13 new reasons to make you say ‘2017, go away!’

Happy New Year! Time for another list of those events that will shape the next 365 days into something to make you say ‘Go away, 2017’


Huge. Great. Bigly.
Huge. Great. Bigly.

On 20 January Donald Trump will officially become the leader of the free world and based on what we have seen so far, it promises to be one hell of a ride.

The question is whether it will be more of a farce than a tragedy, but with the list of appointments made so far (Trump’s will be the richest Cabinet of all time), the Trump administration is set to shake things up.

During the electoral campaign, Trump promised mass deportations, a wall on the Mexican border, better trade deals, lower taxes, greater spending on infrastructure, less regulation and tariffs on goods made in China.

However, Trump has yet to provide details on how he intends to implement these policies, some of which are conflicting and very expensive.

His proposals to renegotiate international trade deals, impose tariffs on companies that move jobs overseas and introduce tax cuts for everyone have serious economic implications.

Moreover, Trump’s brinksmanship with China, his doubts on climate change, his promise to renegotiate the Iran deal, his talk of destroying Islamic State and a nuclear arms race all promise to reshape the international scene (if he does go through with them).

If in doubt, follow Trump’s Twitter account and you’ll be informed in real-time of his latest decision or U-turn.


Geert Wilders: We predict a rise in sales of peroxide agents
Geert Wilders: We predict a rise in sales of peroxide agents

Geert Wilders, leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV), is currently leading in the polls but faces an uphill struggle in securing an outright victory at the Dutch general election in March.

The far-right, anti-EU, anti-Muslim and anti-migration Wilders who has recently been convicted of inciting discrimination might lead the polls but the highly fragmented political scene in the Netherlands means that he will not be able to govern unless he forms a coalition with other parties.

The chances of a PVV-led government are remote as opposing parties have all but ruled out a coalition with Wilders, who has promised a referendum to exit the EU and called for a ban of the Quran.

But the current climate of fear and instability in Europe could yet sway things in Wilders’s favour. Wilders might not become Prime Minister, but if PVV win enough seats, they could be pivotal in the formation of a new coalition government.


Marine Le Pen: who will offer Europe the alternative to this far-right nightmare?
Marine Le Pen: who will offer Europe the alternative to this far-right nightmare?

The first round of the French Presidential election in April could see far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen emerge as the front runner.

However, if Le Pen does win the first round, this does not guarantee a victory in the second round scheduled for 7 May.

Although 2016 has shown that political predictions are far from fool-proof, recent polls suggest Francois Fillon, former prime minister and leader of centre-right Les Republicains party, would comfortably defeat le Pen in the second round, especially if left-wing voters rally around Fillon.

Barring a surprise from a leftist outsider such as Arnaud Montebourg, a key contender to become the Socialist party’s presidential candidate, the Socialists are set for yet another electoral calamity, confirming the inability of the left to offer an alternative and credible vision.

Further terrorist attacks or another wave of immigration coupled with high unemployment and a stagnant economy, could boost Le Pen and open the doors for a surprise victory, but as things stand Le Pen could also thrive in defeat.

A partial victory for Le Pen in the first round and a good showing in the legislative elections in June could embolden the far-right in the rest of Europe and pave the way for a stronger challenge by Le Pen in 2022.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel, once seen as the stabilizing force in European politics, is coming under increasing pressure ahead of elections in Germany scheduled for October, particularly from the rising anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany.

While Merkel is expected to win a fourth term, her wings are set to be clipped.

Polls show that the anti-populist, pro-EU Merkel enjoys a comfortable lead over her nearest rivals, the social-democrats. However, this will not be enough for an outright victory, meaning that Germany will once again be led by a grand-coalition government formed by Merkel’s CDU and the social-democrats.

Right-wing populists Alternative for Germany have made significant gains recently and are currently polling third with 12% of the vote.

