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2017 calendar of elections around the world

A list of votes to watch, with special attention for stateless peoples

As usual every year, Nationalia lists its choice of some of the most important elections and referendums scheduled in 2017 in the world —also including a handful of them with unclear prospects. A very brief explanation on each of the scheduled votes for both independent countries and stateless nations is included.

23 January: Tobago. The Caribbean island is on its way to increase its autonomy within the two-island country of Trinidad and Tobago. The process is likely to continue over 2017. Tobagonians are called to elect their new Assembly, which in turn elects Tobago's head of government. The current one, Orville London, does not stand for re-election.

19 February: Ecuador. The Andean country elects its president and vice president. All seats in Parliament are up for election, too. Ruling Alianza PAIS candidate Lenín Moreno is leading polls to replace his ally and current president Rafael Correa. The Pachakutik indigenous movement —which broke with Correa in 2009— supports National Agreement for Change candidate Paco Moncayo.

12 March: Abkhazia. The self-proclaimed republic will be electing all members of its Assembly. In December 2016, President Raul Khajimba was faced with protests that eventually resulted in political concessions to the opposition.

15 March: Netherlands. Eurosceptic Freedom Party (PVV, right-wing nationalist) is according to surveys best placed to emerge as the largest party in Parliament, albeit far from an absolute majority. Although party leader Geert Wilders has promised a referendum on EU membership, he is unlikely to find other partners in Parliament to call it. Still, the fact that the PVV would be in the position to join a coalition government could lead to a tightening of policies on immigration and security. Frisian pro-autonomy party FNP does not participate in Dutch legislative elections.

26 March: Hong Kong. The former British colony is set to elect its chief executive (head of government) not by universal suffrage, but through a system in which a 1,200-member college picks up the name. Pro-democracy parties have repeatedly called for the chief executive election to be made under universal suffrage, and have too demanded that any Hong Kong citizen can run for office —currently, candidates must be nominated by at least 150 members of the college aforementioned. Current chief executive Leung Chun-ying does not stand re-election. Regina Ip is running to replace him while maintaining his pro-Beijing, anti-independence policies.

27 March: Somaliland. This unrecognized, de facto independent republic, is electing its president and Parliament members, after elections have been repeatedly postponed. Current president Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud does not stand for re-election. His Kulmiye party has nominated former Somaliland independence war combatant Musa Behi Abdi as its presidential candidate. Opposition parties (Wadani and UCID) have voiced concern over Kulmiye's alleged undemocratic practices in a country which until very recently was often cited as an example of an African democracy.

2 April: Armenia. All seats in Parliament are up for election. One of the main topics of discussion will be whether or not Armenia should seek to further deepen its current strategy of rapprochement to Russia, which has led the Caucasus country to join the Russian-led Eurasian Union and to sign a common defence agreement with Moscow. Several opposition parties want to go back to a pro-EU, pro-US foreign policy.

9 April: South Ossetia. Voters in the self-styled republic will choose their president for the next five years. Current president Leonid Tibilov will seek a second term. Tibilov has promised to hold a referendum —on an unspecified date— either on the establishment of a Russia-South Ossetia "union of republics" or on becoming part of the Russian Federation.

23 April and 7 May: France. A new president will be elected after the current one, François Hollande, is not running for office. The main favourites to make it into the election's second round, according to surveys, are right-wing candidates: François Fillon (Les Républicains) and Marine Le Pen (National Front). The latter has vowed to hold a referendum on the EU if elected. Centrist Emmanuel Macron is steadily emerging as the third alternative. It remains to be decided who the Socialist candidate will be (former Prime Minister Manuel Valls is running for the spot). Breton mayor Christian Troadec and Alsatian mayor Paul Mumbach also intend to run for president —like all other candidates, they need to be endorsed by at least 500 elected officials— under platforms favouring regional autonomy and minoritised languages.

May: Algeria. The North African country will hold a legislative election likely to be boycotted by a part of the opposition, which believes that the vote is rigged beforehand to favour parties supporting President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The pro-sovereignty Movement for the Self-determination of Kabylia (MAK) is one of the parties not taking part in the poll.

7 May: Schleswig-Holstein. The election to the Parliament of this German Land will decide whether the current center-left coalition in government (Social Democrats, Greens and SSW, the party of the Danish and Frisian minorities) will be able to hold office, despite the likelihood of right-wing, German nationalist party Alternative for Germany obtaining some seats.

19 May: Iran. The country will be electing a new president. Iran's two main legal political camps —the moderates and the conservatives— are still debating over what candidates they will be filing. It is expected that Hassan Rouhani (moderate) will run for re-election. Over the 2013 campaign, when he was elected, Rouhani had promised some improvements for the Kurdish language and culture. Kurdish parties —which are illegal in Iran— say Rouhani has not kept his promises. Critics with the system not being approved by the system itself are barred from running for office.

11 and 18 June: France. One month after the presidential election, France will elect all National Assembly members. The Socialist Party will have a very hard time to repeat its 2012 victory, as the two main right-wing parties (Les Républicains and the National Front) are expected to make important gains.

