International Elections and Leaders: May 2017 Update

French Elections Rulers Update
A pedestrian walks past posters of French presidential election candidates. Philippe Lopez/AFP/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.”

Tensions in Europe remain high amid multiple electoral processes set to shape the future of the European Union. The first round of the French presidential election was held on April 23 and a run-off is scheduled for May 7. Elsewhere, the United Kingdom announced a snap election to be held in June, Turkish voters narrowly approved a major constitutional referendum, and Bulgaria will inaugurate a new government in May. A political crisis continues in Macedonia, which has not had a functional government since December.

Outside of Europe, April was a quiet month for international elections. An exception was Ecuador, which held the second round of the presidential election. In May and June, however, we will see elections unfold in Iran, the Bahamas, Albania, Papua New Guinea, Lebanon, Mongolia, and Lesotho.

International Elections

Emanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen finished first and second, respectively, in the first round of the highly anticipated French presidential election. They will compete in a run-off scheduled for May 7. The election is a key decision point for France and the European Union. Le Pen vows to exit the EU, to stop immigration, and to restore the French identity. Macron promises a centrist reformist approach toward both France and the EU.

Recent polls suggest Le Pen is very likely to lose in the second round, but the continued rise of right-wing populism in France and Europe overall is troubling to many observers. Addressing the concerns of the marginalized pro-Le Pen population in the French rust belt will be the challenge for Macron, a former minister and investment banker, if he wins the presidency.

Turkey approved a constitutional referendum strengthening the power of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The referendum, which passed with 51.4% of the vote, abolishes the position of prime minister and accelerates the country’s transition from a semi-presidential to a fully presidential political system. Critics stress that this change will result in greater authoritarianism in the EU-candidate country by eroding checks and balances and consolidating Erdogan’s grip on power.

Theresa May announced that the United Kingdom will hold a snap election on June 8, with the hope that a positive result will strengthen her mandate and the position of the Tories ahead of the Brexit negotiations. The announcement came as a complete surprise to the public; just a few months ago the Prime Minister herself stated that there would be no early election.

Current polls suggest the conservatives could win a landslide majority in parliament amid internal tensions within the Labor Party and the downfall of the UKIP party. However, opposition parties could mobilize pro-EU voters in an attempt to reverse Brexit. While a strengthened mandate for the Tories is within easy reach, a lot could change in the next month as parties gear up their campaigns.

Ecuador held the second round of its presidential election, resulting in a victory of Lenin Moreno. Moreno took 51.16% of the vote, securing another term for the ruling left-wing party and continuation of President Correa’s policies. The divisive election was followed by mass protests and a recount. The opposition also challenged the results of the election in court on allegations of fraud, but the petition was denied due to a lack of evidence.

Events to Watch in May

France will hold the second round of its presidential election on May 7. Iran will hold a presidential election on May 19 and the Bahamas will hold a general election on May 10. A couple countries also remain on our watch list due to ongoing coalition-building negotiations.

A coalition government in Bulgaria will be announced in early May after an early election was held in March. Boyko Borisov, as the leader of the winning GERB party, is set to become the Prime Minister. He will be returning to the post from which he resigned late last year after a candidate from his party lost the presidential election. With a renewed popular mandate, Borisov is set to form a coalition between GERB and United Patriots, an alliance of nationalist parties.

Macedonia remains without a prime minister and government for a fourth month. An early parliamentary election in December did not yield a decisive victory for either party. Coalition-building stalled over the role of Albanian parties in government and the status of the Albanian language. A coalition formed between Social Democrats and ethnic Albanian parties after months of negotiations, but was rejected by the president. No end to the political crisis is currently in sight.


After a review of Eastern European and Caucasus states, we corrected election months for a 1965 election in Poland and a 1997 election in Croatia. We also added a 2000 election in Bosnia and a 1992 election in Georgia.

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