India, Russia and South Africa are all heading to the polls — why it matters

About half the world’s population goes to the polls in 2024. File Picture: Henk Kruger / Independent Newspapers

About half the world’s population goes to the polls in 2024. File Picture: Henk Kruger / Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 27, 2024


By Phapano Phasha

The year 2024 has been declared the year of all elections.

Half the world’s population and close to 60 countries across the globe will be heading to the polls.

According to the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the year 2024 will be a historic year for elections as billions of citizens across the world prepare to cast their votes.

The entire world will have their eyes cast particularly on the United States of America, Russia, and India’s elections, as these three countries will shape the world’s international balance of forces for the BRICS, United States, G7 and NATO.

It is critical to note that the inter-state relations and multilateral cooperation between India and Russia has been one of the most monitored non-western partnerships between members of the BRICS by the United States, as reported by the United States Institute of Peace.

According to a recent report by the United States Department of State, the Indo-Pacific is the “fastest-growing region on earth and an essential driver of America’s future security and prosperity. The maritime domain is home to more than half the world’s population, and it accounts for 60% of global GDP as well as two-thirds of global economic growth.”

This prosperity and security envisaged by the United States in this region, as well as Australia and Japan which are part of the G7 countries in the Indo-Pacific domain, has seen these countries expressing concern about the rise of China and the strategic importance of India, which controls the marine zone across the Indo-Pacific region covering 7,516 square kilometres as well as 13 coastal states and territories.

The United States and G7 nations are desperate to have India as an ally to weaken China and Russia. How the BRICS counters this geo-political power struggle will be interesting to observe. Pundits are already punting the re-election of Vladimir Putin of Russia as well as Narendra Modi of India.

The outcome of these polls will be a measure of BRICS hegemony and a real test of a multipolar world, especially when BRICS countries are themselves polarised, with the inclusion of Iran and the China/India border/maritime dispute.

At the 2023 BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, China and India, two of the biggest BRICS member countries in population and economy, held bilaterals and agreed to meaningful dialogues relating to their historical border conflict. The Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi both conceded at the Summit that their countries will de-escalate the conflict which has seen G7 countries and opposition parties using this impasse to further deepen the inter-state tension between the two member states of BRICS.

Consequently the stakes are very high, as the United States refuses to concede that the world is edging closer to a multi-polar world.

In the global arena, the international balance of forces hangs in the balance whilst the drums of war have been thundering. In the midst of this global chaos and reconfiguration of power is President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, who anticipates re-election for a second term as the President of South Africa in May this year. The outcome of the election results in these three BRICS countries will have a significant impact on international affairs and peace and security across the world of nations.

Collectively, the BRICS nations represent close to 50% of the world’s population, hold more than 30 per cent of the global GDP, and account for over 20 per cent of global trade. But whether BRICS can shape or change the global power dynamics as a collective or as individual countries is still to be seen.

Population of India, Russia and South Africa as this countries head to the polls

According to the United Nations population index, India has over 1.44 billion inhabitants, Russia has 174 million, and South Africa has over 60 million.

India has surpassed its fellow BRICS member, China, as the most populous nation in the world, however collectively these two countries in Asia are the most populated in the world and far surpass the 776 million people who make up the G7 countries.

Which makes India and China formidable global powers which can change the fortunes of countries in the global South, dispel the US claims that multipolarity is a myth and lead the world to a geo-political paradigm of prosperity for all and peace and security

The economic outlook of India, Russia and South Africa

Recently, India has overtaken the United Kingdom to become the fifth largest economy in the world and is predicted to take over Germany and Japan in the next three years to take the number three spot in global economic world ranking. Russia is ranked at number eleven in the world according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) 2023-2024 economic outlook, whilst South Africa has remained sluggish at number 36 in the world ranking, despite the economic resilience of BRICS member countries and countries in the African Union.

Data from the Atlantic Council indicates that Russia’s economic recovery has been underpinned by improved trading relations with China and India, however the sustained “punitive economic measures” by G7 countries might push Russia further towards economic decline. It is not also farfetched to conclude that the Atlantic Council is an unofficial arm of NATO and has been boisterous in its intention to ensure Russia becomes a failed state and BRICS collapses especially with calls by countries in the global South to de-dollarise.

India, has witnessed significant economic reforms aimed at boosting growth, increasing foreign investment, and reducing bureaucratic hurdles that have transformed India into an attractive investment destination.

South Africa on the other hand has been hit by an investment strike with conglomerates and investors openly voicing their lack of faith in the Government and the country in light of the unprecedented electricity crisis that has plagued the country, coupled with logistics bottlenecks.

The 2024 macroeconomic report released by the African Development Bank also casts a dark cloud on South Africa’s economic fortunes and projects that South Africa’s economy will continue to decline and its misfortune will not only affect South Africa, but the entire SADC region.

Furthermore, the report also highlights how other countries in the continent “dominate the list of the world’s fastest growing economies which is a red flag for South Africa which might find itself as the weakest link amongst the BRICS countries.

The South African economy remains exposed to external shocks like volatile commodity prices, global financial conditions, etc. The recent budget by the South African Minister of Finance has also done very little to elevate confidence of the investors with economic growth estimated at 0.6% in 2023 and projected to average 1.6% between 2024 to 2026.

The public debt remains elevated which constrains the fiscal space to adequately address the challenges that the country is faced with. The country’s economic fortunes might change for the better, but it is doubtful in light of the threats from the United States and its G7 partners following South Africa’s ICJ intervention on behalf of Palestine.

Energy sovereignty of South Africa, India and Russia

South Africa is confronted with future energy demands, which the South African Minister of Energy, Gwede Mantashe, has maintained must include coal, oil, gas, hydro, renewable energy, and nuclear, to power the country’s industrialisation program, notwithstanding push-back from the West and direct foreign investors who have been forcefully imposing Green Energy solutions to replace fossil fuels.

Unlike South Africa, India recently held its 2024 energy week, In attendance was the U.S. Business Council, which held bilaterals with Indian business counterparts in which the two countries explored areas of interest in oil and gas, biofuels, new fuel and hydrogen technologies, energy storage, nuclear power, as well as carbon capture, usage and storage. India has been deliberate in positioning the country as a global leader in advancing energy technologies across the world, as well as electrifying the country using baseload and renewable energy.

On the other hand, Russia has maintained its energy mix and continues to rely on fossil fuels, hydroelectricity and nuclear for domestic use and exports. The war in Ukraine has led to a sharp decline in the dependence of many European nations on Russia’s fossil fuels; they now buy natural gas from the Unites States but at much higher prices.

The U.S. has, however, failed in its attempt to pressure BRICS members like China and India to stop buying Russia’s crude oil, which has prompted economists and the Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas in India, Hardeep Puri, to illustrate how India’s decision to buy Russian oil has kept oil prices down and hindered countries in the Gulf region from dominating and spiking global oil prices.

The world is watching, especially the West, which is intimidated by the growing influence of two of Asia’s greatest economies which were once colonised by the British.

The people of India and China, under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi and President Xi, are done with colonial history and are taking the stage in the world of nations.

The entire world will be watching closely as 2024 elections looms for these key BRICS countries.

* Phapano Phasha writes on behalf of The Centre for Alternative Political and Economic Thought.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.