Predictions for 2012: BBC correspondents look ahead

After a year of attention-grabbing headlines around the world, what might 2012 bring? BBC correspondents make their predictions on the big stories and the names to watch.

Predictions for 2012

The big story People to watch Looking forward to...
Lyse Doucet

Lyse Doucet

World affairs correspondent

I predict the unpredictable. That's the lesson of 2011. In Syria, which moves closer to civil war, expect a "safe haven" straddling one, if not two borders, which will also be exploited by opposition forces. This confrontation will be resolved but there will be many months of violence.

Egypt's presidential elections will ease but not stop tension between the military and Tahrir Square. Relations between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US will still lurch from crisis to crisis.

Jaber Al Thani: The Qatari PM is emerging as a power broker across the Middle East and beyond, using oil wealth to play a key role in Libya, Egypt, Syria and even Afghanistan.

Gen Ashfaq Kayani: Watch how Pakistan's army chief of staff handles relations with the US, weak civilian leaders at home, and militant groups that serve as proxies in regional rivalry.

Kim Jong-un: Where will North Korea's new leader, and his powerful guardians, take his country?

Most: Egypt's landmark presidential elections - and the London Olympics, which I hope will inspire me to spend more time in the gym.

Least: Egyptians growing disappointed after the euphoria of their revolution.

And Libyans growing worried about tensions among militias who refuse to give up their guns.

Mark Mardell

Mark Mardell

North America editor

Revolution and economic crisis. Tectonic plates are shifting. Five hundred years ago, the West began its political, economic and scientific domination of the world. History since then has been about the impact of this imbalance - but the era is ending. The US presidential election is very important. If Obama wins, the country is likely to grind deeper into gridlock. If he doesn't, his supporters' frustration and disappointment will be huge.

Bo Xilai: Chongqing's communist party secretary hopes to become one of China's handful of top leaders. Charismatic, politically flamboyant and populist, he is resurrecting some Maoist traditions and demanding the working class get a bigger slice of the cake. With Wang Yang posing as a champion of democracy and the middle classes also going for a seat on the politburo's standing committee, it is a contest about China's future direction.

Most: Covering my first US presidential election - and in particular, watching Obama's strategy unfold. I can't yet decide if what he is doing is cunning, or if the master of 2008 is desperate for a narrative and has lost his touch.

Least: The story in Europe, my old patch, continuing to be bigger than the American one (at least in the UK). It is like watching someone else with your wife. I moodily read European Council minutes when my day job has ended.

Paul Mason

Paul Mason

Economics editor, Newsnight

The biggest economic story will remain the euro crisis. Logic dictates it can only end one way, with the markets forcing the European Central Bank to act as lender of last resort, against its own rules and culture. The key actors don't believe it can happen, but the markets are loaded in favour of it. The eurozone is, as Barack Obama put it, "scaring the world" - but I think the US will also go on scaring us with its inability to fix a long-term budget.

Andrew Haldane: The UK's financial troubleshooter may have some trouble to shoot.

Antonis Samaras: The likely victor of the Greek general election.

Marine Le Pen: The head of France's National Front - can she make the run-off in the presidential election, as her father did 10 years ago?

Most: The summit that solves the eurozone crisis - I've been to many that were supposed to but did not.

Least: Q1 - the after-Christmas lull has been markedly bad in Western economies in the down-years of this crisis. And the G20 summit at Los Cabos, Mexico - as each year passes, the G20 achieves less and less. Fingers crossed this one doesn't end in acrimony like Cannes in November.

James Robbins

James Robbins

Diplomatic correspondent

A dangerously rudderless year with key leaders in the US, China, Russia and France distracted by elections or changes at the top. The decline and eventual fall of the Assad regime in Syria, through a combination of steadily building outside pressure, particularly from the Arab League, increasing economic failure and a growing sense of confidence among opponents.

Francois Hollande: The Socialist candidate for the French presidency in the April/May elections. Mr Hollande will defeat Nicolas Sarkozy in the second round of voting. It could be an ugly campaign, with candidates over-promising recovery and disrupting efforts to rescue the eurozone. Ex-PM Dominique de Villepin will take votes from both candidates, adding a sense of danger to the contest.

Most: The Olympic and Paralympic Games - and an unprecedented festival atmosphere in London throughout the summer.

Least: The arrival in London of the International Olympic Committee and the disruption to traffic caused by their privileged treatment.

Rory Cellan-Jones

Rory Cellan-Jones

Technology correspondent

The most eye-popping story will be the long-awaited stockmarket flotation of Facebook, valuing the social network at something like $100bn. The most important story will be the spread of internet access to the next billion global users. The most read will probably be the launch of the iPhone 5 or the iPad 3.

Tim Cook: Filling some very big shoes after the death of Steve Jobs as the head of Apple.

Michael Acton Smith: A UK web entrepreneur who could become much better known in 2012 if his online children's game Moshi Monsters continues to attract a global audience.

Most: TV and iNew technology at the London Olympics, like Super Hi-Vision, which promises a picture 16 times sharper than HD. Least: More patent battles as giants of the mobile phone world slug it out in court to prove they thought of everything first. The growth of "trolling" - abusive and often anonymous online comments.

Will Gompertz

Will Gompertz

Arts correspondent

If the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games is not the biggest British arts story of the year, then either a major unforeseen event has occurred or Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle has failed. A massive global audience will watch to see what visual magic the man behind Slumdog Millionaire conjures up to bring together a fractured world in a moment of shared emotion. I think he'll pull it off.

Big names will dominate: artists Damien Hirst, Lucien Freud, David Hockney, Tracey Emin and Pablo Picasso all feature in major monographic exhibitions, and Hilary Mantel, William Boyd and Salman Rushdie have new books out. Finally, young British soul singer Michael Kiwanuka is likely to give Lana Del Rey a run for her money in the Debut Album of the Year stakes.

Most: Survivor, by choreographer Hofesh Shechter, which has its premiere in London in January. Martin Creed's Bells project for the opening morning of the Olympics, and Irvine Welsh's new novel, Skagboys.

Least: Local theatres, libraries and arts centres struggling or closing due to lack of financial support and/or weak leadership. Mad Men. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - it's just not my kinda thing.

Owen Bennett-Jones

Owen Bennett-Jones

Presenter

Greater freedom of expression in the Middle East coupled with US diplomatic weakness will leave Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu looking increasingly isolated. Protests against unaccountable, non-taxpaying political and business elites will grow. Demands that the 1% receive less pay and pay more tax will find ever greater resonance.

President Bashar al Assad: Despite thousands more civilian deaths in Syria, President Assad will remain in charge of his country, shrugging off international condemnation.

Hamza Bin Laden: Osama Bin Laden's most jihadi-minded son aka the Prince of Terror, will get a greater public profile.

Most: More delicious scandals in which the hitherto secret wrongdoings of senior politicians, media moguls and business leaders are exposed.

Least: Watching senior politicians, media moguls and business leaders carry on as if nothing happened.

You can listen to the BBC experts making their predictions on Radio 4 on Friday 30 December at 20:00 GMT, repeated on Saturday 31 December at 13:10 GMT.

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