As the new year draws ever closer, here are ten predictions of events that might happen in 2016…
1. CLINTON WINS US ELECTION
Possibly one of the most important events to take place next year will be the US Presidential election in November. Opinion polls across the board have shown that Hillary Clinton is almost certain to be the Democratic nominee for President, although she may face defeat in primaries in some New England states, such as Maine, New Hampshire and, of course, Vermont (Bernie Sanders’ home state). What is less certain is who will face her.
At present, her contender could well be New York billionaire Donald Trump; however, even former advisers to Trump are expressing concern, saying he could easily lose momentum if he loses some of the first primaries in February. In Iowa, recent polls show Trump neck-and-neck with Ted Cruz. The same is also true for South Carolina. If Cruz wins in these states, it could bring momentum to his campaign that may see him win the nomination.
If Trump is made the Republican nominee, Clinton should have victory in the bag – the polling bears that out. However, she will have a tougher fight on her hands if the nominee is Ted Cruz.
Of course, there is always the possibility that, if Trump loses the Republican nomination, he chooses to run as an independent (a move he has said he is open to). If this were to happen, the likely outcome would be a split of the Republican vote, allowing a Democratic victory (the same way her husband won in 1992). That said, this is an unlikely possibility.
In either scenario, it is likely that, on January 20th 2017, Hillary Clinton will become the first female president of the United States
2. SNP TRIUMPH IN SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT ELECTION, WHILST LABOUR WIN IN LONDON AND WALES
Looking closer to home, the SNP surge seen in the general election this year is certain to continue into 2016, especially for the Scottish Parliament elections in May. Expect to see the SNP not only hold their majority but steal several seats away from Labour. Expect at least 15 gains for the Scottish Nationalists, predominantly from the Labour Party, but also some from the Conservatives and a few from the Liberal Democrats too. Expect the SNP to hold 80-90 seats by the end of the night.
In Wales, elections for the National Assembly will see Labour win the most seats, but hold a reduced number from their 30 in 2011. Polls have shown a swing of roughly 10% to UKIP since the last election, and it is very likely we will see the first UKIP Assembly Member. Little change in the other parties share of the vote is expected, with the Tories and Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru holding their 14 and 11 seats respectively. A drop in support for the Liberal Democrats could see them lose a couple of their 5 seats in the Assembly but a total wipeout should not be anticipated.
The source of celebration for Labour amid a drop in support in Scotland and Wales will be in London, where Sadiq Khan will be elected Mayor. With 2016 bringing an end to the domination of Livingstone and Johnson over London’s elections, it is expected that this election will be fought more on policy than personality. Airport capacity and housing will be crucial battlegrounds here, and whilst Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith will attract a lot of support, Khan will triumph. London often leans more to Labour than the rest of the country, with the party seeing its vote share increase in the city in the 2015 election. It’ll be a close run race though, so don’t expect a landslide Labour victory. A Khan victory will change the settlement London has received from Westminster too, as he has long called for an increased remit for the Mayoralty. More tax-raising powers could potentially be granted, but not this year.
Overall, not the best night for Labour, which will of course only hinder Corbyn’s desire to unite the party around him. A potential re-shuffle near the start of the year may help him, but losing ground in Scotland and Wales will worsen the deep divisions within the Labour party. If the night goes badly for Labour, we could see either a coup against Corbyn or the moderates of the party breaking away to form a new centrist party.
3. BRITAIN VOTES TO STAY IN THE EU
The whole UK will also get a chance to vote in a referendum in 2016, on whether Britain should remain within the European Union. It is expected that Cameron will formally announce this in February, after a deal is struck with other European leaders. To avoid the debate over EU membership clashing with the elections in May, the referendum will likely be scheduled for June or July.
If the Scottish referendum in 2014 taught us anything, it is that uncertainty will sway people to vote in favour of the status quo. The same is likely to be true for next year’s referendum; uncertainty surrounding a Britain outside of the EU will shift some who are undecided to vote to stay. The ‘fearmongering’, as Eurosceptics will dub it, will kick into high gear once February arrives. However, like the Scottish independence referendum before it, this vote will be just as close, if not closer. If the polls are to be believed, a vote to stay could be as close as 53-47. Such a vote will certainly be a wake-up call for those who champion the European project.
If the reverse turns out to be true, however, Cameron will probably have no choice but to set out a timetable for his resignation, and the campaign for the Tory leadership will begin in earnest.
4. BARBADOS DITCHES QUEEN AS HEAD OF STATE, WHILST NEW ZEALAND KEEP THEIR COLONIAL LEGACY
Barbados has flirted with republicanism several times since its independence in 1966, and it is very likely that, to coincide with its 50th anniversary as an independent state, the small Caribbean nation will choose to remove the Queen as its head of state in November. Both the Democratic Labour Party and the Barbados Labour Party are likely to support the move to becoming a republic, providing the two-thirds majority required to pass such a motion through parliament. The nation will remain as part of the Commonwealth of Nations.