Summer (or later): Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim hopes to hold a referendum this summer on a proposal to turn Turkey into a presidential republic. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the ultimate defender of the constitutional amendment, which would grant him further executive powers and would vest him as both head of state and head of government (until now both positions are decoupled). The AKP (conservative islamist) and the MHP (far right nationalist) support the amendment, while the CHP (social democrat kemalist) and the HDP (pro-Kurdish left-wing) are against it.

4 August: Rwanda. Veteran President Paul Kagame —in power since 1994, just after the end of the genocide— seeks a third mandate after a constitutional reform allowed him to run again for office. The small African country has remained largely peaceful since the massacre of Tutsis and moderate Hutus 23 years ago, and its economy has grown. But Kagame has come under criticism from several human rights groups and opposition parties for allegedly having restricted the freedom of speech and pursuing increasingly authoritarian policies, which the president denies.

8 August: Kenya. The African country elects its president, all seats in Parliament, and the governors of all 47 counties. Since the adoption of the 2010 Constitution, which introduced a system of devolution, counties can pass laws. In recent years, tension has arisen in coastal counties, where a part of the population claims an identity that is distinct from the rest of Kenya. Another focal point is the Dadaab refugee camp —the world's largest, hosting 300,000 people, mostly Somalis. The Kenyan government wants to close it.

Between 27 August and 22 October: Germany. All seats in the Federal Parliament will be up for election. Opinion polls predict a decline of the two major parties (Angela Merkel's CDU and Sigmar Gabriel's SPD) and the rise, perhaps to the third place, of Eurosceptic, right-wing, anti-immigration Alternative to Germany. The Greens, whose chancellor candidate Cem Özdemir is of Turkish Circassian descent, have in recent months been showing a continued downward trend according to surveys, while the opposite is true for The Left (Die Linke). Liberal party FDP could be on the way for its comeback to Parliament.

September: Catalonia. The Catalan government intends to hold a referendum on independence, as announced in 2016 by Catalan President Carles Puigdemont. The Spanish government does not agree to the vote, and argues it is illegal. Catalonia's government says it prefers a deal with Madrid over the referendum, but holds that it will organize the vote anyway. Which format the referendum campaign will have, or which tools the Catalan government will use to carry it out if the Spanish government tries to prevent it, are unclear issues.

Autumn: Sicily. The largest island in the Mediterranean will be electing its president and legislature. By now, Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement (M5S) is singled out as the favourite. Center-right and center-left parties have yet to decide who their candidates will be; regarding the latter, 2012 election candidate and current president of Sicily Rosario Crocetta says he is the best option to re-run, even if he has a low popularity rating. Three Sicilian parties have agreed to form an alliance that claims the existence of Sicily as a stateless nation, demands a federal model, and seeks a bilateral agreement between Italy and Sicily.

November: Slovakia. Regional elections are scheduled in the central European country. In 2013, Marian Kotleba, running on a radically anti-Roma, far-right manifesto, was elected governor of Banská Bystrica region, which includes part of Slovakia's Hungarian-majority area. Hungarian-majority parties (SMK and Most-Híd) will seek to retain their seats in the regional councils and to influence politics in regions with a significant presence of the Magyar community (in Trnava region the SMK came second in 2013, while in Bratislava and Kosice both parties held the key to elect the two regions' governors).

November or December: Tunisia. The North African country should be holding municipal and regional elections, a new test for the strength of this young democracy. The elections are important, too, to mark the beginning of the road towards decentralization, a principle inscribed in the 2014 Constitution, in a country where power has traditionally been very centralized in Tunis. Still, no one knows the election date —and perhaps they could end up being postponed until 2018 due to several legal impediments.

19 November-17 December: Chile. The South American country will be electing its president, Parliament and regional councils. The center-right will seek to regain the presidency —now held by socialist Michelle Bachelet— by filing former president Sebastián Piñera as its candidate, while the center-left is considering to nominate Ricardo Lagos. Mapuche pro-autonomy party Wallmapuwen —the first ever to be legalized in the history of the Chile— will also take part in the elections, with a focus to gain seats in the regional councils of Araucanía, Los Ríos and Los Lagos.

No fixed date or unclear perspective. Theoretically —but depending on multiple circumstances— 2017 should also witness municipal elections in Palestine, which nevertheless have already been postponed several times. Elections to provincial councils in Iraq are also foreseen, but parts of the country remain under ISIS control —or have been until very recently—, so it is unclear if and where the votes can be held. Iraqi Kurdistan should also be holding a presidential election, but rows between political parties are indefinitely postponing it. Kurdish president Massud Barzani, in fact, also says he will call a referendum on independence, without specifying the date. In Thailand, the military junta is also expected to give way to a civilian power after an election that should be held before the end of 2017. In Nepal, it is expected at some point during the year that elections to regional councils —the first ever, after the Himalayan country became a federal republic— and to the federal Parliament be held. Finally, if a political crisis in Northern Ireland is not solved before 16 January, a snap election to the autonomous Assembly will be called.