Zakaria: 2012 - the year of elections
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December 30th, 2011
08:29 AM ET

Zakaria: 2012 - the year of elections

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

2011 will likely be recorded as a year of historic change. Mass uprisings have upended governments across the Arab world. Economic mismanagement in Europe led to changes at the top in Italy, Greece and Spain. 365 days ago you couldn't have predicted these events. You couldn't have imagined so many leaders would lose their jobs.

So what if I told you that you can predict that in 2012, a lot of leaders will say goodbye? No, I'm not gazing into a magic crystal ball. You see, 2012 is the year of elections.

59 countries will be tallying up votes - local, state or national. There are 193 countries in the world so that's about a third of the world's nations. 26 of these may see a change in national leadership. Together, these changes could affect 53% of the world's population, representing half of the world's GDP. And a lot of the change is concentrated in the world's most powerful countries.

Four out of the five U.N. Security Council members could see changes at the top. That's Russia, China, France, and, of course, the U.S. These four countries alone represent 40% of the world's GDP.

Of all of them, China will not have democratic elections, of course, but it will see the biggest, wholesale change at the top. 70% of the country's leadership will be new. But we're not expecting any surprises - it's widely believed that Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao will be replaced by Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang. So, get used to those names, you'll be hearing a lot of them.

Russia's election will be the most predictable. We already know that Prime Minister Putin is going to become President Putin once again. But even that change isn't as clear-cut as you'd imagine. For the first time in years, it seems like it's becoming acceptable in Russia to criticize the Kremlin. Putin was recently openly booed at a boxing match, and his party had a stunningly weak showing in the recent parliamentary elections.

What about Washington? One year from now we could have a President Mitt Romney. Or a President Newt Gingrich. Or another Obama term.

South of the border, that perennial pain in Washington's backside, Hugo Chavez himself, needs to win an election - though he rigged the last one. There will be changes too in Mexico, Egypt, Taiwan and Kenya, just to name a few.

Some of these elections and leadership changes involve nothing more than personnel shifts; others will be occasions for fundamental debates about the future course of the country. It could mean a shift so that we will see a different Europe, a different China, and a different America in the next few years.

So for those of you who have been struck by the volatility of recent years - the roller coaster ride we've all been on from boom to bust, crisis to crisis - I would say, keep that seatbelt strapped on because you're going to see a lot of churn over the next year. It may not be bad but there will be no shortage of political twists and turns around the world - and those are just the ones we know about. One thing I can promise, we'll be tracking them all right here on CNN.com/GPS and on my show every Sunday at 10a.m. and 1p.m. EST.

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Topics: Elections • From Fareed • Global • GPS Show • What in the World?

soundoff (73 Responses)
  1. Sari

    It's a good thing the middle class just keeps toiling away....if that should stop, than we would see turmoil, "twists and turns."

    December 30, 2011 at 8:34 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Indeed the middle class is rolling the dice in next year's elections in France and the U.S. When it comes to ecconomy emotions will outdo sanity.

      December 31, 2011 at 7:19 am | Reply
      • j. von hettlingen

        In Russia, the middle class embraces reforms but the reformers lack somebody like Lenin.

        December 31, 2011 at 7:23 am |
    • BR

      Fareed, ther can be changes at CNN too and GPS with FZ could become GPS 3D with Wolf or Erin. Try to make the show more lively and you need to vary the stimulus of the viewers through more dynamic interviews and being more assertive. You are surviving becoz you play the notion of intellectual part well which hides your other shortcomings. Try to be both , using Alex Trebek as a role model. He could act the intellectual and entertainer part well. Now Erin Burnett does a much better job than the Spitzer guy.

      December 31, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Reply
  2. HD

    Fareed How come you have not commented on the rise of Imran Khan in Pakistan???

    December 30, 2011 at 9:02 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Don't worry, Fareed will get Imran Khan on one of his shows one day. Indeed Imran Khan was on a show over two years ago. Check the transcripts and you will know what went on.
      Fareed, no doubt 2012 will be another bumpy year and you will keep us updated. Now we know the might of the information technology and social media. Yet the old fashion tenet still prevails, behind a successful revolution there must be a good leader!

