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International Elections and Leaders: April 2017 Update

March Election Mark Rutte
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is greeted by supporters following his victory. Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images

The REIGN Dataset (Rulers, Elections, and Irregular Governance) covers political conditions in every country each and every month. We update the dataset monthly to reflect the most recent political events, such as coups, world elections, and changes in political leadership. We provide monthly election coverage and track leadership changes in a series of updates called “International Elections and Leaders.”

This spring all eyes are on elections in EU-member and EU-candidate states.  In the Netherlands, incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte narrowly defeated Geert Wilders in a parliamentary election. Wilders, an anti-EU and anti-immigration candidate, came in second with his right-wing Freedom Party (PVV). Even though the election was hailed as a win for European values, uncertainty still looms large in the rest of Europe.

France is going to the polls in April to vote in an election that will be a further test of the EU’s strength after the Brexit and the Dutch election. Macedonia is engulfed in a political crisis amid coalition-building challenges, ethnic tensions, and allegations of EU meddling in internal affairs. Bulgaria’s coalition-building also looks shaky following an early election that did not yield a decisive victory. And finally, a referendum in Turkey in April is expected to strengthen the president and move the country even further away from joining the European Union.

International Elections

In a tense election in the Netherlands, the incumbent People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) won the most seats in parliament. VVD and its leader Mark Rutte defeated Greet Wilders and the PVV, which came in second. The right-wing party has capitalized on growing anti-immigration and anti-Muslim sentiments and was leading in the polls a week before the election.

Following Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the US, the relative defeat of the populist anti-EU message came as a win for European values. But, analysts remain cautious. The election still resulted in the PVV being the second-largest party in parliament. The rise of populism in Europe will continue to be tested with the upcoming elections in France and Germany.

An early legislative election was held in Bulgaria, resulting in the victory of the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party. The party is headed by Boyko Borisov, who served as prime minister months ago. He resigned late last year after his party’s candidate was defeated in the presidential election. However, Borisov came up short of winning a majority and coalition-building prospects look grim. The second runner-up socialist party has already refused to form a coalition government with GERB.

Micronesia also held a legislative election last month. Ten seats of the 14-member Congress were contested in single-member constituencies to serve two-year terms. There are no political parties in Micronesia, and all the candidates ran as independents.  The president is elected by Congress among the four remaining senators, which serve four-year terms. The current president, Peter Christian, was not affected by the election and will remain in power until the next election in 2019.

East Timor held its first presidential election since the departure of international peacekeepers in 2012. According to preliminary results, former rebel fighter Francisco Guterres won more than 57% of the vote. For the first time since 2002, the election will not have to go to a second round. The new president will have to address wide-ranging economic concerns, as the nation’s oil reserves dwindle and a territorial dispute with Australia over untapped energy fields remains unresolved.

Additionally, we also coded an early election in Lesotho, scheduled for June 3. The election was called after Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili lost a no-confidence vote in parliament on March 1. Mosisili was in power since a snap election held in February 2015.

Events to watch in April

Elections in France, Turkey, and Ecuador are scheduled to happen in April.

France will elect a new president on April 23. According to polls, the vote is contested between centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right Marine Le Pen, running on an anti-EU and anti-immigration platform. Conservative Francois Fillon trails behind the two in the polls. A runoff between Macron and Le Pen is expected on May 7 with a decisive victory by Macron according to polling results. However, the election is far from decided, with another month of campaigning to go and many voters still undecided regarding their choice.  

Turkey will vote on April 16 in a constitutional referendum, deciding whether or not to strengthen the power of the president while eliminating the position of the prime minister. If approved, the constitutional changes will empower the current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The president argues that a strong executive is necessary to address security challenges in the country following a failed coup attempt in July 2016. The polls show a tight race between the “yes” and “no” camps.

Finally, a second round of presidential elections will take place in Ecuador on April 2. The vote is between Lenin Moreno, a candidate from the left supported by the current President Correa, and a right-wing former banker Guillermo Lasso. Moreno is currently ahead in the polls. His victory could solidify the legacy of Correa’s socialist policies, as well as reverse the recent trend of right-wing victories in Latin America, including Peru, Brazil, and Argentina.

We will also continue to watch Macedonia, where political gridlock over the future of the ruling coalition has resulted in ethnic tensions. President Gjorge Ivanon refused to accept a coalition between social democrats and ethnic Albanian parties, saying that it “threatens the sovereignty of Macedonia.” Albanians are the largest minority in Macedonia and demand that Albanian is proclaimed an official language of the country.

Interested in more election coverage? Visit the REIGN Dataset page, or read the most recent March Update on international elections and leaders.