the rise of populist politics

Written by Sofiya Povoas

2024 has been named as the biggest year in democracy. But with the emergence of more far-right populist parties, is there growing cause for concern?

If there is anything the past year has taught us, it would be that politics is never predictable. Forces that were once merely a facet of the extreme minority, are now gaining ground. According to Statistica, elections are taking place in over 60 countries worldwide this year including the UK, the US, Russia, and India. So far, Taiwan has elected a centre-left figure, and in Bangladesh, re-election has been heavily criticised for the validity of the results. A looming figure, in legal trouble, by the name of Donald J Trump, is also up for election at the end of the year, supporting the belief that the right is reclaiming democracies again this year. 

The belief that the right is reclaiming democracies again this year

A strong indicator of this reemergence of the right might be the recent Portuguese snap election held in March 2024, which saw the far-right Chega party claiming 18% of the vote. While this is not a majority, and the major parties held much higher, it shows closer portions of the vote are still determining if either party can form a government at this time. The two socialist, and centre-right parties have the major portion of the vote, but the Chega party is etching in to challenge the two-party rule. While to some extent this is healthy, to have greater competition in elections, the rise of a far-right party is not uncommon and likely to be replicated in many of the elections yet to take place. Begging the question, what does this mean for democracy and for the future elections to be held?

While extremist parties having a hold in politics is not new internationally, and not even that new in European politics, the extent to which their presence has grown is causing a wildfire in democracies across the globe. 

Despite the strong likelihood that Labour will win a strong majority in the UK, we are not immune to the forces of the far-right and the impact that a sweep across the globe of these kinds of governments will have on international politics. Looking at recent history, you do not have to look far to see that Donald Trump’s presidency brought a decline in climate agreements, and a collapse of security-related cohesion in the face of Putin’s dominance. However, a resurgence of Trump and figures with similar values elsewhere would, to put it lightly, throw a spanner in the works for the most pressing global crises. 

Not to mention, it will likely have a greater impact on the actual citizens of these countries, as Trump’s legacy has had a continuous impact on both LGBTQIA+ rights, as well as women’s reproductive rights, in the US. Taking it back to Portugal, this could introduce a new wave of extreme politics into the government with the Chega party focusing their campaign on rhetoric that echoed xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment. 

The normalisation of this type of politics is most concerning. Even in the UK, the rise of Reform UK again and the further shifting of a right faction of the Conservatives to more central in the party has provoked concern among many. From Braverman and Sunak’s Rwanda campaign to a delay or inability to sufficiently address blatant examples of racism, it seems to me that the ideas and influence of the far-right are creeping into mainstream politics here too. 

Introducing more extreme views that should be seen with caution

However, of course, there are problems on both sides of the political spectrum, and in the next wave of elections, countries can easily swing the other way. But the fact that the shift we are seeing this year is coming from parties, introducing more extreme views that should be seen with caution. The question is how much influence will they have on policy, and why has a portion of the public taken akin to views they are asserting? 

Looking forward, it will be interesting to see how the globe looks government-to-government by the end of 2024. Even if it is not completely dominated by the far-right, the outlook is likely to be quite drastically different from how it looked in January of 2023.

For more Comment articles on politics:

The Implications of a Trump win 

Youth Voters: the causes, implications, and solutions of low turnout

Inequality of reports in abortion law