      December 30, 2011 at 10:57 am | Reply
      • abdul khan

        Still is not an excuse for not talking about Pakistan Political changes / election in Year 2012. whenever there is any bad news about Pakistan, CNN never forgets for highlight on the media, but about Normal / Positive chages in the country they simple never bother to talk about Pakistan just like it doesnt even exists...... shame on Zakrian and CNN Team

        December 30, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  3. retired soon

    What about the death of the leader of the opposition in Canada...only 5 months after historic results

    December 30, 2011 at 9:30 am | Reply
    • hehe

      hahahahahah dude you are an attention seeker, It always amazes me when canadians get offended for not being mentioned , get over it dude, Canada may be a great country but no one cares about it , nothig personnal jut reality.

      December 30, 2011 at 10:40 am | Reply
      • Tony

        Speaking as a Canadian, I would agree !!

        December 30, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • Alex

      On the whole, Fareed Kazaria is my most favorite columnist in CNN. His point of views is always objective, informative, not frivolous, yet precise ;plus ,his commabd of English is beautifully excuted. If you expect his comments to include all the countries, and touch all political events which may interest everybody, you should not read here at all, go and find it somewhere in your local paper or magazine.

      January 8, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Reply
  4. GOPisGreedOverPeople

    The GOP mantra: Turn all the Old, Sick, Non-white, Non-christian, Unemployed, and Gay people into slaves. Then whip them until they are Young, Healthy, White, Christian, Employed, and Straight. Or until they are dead. Then turn them into Soylent Green to feed the military.

    December 30, 2011 at 9:44 am | Reply
    • Storm

      ...and this is relevant how?

      December 30, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Reply
      • UrineIdiot

        What part of "and, of course, the US" didn't you understand?

        January 4, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  5. R

    Dear Fareed, In India, your dad's corrupted political party, whom you support will lose.

    December 30, 2011 at 10:15 am | Reply
    • Akshay Kumar

      These Gandhi Dynasty ruled CONgress Party in INDIA, will see their last year as a party.
      2012 will b the year for the death of CONGRESS and GANDHI FAMILY.

      Jai Hind, Vande Mataram

      December 30, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Reply
  6. nina

    To CNN World: The media is bent on putting down RON PAUL. What are they afraid of! No matter where you look on the news, the media has either something bad to say, or completely ignore him, which makes the news so transparent. Dont give up RON PAUL.....you can win.....RON PAUL for president....2012

    December 30, 2011 at 10:26 am | Reply
    • Fred

      They ignore him because they know what the rest of us know – Ron Paul is a dangerous, borderline insane old man.

      December 30, 2011 at 11:39 am | Reply
    • Tonyo

      Although Ron Paul is less than perfect, he is the best hope for this country and the rest of the free world right now. There is no one else in the running on either side that I would even consider voting for.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Reply
      • Chandra

        nallaietdav1 on September 4, 2011 I love that the products are a greener option and that they are hand sewn for a better quality.The toddler hoodies (ages 1-6) in the boy colors are absolutely amazing. Enter me in the give away please.

        February 11, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • Double O Eight

      Ron Paul might be delusional on many issues, but his advocacy of massive military cuts is the one that scares the U-S military-industrial complex, including the world's largest weapons supplier, that is so essential to American business and economic imperialism.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Reply
    • PakistanKaAllahHafiz

      They ignore him because he makes the most sense. why would the media report about a moderate and different politicians who is not warmongering.

      December 30, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Reply
  7. nina

    If the Wall St Protesters would vote for RON PAUL, they might see the changes they are looking for...

    December 30, 2011 at 10:28 am | Reply
    • Allie

      I'm sorry nina. Whenever I hear Ron Paul's name the first thing that comes in mind is a gag article I saw in a magazine. It was a fake campaign button: "you can pick your friends. You can pick your nose. You can pick Ron Paul, but not his nose." From then on I could never take the guy seriously. Sorry...

      December 30, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Reply
  8. Jack

    Which election did Chavez "rig?"

    December 30, 2011 at 10:35 am | Reply
    • gustavo

      all of them except the first one. he won fair and square the first election, but from then on he rigged them all.

      January 1, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Reply
  9. R

    Fareed supports most corrupted politicians, the congress party of India.

