The Big List of 2021 Winners and Outsiders
Anton Rovenskyy, Master of International Relations, International Political Scientist
Decisions and actions of these political players formed the political agenda of 2021. The winners and the outsiders of the last year are in the material below.
Olaf Scholz (Germany)
The new Federal Chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz, a Social Democrat, immediately makes it clear that he came to this post in earnest and for a long time. Indeed, Scholz has everything for it: from personal qualities to the huge reserve of strength created in the era of Angela Merkel. Scholz's foreign policy remains an intrigue, especially whether the new German chancellor will be able to become as authoritative globally as Merkel was.
Xi Jinping (China)
In 2021, the President of the People's Republic of China received the title of “Helmsman of the Chinese Renaissance”, which placed Xi Jinping on a par with Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Thus, the last obstacles allowing Xi Jinping to go to a record third term as chairman of the PRC, which will last until 2027, have been removed. Along with an increasing political weight and a broadening economic expansion, China has elaborated an effective algorithm to fight with Covid-19, which gives it a new impetus for growth in comparison to its geopolitical rivals for years ahead.
Recep Erdoğan (Türkiye)
Under the leadership of Erdoğan, in 2021 Türkiye continued to pursue a proactive offensive foreign policy, from the Middle East and Transcaucasia to North Africa, as well as to introduce new integration formats for the Turkic peoples. The downside of Türkiye's external expansion is the overstrain of its economy and the drop of the Turkish Lira. However, as long as such foreign policy brings Türkiye more benefits than costs, it will undoubtedly continue.
Naftali Bennett (Israel)
Israel's new prime minister, who took office in the middle of the year, became a compromise figure for the country's ruling class, which was weighed down by Benjamin Netanyahu's long tenure in power. Time will tell whether Bennett will be able to become for Israel as iconic as Netanyahu was, but there is no doubt that Bennett, who previously held various leading positions in the government, would not limit himself with only one term.
Eric Zemmour (France)
Eric Zemmour, a right-wing conservative journalist, has swept into the big league of French politics and announced his run in 2022 presidential elections. Outrunning Marine Le Pen, Zemmour is currently the leader of the French right wing, and is considered as a serious contender for the second round of elections. Zemmur's own political project, ‘Reconquista’, is to become a serious player during the next parliamentary elections.
Shavkat Mirziyoyev (Uzbekistan)
Uzbekistan still shows high economic performance and, along with liberalization of social and political life, becomes an example country in Central Asia. In the wake of success, Shavkat Mirziyoyev was successfully re-elected on the presidential election with a 80% confidence vote.
Min Aung Hlain (Myanmar)
The de facto leader of Myanmar, who came to power in a military coup on in February 2021, Min Aung Hlain has cemented his power, despite the lack of international legitimation and protests at home. Considering long-term prospects, militarian political projects are neither sustainable nor effective in management, but as for now the leader of the Myanmar junta is one of the winners of the year.
Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel)
Four rounds of early parliamentary elections in 2019-2021 allowed Benjamin Netanyahu to retain the seat of Israeli prime minister. However, such status quo did not suit a huge part of its political class, which managed to consolidate to remove Netanyahu from his position. Meanwhile, the Israeli criminal justice authorities have accumulated many questions for Netanyahu, who, after the loss of the prime minister's post, becomes much more vulnerable.
Ashraf Ghani (Afghanistan)
The withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan has led to an immediate collapse of the state and military structures built during the last 20 years. The infamously popular images of chaos at the Kabul airport are a clear proof of the current situation. Ghani, the President of Afghanistan, did not even try to build a system to counter the expansion of the Taliban, leaving the republic without a trace.
Andrej Babiš (Czech Republic)
In 2021, after several years of litigation, EU auditors recognized a conflict of interests in the actions of Andrej Babiš, the former Czech Prime Minister. During his tenure as a PM, Babiš retained control over business structures, which were subsidized by the EU. However, Babis's troubles did not end: in autumn, he became a defendant in the Pandora Papers offshore scandal. These factors led to the defeat of the oligarch’s party in the parliamentary elections and his resignation as a PM.
Armin Laschet (Germany)
Armin Laschet, considered the most likely successor to Angela Merkel in early 2021, lost his political capital in 8 months. As a result, the CDU/CSU was left outside the ruling coalition in the Bundestag, with Laschet possible resignation from the post of CDU chairman in the near future.
Joe Biden (USA)
The incumbent US president, Biden faces an unprecedented drop in confidence ratings just a year after his election. During his presidential inauguration, the Democratic Party seemed to become a monopolist in the next two electoral cycles. As of December 2021, the scenario of the Republican revenge looks more and more realistic. The US House of Representatives elections in November 2022 will become a checkpoint.
Emmanuel Macron (France)
In 2021, France lost a multibillion Australian submarine supply contract, with relations between Paris, official Washington and London deteriorating due to the formation of the AUKUS alliance. The contract for the supply of French combat aircraft for the needs of the Swiss armed forces was also in question. Parallel to this, Paris suffered a series of failures in Africa, namely in Mali and the CAR, the former French colonies.
By the end of the year, Emmanuel Macron has smoothed out these setbacks by signing big military-industrial contracts with the Middle Eastern states, as well as with an agreement on in-depth cooperation with Italy, relations with which France have been openly strained in the past few decades.
However, as a contender for the leadership in the united Europe, president Macron, especially considering his balance of victories and defeats, is clearly insufficient to be regarded as the winner of the year.
Igor Dodon (Moldova)
Following the defeat in the 2020 presidential elections, the Moldovan Socialists Party (PSRM) also lost the parliamentary elections in July 2021. In October 2021, Dodon resigned from his MP seat and will soon step down as head of the PSRM. Meanwhile, on the pro-Russian political field of Moldova, new political forces are gradually crystallizing, which puts a big question mark on the future prospects of the nation’s ex-president.