Similarly to the Netherlands and France, the AfD led by Frauke Petry are looking to use anger at Merkel’s immigration policies which saw the country welcome almost one million refugees in 2015 to fuel an attack on the establishment.

Following the Christmas market attack in Berlin that killed 12 people and injured 48, Merkel is facing accusations that her refugee policy put Germany in mortal danger and the AfD is looking at capitalising on this anger.


Italian demolition man: Matteo Renzi
Italian demolition man: Matteo Renzi

Matteo Renzi built a reputation as the demolition man, but by tying the result of a referendum on the Italian Constitution to his permanence in office saw him press the self-destruct button.

Defying calls for a snap election, President Sergio Matarella replaced Renzi with the former foreign affairs minister Paolo Gentiloni, who also hails form Renzi’s centre-left party.

But that doesn’t rule out an early poll in 2017, once the Constitutional Court delivers its conclusions on the electoral law and a new law is in place. Renzi – who remains at the helm of the Democratic Party – himself said the next elections would be “presumably in June” but MPs could resist holding them before September. Whenever the election is held, Renzi is likely to return to Palazzo Chigi, possibly strengthening his hand in his drive to push through economic and structural reforms.

However, following Silvio Berlusconi’s fall from grace and the fragmentation of the populist centre-right, the only alternatives to Renzi are the populist Five-Star Movement led by comedian Beppe Grillo and the anti-EU and anti-immigration Northern League led by Matteo Salvini.

An electoral system which gives immense power to the winner could return to haunt Renzi if Grillo or Salvini’s party’s win more votes than the Democratic Party.


We are serving a full English Brexit in the other room...
We are serving a full English Brexit in the other room...

By the end of March, Prime Minister Theresa May must kick off Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. If all goes according to plan, it will mean Britain will have left the bloc entirely by March 2019.

So far, EU member states are refusing to negotiate with Britain until Article 50 is activated.

All signs are that Europe will strike a hard bargain. It is almost certain that some kind of transitional deal will have to be negotiated before a new free trade agreement is agreed, a process likely to take many years. With even Britain’s allies insisting that the principle of free movement is not negotiable, the talks – to be initially held under Malta’s EU presidency – are likely to be difficult.

If Britain pushes for a hard Brexit, preferred by hardliners, Britain will be completely divorced from the EU and lose access to the Single Market. 

On the other hand, a soft Brexit would see Britain maintain close ties with the bloc and while losing certain features of its EU membership like its MEPs and European Council seat, Britain would retain Single Market membership.


Hey there! I'm off to the polls in 2018...
Hey there! I'm off to the polls in 2018...

With the Labour government expected to milk the exposure and feel-good factor which will come with the EU Presidency, Joseph Muscat is expected to go into top gear in the second half of the year before calling an election in early 2018.

With the country effectively in permanent election mode, expect the tones and the discourse to reach pitch levels in the months preceding the election.

Having a sizeable war chest, the Labour government will throw everything it has to winning a second successive election and possibly Muscat’s last, preferably with a big majority.

On the other hand, the PN will give it its best shot and expect to hear a lot about Panama, corruption, good governance, taxes, the minimum wage, economic growth, wealth distribution and more corruption.

The next election could also see a record number of smaller parties contesting elections, with Alternattiva Demokratika expected to be joined by Marlene Farrugia’s Democratic Party, the far-right Moviment Patrijotti Maltin and Ivan Grech Mintoff’s Alleanza Bidla.


Hassan Rouhani
Hassan Rouhani

Iran’s current President, Hassan Rouhani is standing for re-election and has vowed to stop Donald Trump from tearing up the deal signed with Obama and the West over its nuclear programme in 2015.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to raise the “bad” agreement with Donald Trump, who has indicated that he is ready to renegotiate the deal.

Rouhani surprised the world back in 2013, winning the Iranian presidency in a landslide, defeating a slate of hard-line candidates favoured by the clerics.

Although the Iranian economy continues to struggle, Iran’s hard-line faction has yet to coalesce around a popular alternative and Rouhani looks set for a second term.