However, New Zealand will vote to keep a significant part of its colonial past in March, its flag. After many years of debate, a decision will finally be made about whether New Zealand should ditch the Blue Ensign. Following a vote in the last few months of 2015, New Zealanders voted for a Silver Fern flag to go up against the current flag in another referendum early next year. However, to Prime Minister John Key’s disappointment (who floated the idea of the change), citizens will vote against a change, possibly by as much as 66%, if polling is to be believed.
5. SWEDEN TO JOIN NATO
Almost 70 years after originally deciding not to join the military alliance, 2016 may see Sweden join its Scandinavian allies by taking steps to join NATO. Why the sudden change in policy, after decades of neutrality? Crimea. The illegal Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 has changed Swedish attitudes to the organisation, with the Centre Party and the Christian Democrats both shifting their policies towards NATO membership. This now means that the ‘Alliance’ of opposition parties now all support membership. Moreover, support for joining has rapidly increased to up to 41%, which could see the country make steps towards joining NATO if Russian aggression in European airspace and in Ukraine persists. Although steps may be taken to join, membership could be some time off, with a final decision possibly being made with the 2018 general election.
6. RUSSIAN ATHLETICS SUSPENDED FROM RIO OLYMPICS
As European Athletics President Svein Arne Hansen said earlier this week, it is highly unlikely that Russian athletics athletes will be allowed to participate in the Rio Olympics this summer, as doping scandal surrounding them continues. This is likely to have a massive influence to the overall medal table. Having won 17 medals in athletics in 2012, 8 of those gold, it is likely that we’ll see American, British, Chinese and Cuban athletes push their respective countries higher up the medal table as a result of the Russians absence.
As for the Olympics itself, like London before it, the Games themselves will likely go off without a hitch, with the Opening Ceremony set to create a carnival atmosphere to set off South America’s first Olympic Games.
7. CATALONIA DECLARES UNILATERAL INDEPENDENCE FROM SPAIN
Last year saw pro-independence parties ‘Together for Yes’ and ‘Popular Unity Candidacy’ gained enough seats to form a government in Catalonia, despite failing to get 50% of the vote. The success of Catalan nationalists to achieve a majority has, they claim, given them the mandate to pursue independence for the region and end the ‘Catalan question’ after many years of debate. The inability of the conservative People’s Party to achieve a majority in Spanish elections this month leaves open the possibility of a deal being reached to organise an official independence referendum. However, without the Socialist Workers’ Party in government, this will not be possible. If the People’s Party are able to form a coalition with the Citizens Party, it is possible Catalonia may take matters into its own hands and choose to declare independence unilaterally. Such a move would throw Spain into chaos and would see such a move challenged in the courts. Spain has a lot to lose if Catalonia chooses to leave, as 20% of its GDP comes from the region. 2016 marks 300 years since Catalonia was integrated into the Kingdom of Spain. Could 2016 also be the year that the union comes to an end?
8. ISIS PUSHED OUT OF IRAQ
After the success of the Iraqi army in liberating Ramadi earlier this month, it is likely that Iraq will drive the so-called Islamic State out by year’s end. The recapture of Ramadi has created a strong morale among Iraqi forces, which will help against the ongoing battle against ISIS. Fallujah and Mosul will be the key targets to retake next, with the recapture of Mosul acting as a massive blow to the terrorist group. However, ISIS won’t go down without a fight in Mosul, with the battle to recapture Iraq’s second-largest city set to be a bloody one.
The story for Syria, however, could not be more different. ISIS control roughly 50% of Syrian territory and with rebels being killed by Russian air-strikes and the Syrian army in disarray, it is unlikely much ground will be recaptured next year on the Syrian side of the border. The idea that the Syrian civil war may conclude this year should be taken with some caution.
9. AN END TO DIVISION IN CYPRUS
42 years after the Turkish invasion of the Mediterranean island, there is some hope that 2016 may be the year where Cyprus is finally reunited. Greek Cypriots have increasingly come round to the idea of reunification with the north, with Turkish Cypriots also expressing support, believing that a unified Cyprus would offer a better and brighter future within the European Union.
2016 could well be the best chance of achieving a deal, with Turkey also willing to make a deal happen to jump over a major hurdle to EU accession, as well as providing the Turkish government with a foreign policy success. Speaking to The Guardian, Cyprus expert Robert Ker-Lindsay said: “[Cypriots] know that if they don’t do a deal now, there is a very good chance that partition will be cemented.” He puts success of a deal at “six or higher” on a scale of one to ten.
10. GLOBAL INEQUALITY REACHES NEW HIGHS
Unfortunately, 2016 will also be a more unequal world. For the first time, the richest 1% of the world population will have a greater share of global wealth than the other 99% combined.
Whatever happens locally, nationally or internationally next year, I’d like to wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year ahead.