International Political Week Focused on Elections

In a year with a record number of elections, this week might be one of the most crucial and delicate moments. Three major elections that have taken place or are currently happening have the potential to change not only European but possibly global dynamics. These include the legislative elections in France and the United Kingdom, and the presidential election in Iran. The French and British voters headed to the polls almost simultaneously: the UK voted on Thursday, while France will hold the second round of voting next Sunday after the initial vote on June 30. Both countries are holding early legislative elections, which are predicted to end in significant defeats for the ruling parties. However, the similarities end here. London has veered to the left, whereas France is witnessing a significant rise of the far-right along with an extreme polarization of the political landscape. This difference stems from the fact that the two countries are experiencing different political cycles. In a way, France risks facing the same political climate that led the British to approve Brexit in 2015, a leap into the unknown with unpredictable consequences for the country, its citizens, and Europe. After the success in the European elections in early June, Marine Le Pen’s far-right party, Rassemblement National (RN), achieved a stunning victory last Sunday, while Macron’s centrists finished third behind a left-wing coalition. Since then, an intense week of election campaigning has been underway for the second round to prevent the far-right from obtaining an absolute majority and control of the government. In the United Kingdom, however, the Labour Party’s landslide victory, ending 14 years of Tory government, has been confirmed: Keir Starmer will be the next Prime Minister. According to BBC data, Labour secured 412 of the 650 available seats, thus achieving an absolute majority in the Parliament, compared to the Conservatives’ 120 seats, a loss of 250 seats from the 2019 elections. This is a complete triumph for Starmer’s party, which seems to counter the decline of the center-left and the rise of the right in many other Western countries.

Iran is also experiencing a significant decline in support for the ruling leadership, though with differences due to the country’s lack of democracy. Reformist candidate Masoud Pezeshkian and ultraconservative regime representative Saeed Jalili dominated the first round of the presidential election last Friday, with 42.5% and 38.6% of the votes, respectively. However, neither candidate secured the over 50% needed to win in the first round, leading to a runoff on Friday, July 5. After years of economic and social turmoil, the first-round election results clearly show a decline in support for both reformists and conservatives, though Pezeshkian’s success indicates significant mobilization of the reformist base opposed to the country’s radicalization.

Looking across the ocean to perhaps the most anticipated election of the year, Joe Biden’s path to the White House nomination is becoming increasingly difficult, with cracks beginning to form within the Democratic bloc that has supported him, especially after his disastrous performance in the televised debate. On Wednesday evening, the President met with several top Party leaders to inform them of his intention to stay in the presidential race, receiving explicit support from Democratic governors for his campaign. However, rumors continue to circulate about a possible replacement for Biden within the Democratic ranks, with potential candidates including Governor Josh Shapiro, Gavin Newsom (California), Gretchen Whitmer (Michigan), and J.B. Pritzker (Illinois). The timeline for deciding what to do is extremely tight: there are fewer than forty days until the Summer Convention in Chicago to find a concrete solution to a political confrontation that is currently happening entirely behind the scenes, as no high-ranking Party members have officially called for Biden to withdraw. Meanwhile, Trump’s lead over Biden is widening: according to a New York Times and Siena College poll, the former president has 49% support compared to Biden’s 43%. Donald Trump is on track for a second term, and Joe Biden does not seem to have the strength to counter him.