The year is almost over. For many, if not most, the close of 2016 will be a welcome end to a terrible year. This about sums it up:
Many of the things that disappointed people this year will impact next year. It would be easy to say 2016 was terrible, but 2017 will be worse. I’m going to take the tougher option. I think 2017 will be better. Here are five reasons or predictions about the next calendar year that should give some hope.
France will reject Marine Le Pen
I know what you are going to say. It looked likely that the Brits would not leave Europe and Americans would not elect Trump. Liberal hubris failed to account for rising nationalism and lost dearly. I think the French will learn from those examples and reject Le Pen. The big difference here is that Francois Fillon, leader of the center-right party the Republicans is more conservative that current president Francois Hollande. France will tilt to the right as seen in the U.S. and U.K., but the less extreme option will win out. Given the current political climate and everything Le Pen stands for, I am chalking it up as a win. It will represent a sorely needed victory for the European Union (especially if Merkel loses in Germany) and a rebuke for anti-imigrant nationalism.
Gambia and the Congo will have new presidents
Making a parlay prediction may be risky, but I am hopeful things work out. Gambia is the slightly safer prediction. President Yahya Jammeh clearly lost the election, but already reversed his concession to opponent Adama Barrow. Given his 22 years in power and the trend of long-standing leaders to hold on to power, it seems like he will try his hardest to stay in office. However, regional countries are pressuring Jammeh and have the easy case to make that he should step aside for Barrow. It will take some convincing and threat of sanctions, but Jammeh will relent in January.
The Congo is a different story. President Joseph Kabila technically overstayed his term in office, but he managed to delay elections into 2017 with no date set to pick his successor. That gives him time to maintain his power and potentially ammend the constitution. However, Kabilia is not as well liked or as powerful as his neighbor President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. Kagame managed to oversee changes to the constitution that significantly extended his rule. Kabila will likely need to take unconstitutional steps to stay in office – something opposition leaders will protest and donor countries that help support the government will not allow.
Trump won’t build the wall
The idea of completing the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico took a back seat after Trump won the election. That is in large part due to statements from Republican leaders in Congress who said it won’t happen. Despite all the bluster, Mexico was never going to pay for a border wall of the magnitude promised by Trump. With a Republican majority that does not want to see government spending go up, the idea that a program which will cost billions of dollars is virtually a non-starter. There might be some photo ops to pretend like things are happening, but the wall Trump promised is not happening.
The war in Syria will end
To some extent, this is not good news. The Syrian government retook Aleppo without much difficulty. The lack of resistance from the rebels and the countries opposing the Assad regime seems unlikely to change into 2017. At the current rate, there is good reason to think Assad will regain control over the majority of the country in a few months. Then the focus will be on getting people back home, rebuilding Syria and defeating the Islamic State. Accepting this likelihood, I am hopeful that a peace deal can be reached that will help Syrians displaced by the civil war return to their lives. I see this in a slightly positive light because it means the pressure on neighboring countries by Syrian refugees will diminish and the atrocities against civilians will come to an end. Assad will stay in power and suffer few consequences for his actions. OK, that is actually not good news. But fewer people suffering and dying is good. Hopefully, at least that happens.
You’ve likely heard this one before. The world is on the brink of ending polio. Only 34 cases of wild poliovirus were recorded in 2016, down from 66 last year. The number is tantalizing close to zero and hopes are high that the last case is in the near future. Efforts to vaccinate people continue to reach children. Improving security in Nigeria will see it start its journey to polio-free certification soon. Afghanistan and Pakistan will follow later in the year and the virus that infected 350,000 people in 125 countries in 1988 will disappear from the planet. It will represent a massive victory for global health and propel the next eradication – guinea worm.