2016, which has been likened to a dumpster fire for the series of celebrity deaths, terror attacks and general political upheaval, is finally at an end. However, there is plenty to suggest that 2017 could be just as eventful. Here are just some of the stories we are likely to see in the year ahead.
1 TRUMP INAUGURATED AS US PRESIDENT
In only twenty days time, what is expected to be the biggest event of the year will take place. The world’s eyes will be on Washington DC as the United States inaugurates Donald Trump as their 45th president. A man with no experience in the world of politics, Mr Trump has promised to deliver profound and lasting change, which will be easier for him to do than his predecessor due to Republicans’ control of both houses of Congress. Will Trump be as tough on immigration as he claimed he would in the race for the presidency? Will he bring America into an era of isolationism and protectionism not seen since the 1920s? And what will the impact of Trump’s administration be on the rest of the world, both economically and politically, but also in the fight against climate
Will Trump be as tough on immigration as he claimed he would in the race for the presidency? Will he bring America into an era of isolationism and protectionism not seen since the 1920s? And what will the impact of Trump’s administration be on the rest of the world, both economically and politically, but also in the fight against climate change. January 20th will be our first real chance to see what Trump’s presidency will bring about.
2 ELECTIONS ACROSS EUROPE
Three of Europe’s largest economies will hold elections this year, with opportunities for populists to gain significant ground. All of these will be played out against a backdrop of a number of terrorist attacks across the continent, and in the wake of political earthquakes in Britain and America, which have deeply divided people.
In May 2017, France will decide who will be their president for the next five years, an election in which Marine Le Pen of right-wing populist party Front National is expected to do well. Le Pen has become more confident in the last year with the success of Trump’s campaign in the United States and Leave’s victory in the EU referendum in Britain. Her biggest barrier to the Élysée Palace is expected to be François Fillon for the centre-right Republican Party. Polling currently suggests that Fillon could win the race, but with the uncertainty regarding polling this year and with the centre-left Socialist Party still to decide upon a candidate, the result is uncertain.
German voters will also cast their ballot, with Angela Merkel widely expected to win a fourth term in office. However, Merkel’s support has been eaten away over the last year by the anti-Islam right-wing Alternative for Germany, which has been polling at 15% recently. The AfD are unlikely to form part of the next government, but their rise will raise serious questions about Germany’s direction.
Elections could also take place in Italy, which recently saw the resignation of Prime Minister Renzi. If Italians do go to the polls in 2017, it is likely that the Five Star Movement, chaired by comedian Beppe Grillo, will take office. Grillo has pledged to introduce same-sex marriage to Italy, as well as a referendum on their membership of the eurozone.
Also, in March, the Dutch will also hold elections, where controversial far-right politician Geert Wilders and his ‘Party for Freedom’ are neck and neck with the centre-right ‘People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy’.
3 MAY INVOKES ARTICLE 50
Prime Minister May this year indicated plans to invoke the process of exiting the European Union by the end of March 2017, meaning the clock will be ticking to create a new deal with the EU. The first taste of what May and the UK’s Brexit team are hoping to get may be revealed to Parliament (or leaked to the press), and it is not unreasonable to expect some of the economic impacts (good or bad) of some of the results of negotiation to become visible throughout the year.
4 CHINESE NATIONAL CONGRESS
The Communist Party of China’s National Congress will meet for the 19th time in its 96 year history to determine who will run the country for the next five years. Five of the seven people that make up the standing committee of the Politburo (the seven most important people in Chinese politics), retire this year which will cause a sweeping transformation to the old leadership. President Xi Jinping and the Chinese PM are likely to stay on, meaning that the President has the opportunity to rule with people chosen by him to shape China to his own particular views. Although the majority of Presidents step down after two terms, his picks may hint at a will to stay on beyond 2022 as China’s leader. Whether he plans to do so for good or ill will is yet to be determined, but what is certain is that the Congress for the party in charge of the world’s rising superpowers will be watched the world over, even more so if President Trump pursues a protectionist trade policy, with an aggressive stance towards China.
5 THE DEFEAT OF ISIS
It is widely anticipated that the self-proclaimed Islamic State will lose their control of their final strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa. The defeat of a regime which has brought terror and fear to the hearts of millions and has fuelled one of the biggest migrant crises since the Second World War will be one of the most important moments in 2017.
Whilst this will not mean an end to terrorism or the ideas that ISIS were founded on, it will eliminate a scourge that has blighted Syria, Iraq and the rest of the world for roughly three years. The next issue to deal with will be how do governments around the world address the resentment and discontent of those who ended up turning to ISIS.
6 GENOCIDE SWEEPS SOUTH SUDAN
In the last few days of 2016, the United Nations has warned of a potential genocide in the world’s youngest country, with the US ambassador to the UN accusing diplomats of ‘sitting on their hands’ to the crisis. Despite the head of the UN human rights commission warning of a ‘Rwanda-like’ genocide between ethnic groups, the international response has been slow if not non-existent. With the increasing reluctance of Western nations to intervene in foreign conflicts, it is possible that the lessons learnt from Rwanda will be forgotten.
7 SOUTH KOREAN IMPEACHMENT AND ELECTION
South Korea’s presidential election will likely be clouded by President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment, with her approval ratings down to only 5%. The Constitutional Court now have to review the impeachment and should it accede, the election could take place within two months and Park formally removed from office.
8 THE WORLD’S FIRST HUMAN HEAD TRANSPLANT?
A truly remarkable and controversial operation will take place in 2017, with Italian neurosurgeon Dr Sergio Canavero performing a body transplant late in the year, an operation he claims could hold the key to everlasting life. Valery Spiridonov, a Russian computer scientist suffering from chronic neuromuscular conditions, has volunteered and is the likely candidate to have an operation which will transplant his head onto a donor body. Dr Canavero has claimed that there is a 90% chance that the operation, which could take up to 36 hours, will be successful. However, there are concerns as a spinal cord has never been successfully reattached before – once cut, it ceases to function. Moreover, the use of a donor body for a project with evidence to support its use has proved controversial. Most in the medical profession have said that the Frankenstein-like operation will be a failure but, regardless of the outcome, it will without a doubt be one of the talking points of the year ahead.
9 DRONE DELIVERIES
The growth of deliveries using drones is set to grow exponentially next year, with tests taking place in the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, parts of Africa and the United States. With increased demand for products to be delivered as soon as possible, there will be increasing pressure on companies to deliver drones that can provide products in less than half an hour. Amazon, in particular, are trying to lead the way in drone delivery, having recently patented a design for a warehouse in the sky – effectively an airship that can restock drones over and over again. Meanwhile, Google in Virginia are delivering burritos, and in Rwanda drones are being used to deliver blood.
Big obstacles lie in the way, however, before drone delivery can become ubiquitous. Laws and regulations regarding drones currently prevent the widespread roll-out of drone delivery services because of the requirement to have one person in line of sight of the drone, something that would not be feasible for mass delivery. There is also the question of where drones would fly, with Amazon toying with the idea of having a ‘highway’ 100 feet in the air specifically for drone delivery. Pavement deliveries by robots avoid most of the regulation issues that aerial delivery does but carry the other issue of being vulnerable to attack by people.
The advances next year will mark the next steps towards the gradual evolution of an autonomous society.
10 CENTENARY OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
November of 2017 will mark 100 years since the Lenin and the Bolsheviks took power in Russia and formed the world’s first Communist state. Although Lenin’s statue remains a common figure across Russia, President Vladimir Putin will have to grapple with the task of whether to mark the occasion as a tragedy for Russia or a triumph, especially amid his continuing clampdown on protest and opposition.