Last year I wrote a list of predictions for what I expected to occur across the world stage in 2013. I’ve been looking through it over the year, pleased with some predictions, while despairing as other world events swept passed my expectations. Here I’ll review each prediction, one by one, and tally up my score to see whether I should become a professional psychic or not.
- Our next Holy Monarch of Divine Highness to Rule Over Us All Forever blah blah will be born. Everyone will go nuts and the republican minority will grumble.
Prince George (‘of Cambridge’) was born on the 22nd July 2013 in good health. The BBC and other broadcasters had around the clock coverage; he was on virtually every newspaper front page; and we republicans did indeed grumble.
- The coalition will continue on its path, though plans to create individual identities for the parties will become clearer in preparation for its end.
Economically the coalition government has continued to assault the country with austerity upon austerity. Just this month, chancellor George Osborne announced another billion pound cuts from government departments. The economy does seem to be improving, at long last, however Labour leader Ed Miliband is rightfully bringing to attention a ‘cost of living crisis’ (perhaps because he has few other policies worth discussing).
In terms of party politics, there doesn’t seem to be the separation of identities between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats I’d expected. The Liberal Democrats have been highlighting their key policies of this government, such as raising the income tax threshold for low earners and pushing free school meals. Yet, if anything, they’ve seemed to me to be moving further to the right. When Nick Clegg stood in for David Cameron during a recent Prime Minister’s Questions, he sounded more and more like a Tory with each passing question.
- The war in Mali will see some form of conclusion: Northern Mali will return to government control.
Correct! In January, following an Islamic rebel advance upon the south of the country, when it looked as though the capital Bamako itself might be under threat, France began a military campaign against the rebels on 11th January. In one of the more successful Western interventions of recent times, the rebels were driven out of most major settlements in the north by February and had returned to government control. Violence is persisting but the government remains in control with the help of French and African Union peacekeepers. Elections came soon afterwards, during which Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, former Prime Minister from 1994-2000, became the President.
- The Assad regime will fall. Failing that, the rebels will increasingly control Syria. I expect them to receive more support from the West and the government to lose Russia’s backing.
Uh, no. No. And no again. News stories coming out of Syria during 2013 and have been getting more and more depressing, with no prospect of change coming soon. The Assad regime did not fall; in fact, it looks stronger than at any other point during the course of the war. In May, Lebanese Shia armed group Hezbollah entered the war on the regime’s side. Its fighters flooded across the border and helped the government seize control of the strategic city of al-Qusayr and the surrounding countryside. The rebels have also made gains, however more and more militias have been swearing allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda linked Islamic fundamentalist organisation which has been making advancements against more moderate rebels in what’s described as a ‘civil war within a civil war’. The death toll continues to mount: in September France estimated 120,000 people to have died, while the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights currently puts it at 160,000.
In terms of international support, Western powers have continued to supply non-lethal equipment to the rebels, while in June US President Obama announced military aid would be supplied to the rebels, although it’s unclear how much ever arrived. Recent developments concerning the rise of Islamists have caused even this aid to be suspended.
Meanwhile, Russian support of the regime has only strengthened. This became clear following the increased reports of chemical weapon use across the country. Both sides blamed each other, of course, but after particularly horrific attacks in the Ghouta area of Damascus the international community seemed to demand action. It looked as though Western nations – primarily the USA, UK and France – were preparing to launch military strikes against Syria to send a message to Assad. However, when the UK Parliament voted against action and Obama looked close to defeat in Congress, this never came to be. At the last minute, Russian President Putin came to the aid of both President Assad and Obama by proposing an operation to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. Despite difficulties accessing all the chemical weapons depots, some in contested areas of the country, the process of destroying them seems to be going successfully. This has had the effect of restoring legitimacy to the Syrian regime, which is seen as an equal partner in these negotiations, and the West effectively giving up on Syria.
- Obama’s next year as President will not be dramatic.