There seems to be no end to the Syrian civil war
There seems to be no end to the Syrian civil war

If you thought 2016 was a bad year for the Middle East, 2017 will be worse. With the bloodshed in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Yemen and elsewhere in the region, the anger, hatred and sectarian divides can only grow deeper.

Turkey and Iran will continue vying to spread their sphere of influence, particularly in northern Syria and Iraq.

The recent truce in Syria brokered by Turkey and Russia is not expected to last long. And given the presence of Qatari and Saudi Arabian backed terrorist groups and Iran’s involvement in the Syrian war the divisions between Shia and Sunni Arabs have grown, paving a path towards greater conflict rather than reconciliation.

Expect a weakened Islamic State to be slowly overshadowed by Al-Nusra and Al Qaeda, but expect more terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere in the name of Daesh. 

An Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement is all but dead, especially given Trump’s pro-Israel stance, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s persistence in building illegal settlements and the Arab world’s lethargy towards the Palestinians.

10. FINLAND INTRODUCES BASIC INCOME (We don't want this to go away...)

Finland is embarking on the world’s most ambitious experiment with giving people a guaranteed basic income.

Starting in January, 2,000 unemployed people will begin receiving 560 euros every month with no strings attached.

The new scheme, which will make Finland the first country in the world to test a universal basic income at the national level, will be managed by Finland’s Social Insurance Institution.

Recipients – randomly picked from a pool of people aged 25-58 years old who received unemployment benefits in November 2016 – will not pay tax on the basic income, even if they find work and earn a salary in addition to it.

The Canadian region of Ontario is also introducing a similar pilot project in 2017.

In 2016, Switzerland rejected a similar proposal in a referendum but other countries such as the Netherlands, Kenya and India are toying with the idea of introducing a universal income policy.


2017 is expected to be big for Artificial Intelligence
2017 is expected to be big for Artificial Intelligence

According to Nostradamus, commercial space travel will take off with orbital flights around the Earth in 2017 but Richard Branson will have to wait a while longer before invading space.

2017 is however expected to be a big year for Artificial Intelligence (AI) thanks to tech giants such as Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

The rapid advance of artificial intelligence has enabled remarkable new technologies – self-driving cars, automated personal assistants – but it also threatens millions of jobs.

Computer “brains” are now giving humans the power to simulate virtual worlds and giving computers the intelligence to understand the real world.

You won’t necessarily need to buy a new phone, TV or tablet to bring the advances of AI into your home. They’ll come in updates and apps, as well as in shiny new gadgets. On the downside, these apps will increase the chances of being hacked while a handful of big companies will continue to consolidate their power over what you read and watch.


I can make you disappear: Vladimir Putin
I can make you disappear: Vladimir Putin

A divided Europe could allow Vladimir Putin to expand Russia’s sphere of influence in its borderlands, especially the Baltics.

While NATO flirts with Georgia and Ukraine, both traditionally part of Russia’s sphere of influence, the Trump administration may ease sanctions and co-operate more in Syria as it tries to deflate the conflict with Moscow.

However this will be limited as Russia looks to increase its leverage particularly in cyberspace and the Middle East.

Despite Trump’s overtures to Putin, the US won’t be entirely happy with this and will want to contain Russia as the two continue to play spoiler and peacemaker in the Middle East.

While a Syrian peace settlement will remain elusive, Russia will keep close to Iran as US-Iran relations are expected to deteriorate.


Hey, I'm old! Have to go...
Hey, I'm old! Have to go...

This time next year we’ll be mourning some actor, musician or author and cursing 2017 for being the worst year in our lives.

But before giving 2016 the middle finger for taking away David Bowie, Mohammed Ali, Dario Fo, Leonard Cohen, Umberto Eco, Prince and Fidel Castro, remember that 2017 will be as bad as the year coming to an end and every single year. Famous people will die, but so will many others whom we do not know and whose death will not occupy the front pages.