As 2011 comes to a close, the world is looking ahead to 2012 with a mixture of hope and trepidation.
Despite the Mayan prophecy, "the world won't end in 2012, but at times it will feel as if it is about to," writes Daniel Franklin, editor of The Economists' The World in 2012.
As with most observers, Franklin's big concern is the state of the global economy, particularly policymakers' response.
"It could feel very, very scary at times if the politicians don't get out in front of [Europe's crisis]," he says. "So far, they're running behind."
Efforts to combat Europe's debt crisis and deal with America's long-term fiscal challenges will be complicated by local politics in 2012, Franklin says.
In addition to the U.S., China, Russia and France will also be selecting new Presidents in 2012, albeit in very different ways. "Global leaders are going to be preoccupied with what's happening at home," he says, raising the risk of a policy error. "They could miscalculate - that's the danger."
In addition to those global powers -- 4 of 5 permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- elections will also be held next year in Mexico and Venezuela, which could have major ramifications for global energy markets. Furthermore, The Economist expects the 'Arab Spring' will spread to Sub-Saharan Africa, where 10 countries are led by people in power for at least two decades.
There will be "pressure from the street for change" in places like Zimbabwe and Uganda, Franklin predicts. "The technology for organizing is there [and] people have been following very closely what's been happening in North Africa."
Furthermore, given the "economic stresses, he expects continued "social upheaval" in Western democracies, with Spain being particularly vulnerable because of sky-high youth unemployment.
Of course, no one knows for sure what will happen in 2012 -- or any other year. But given the state of the world and the political calendar, more upheaval and stress is almost a certainty.
- Politics & Government