In hindsight, it’s probably a bad idea to predict anything won’t be dramatic. Alongside the aforementioned Syria crisis, he’s had to put up with threats of war from North Korea, the failure of his proposed gun law reform, the shutdown of the US government after political gridlock in Congress, a botched roll-out of his key ‘Obamacare’ policy and, perhaps worst of all for Obama, massive leaks about the level of the National Security Agency’s surveillance of US and international citizens by whistleblower Edward Snowden, which has brought international condemnation and affected relations with countries including Brazil and Germany. He’s probably very glad for a new start next year.
- A war will not start over Iran.
Correct! There’s actual much cause for optimism over out future relations with Iran. Everything seemed to change with the election of the moderate Hassan Rouhani in June. Though far from a radical – he’d never have been allowed to run otherwise – the fact that so many Iranian voters opted for the least conservative candidate has sent a clear message to the ruling elites that they want change. Perhaps this is why Rouhani has been given something of a free reign to pursue his policies. He held a phone call with President Obama in September, the first time the presidents of either country have spoken directly since the 1979 revolution which brought the current Iranian regime to power. Then came a historic agreement in which Iran finally agreed to curb its nuclear activities in return for the easing of sanctions. There’s much progress to be made, but also reason to be optimistic.
- Angela Merkel will be re-elected in Germany.
Correct. Merkel achieved her best ever result in September, gaining 41.5% of the vote and nearly achieving a majority in the Bundestag, ensuring her a third term as chancellor. After months of difficult talks, her Christian Democratic Union agreed to enter into a ‘grand coalition’ with the opposition Social Democratic Party. Merkel certainly seems to be bucking the trend of European leaders being brought down by the financial crisis – she’s in a stronger position than ever.
- Libya will finish its transition into democracy on paper with success.
Um. Not really. Kind of? Well, Libya has avoided descending into complete anarchy, but there are still many incidents of armed militias operating outwith the control of the government, the most frightening case being when Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was abducted from a hotel, although he was safely returned. A timetable for national elections still hasn’t been established, but it’s hoped that Libya can have its first post-revolutionary government by the end of next year. So really, I suppose, it’s too early to say on this one.
- Egypt will head down its route of democracy with a very Islamic tint. Morsi will bring stability to the country – at long last.
Hahaha, oh, how wrong is it possible to be? Unfortunately not. To save me repeating the dramatic events of the 3rd July, you can read the post I wrote about it at the time. Since the coup, things have only got worse. Protests have continued from both sides, pulling Egypt down into further instability. This culminated in a horrific massacre where dozens of protesters were killed by security forces. The ruling military regime has since strengthened its hold on power, imposing curfews and recently branding the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Morsi’s party, a ‘terrorist organisation’. The country is appearing more and more to be under the grip of a General new to the scene, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, currently appointed as Deputy Prime Minister. Elections are expected for next year, which Sisi is widely predicted to run for. In short, I couldn’t have been more wrong about Egypt.
- Berlusconi will not be elected in Italy.
Well, technically, Berlusconi was elected to the Italian Senate, but if we assume I meant elected as Prime Minister then I got this correct. Italy’s election this year left no party in a position of power, meaning multiple parties had to come together to form government, including his People of Freedom party. However, the Prime Minister of this unstable government turned out to be Enrica Letta of the Democratic Party. Berlusconi himself has been involved in continuing scandal after scandal, being recently convicted of tax-fraud and sentenced to four years in prison (none of which he’ll actually serve due to his age), and barred from political office for six years. Subsequently, he was expelled from the Italian Senate. I wouldn’t underestimate Berlusconi, but I can’t imagine his career recovering from this.
- The Afghanistan campaign will appear more and more hopeless. Peace talks with the Taliban will develop.
Pretty much. I haven’t been following this in too much detail, but I’m aware of various talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government being on, off, on again, off again, and so on. Really not much seems to be happening in the run up to NATO’s withdrawal next year.
- I expect more crises from North Korea.
Yup. There was that strange period last April when North Korea threatened war against South Korea, Japan and the USA which I referred to earlier – I don’t think anyone knows what that was really about. Needless to say, that came to nothing and North Korea soon quietened down again. I imagine it was an attempt by Kim Jong-un to create a warlike atmosphere within the country to further entrench his rule – nothing increases loyalty like giving people a common enemy. Then, even more shockingly, earlier this month Kim had his very own uncle executed as part of a wider purge. I wrote about it here. Nothing which has yet threatened to spiral out of control from the perspective of the West, but erratic and worrying behaviour nonetheless.