    December 30, 2011 at 10:37 am | Reply
    • Akshay Kumar

      Fareed is a Muslim and a Supporter of CONgress Party of India. Fareed type will always portray the GANDHI family as the POPE send Messenger to India, who have a MAGIC wand to make India a super power.
      These Western media will always make Portray India as a third world country and blames NDA/BJP for that.. LoLx.
      Gandhi Dynastic rule ruined INDIA completely.
      2012 will the DEATH of CONGRESS and GANDHI Family.

      December 30, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Reply
  10. Shotgun Granny-Evelyn Connaway

    Choosing one of the candidates would be like picking your favorite mosquito out of a swarm. In my 84th year I have watched all these guys year after year. None of them have done anything really worthy of a decent human being. They are all a bunch of avarice ridden crooks and criminals. We had a lousy democrat president from Texas, the we had
    the Bush criminal #I and his village idiot son from Texas. We damn sure don't need the corrupt idiot Perry. We don't
    need him back in Texas either. I wouldn't give a wooden nickel for the whole damn bunch.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Reply
  11. Chris G

    Out of all of these, China will remain the way they are, authoritarian.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Reply
    • Robert

      Seems to be working well for them.

      January 2, 2012 at 9:54 am | Reply
  12. Will

    Fareed, the pending events you describe are the things that keep me awake at night....and you are correct, those are just the ones we know about.

    December 30, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Reply
  13. PakistanKaAllahHafiz

    Why didn't you mention Imran Khan and Pakistan. I know its 2013 elections but still very very important.

    December 30, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Reply
  14. Jeroh Vovwe

    This is no magic, Obama is going to have another term, GOP contenders don't bring much 2 d table sadly

    December 30, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Reply
  15. omer

    I like your show and articles but you r one big hypocrat when u blame, confidently that huge chavez win election frudently and elections in USA were approved by GOD

    December 31, 2011 at 2:21 am | Reply
  16. Rick McDaniel

    Elections mean little.

    No one can run for election, unless they are wealthy people, and that means it is always the wealthy, who are in control. They are all, in the end, the wealthy dictators who control the countries, every last one of them, including the US. The US is experiencing the worst dictator in our history, at this moment.

    What good are elections, when the wealthy people running the government, go against the will of the people, with everything they do????

    December 31, 2011 at 8:56 am | Reply
  17. Muin

    I read cnn's article about ron paul book. I don't know if everything is accurate since I didn't read the book. However, all the message didn't seem that controversial except white people's right to organize. White people or people who promote white race as special among all races have power now and also had power for last couple of hundreds of years. I just don't think white people are being oppressed right now anywhere in the world.

    December 31, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Reply
  18. sandra

    You referred on non-democratic election of China, but you didn't mention the democratic Presidental election in Taiwan, to be held on January 14th! Which depending on the results will affect the Chinese cross strait relation as well as the relation between USA and East Asia surrounding area.

    January 2, 2012 at 1:49 am | Reply
  19. Li meng tao

    May the good guys be elected to save the world and may the 99% be wise enough to deelect those bad guys and rid them from presidency.

    January 2, 2012 at 11:19 am | Reply
  20. MMallon

    If the UN is a joke, France being on the Security Council is the punchline.

    January 2, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Reply
  21. blucorsair

    The world is waiting to see who the new US. president will be? ...lets just hope it won't be another diappointment!

    January 3, 2012 at 12:50 am | Reply
  22. Nick

    um.....arent there more then 193 nations in the world? isnt that the number for nations in the UN? there are a few countries not part of the UN that still have elections(they are disputed nations though i realize). taiwan was mentioned so yeah.....

    January 3, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Reply
  23. RAHMAN JAMIU OLAMIDE.

    MY OWN COMENT IS THAT U.S. NATO & ISREAL, SHOULD LIVE THE NEWLY APPONTED WORLD SUPER POWER BY (GOD) ALONE [IRAN] AFTER (SEP. 11-2001.) GOD HAVE SNACH THE POWER FROM YOU, PLEASE ASEPET IT LIKE THAT,THANK YOU.

    January 7, 2012 at 7:38 am | Reply
  24. Jagadeesh

    December 6, 2011 so this sdnous absolutely miserable!! wet, cold, and no victory. you're a trooper for staying there!Sam recently posted..

    February 11, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Reply
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