- Iran’s economy will continue to plummet under sanctions. Possibility of something dramatic happening.
Pretty much. I largely covered this earlier.
- This is a completely wild one: Robert Mugabe will no longer be in power in Zimbabwe by the year’s end.
Unfortunately, Mugabe is still President of his long-suffering nation. My reasons behind this prediction were Mugabe’s age, having turned 89 this year, and the fact an election was due to be held earlier this year. However his health seems to be as strong as ever, while the election this year re-elected him in very fraudulent conditions indeed.
- There will be at least one coup. And likewise, at least one country considered a dictatorship will become more democratic.
I’d consider events in Egypt earlier this year to be a coup, so got that one right. I think Mali could count as having become more democratic, having achieved mostly free and fair elections after a year of chaos. I can’t think of any other standout examples, which is a shame, but Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2014 report (due to be published fairly soon) might shine a light on this.
- Burma will continue down liberalisation and democratisation.
This is really impossible to say. Again, I await the Freedom in the World 2014 with great interest. I’m going to take the lack of any particular evidence to the contrary as evidence that Burma at least isn’t backsliding. Aung San Suu Kyi did recently announced that her National League for Democracy plans to contest the 2015 general election – widely hoped to be Burma’s first free election – even if the constitution isn’t amended to allow her to run for the Presidency. Which seems to be a good sign. Hopefully. I really don’t know. I think I’ll give myself this one…
- Hugo Chavez: difficult to predict. I’m gonna throw this out there and say his health improves and he’s able to continue as President.
Nope – President Chavez of Venezuela died of cancer on the 5th March, later to be succeeded by his Vice-President, Nicolas Maduro, who seems to be carrying on his divisive legacy.
- Al Shebab will be almost completely pushed out of Somalia.
Despite continued advances by Somalian and African Union forces against Al-Shabab, they’re far from having been cleared from the country and still control much territory, particularly in rural areas. So wrong on that one.
- More than two Arab countries will see increased protests and violence. Potentials: Syria, Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Sudan, Egypt, UAE, Jordan, Lebanon.
This was unfortunately a pretty safe bet. As I wrote earlier the death toll in Syria continues to mount; there have been continued protests and unrest in Sudan, though not coming to much; Egypt has had what were tipped to be the ‘largest protests in history’ which deposed President Morsi; April was the deadliest month in Iraq since 2008; Libya’s been having increased issues with militias, as I indicated earlier; and Lebanon has had increased bombings, assassinations and clashes as the Syrian Civil War continues to spill over.
- Julia Gillard will no longer be Prime Minister of Australia.
Yes. She was ousted earlier than I expected, having her position as leader of the Labor party usurped by Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister. The Labor party was then met with disaster in the September election, losing 17 seats and its tentative majority to Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition, ending 6 years of Labor Party rule.
- Putin will consolidate his dictatorship in Russia.
To be honest, his dictatorship was rather consolidated anyway by the end of 2012, but it certainly hasn’t weakened. He’s continued pressing forward in policies such as the ‘anti-gay laws’, infringing the rights of LGBT people. Things have become more interesting in the last month in the run-up to next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi: Putin granted an amnesty to many high-profile political prisoners, including Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the remaining two members of Pussy Riot and the ‘Arctic 30’. Perhaps this is a big to improve Russia’s standing among the international community. He must have been shaken by two bomb attacks in the last couple of days in Volgograd, which might be part of a continuing campaign by Cechen rebels. But nevertheless, his authority in Russia seems pretty powerful.
- The Mars Curiosity Rover will make more discoveries which fail to interest the public.
Yeah, I’ll give myself that one. There have been many discoveries on Mars, including pretty strong evidence that it once had running water. That’s more interesting than I expected, but I don’t suppose it’s something the majority of people noticed or continue to think about.
- Netanyahu will be re-elected in Israel.
Yes! Sorry, that explanation mark makes me sound more enthused about this than I am. See more here.
Overall, I seem to have actually fared better than I expected, having been more or less correct on 65% of the issues! Tomorrow I’ll publish my list of predictions for 2014 – watch this space.