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International Elections and Leaders: November 2017 Update

People watch live broadcast as Uhuru Kenyatta is declared the winner following presidential re-election results on TV at a local electrical shop in Kisumu, on October 30, 2017. Photo credit: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/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.”

October was a busy month for elections worldwide. Elections to determine new leaders took place in Austria, the Czech Republic, Liberia, Kyrgyzstan, Kenya, Iceland, and Japan. A tumultuous election re-run took place in Kenya amid widespread violence, a boycott of the vote by the opposition, and intimidation of election authorities. A snap election in Japan gave Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a popular mandate to rewrite the country’s constitution to boost its defense against North Korea. Populist candidates won votes in Austria and the Czech Republic. A snap election in Iceland did not produce an outright winner. Jacinda Ardern of the Labour Party became the youngest female Prime Minister of New Zealand. A peaceful transfer of power will occur for the first time in Kyrgyzstan following October’s presidential vote. Finally, a presidential election in Liberia will go to a second round in November.

International Elections

A re-run of the presidential election took place in Kenya on October 26. The election was held after the Supreme Court annulled the results of the August vote in an unprecedented ruling, citing election irregularities. Protests, violence in opposition strongholds, and intimidation of electoral officials followed, resulting in the death of at least 45 people.

Opposition candidate Raila Odinga urged his supporters to boycott the new vote, arguing that the election cannot be considered free and fair, given how necessary adjustments have not been made to guarantee a free vote. As a result, turnout on October 28 was under 40%. Due to violence and security fears in opposition strongholds, polling stations could not open in 25 constituencies. However, enough votes were cast to announce incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta as winner, who won over 98% based on the ballots cast.

A conservative candidate from the People’s Party, Sebastian Kurz, is set to become Austria’s new chancellor after a parliamentary election on October 15. The People’s Party secured more than 31% of the votes and opened coalition talks with the far-right Freedom Party, which campaigned using anti-immigration and anti-Muslim rhetoric. The new government is expected to be in place by the end of the year.

Far-right populist parties have recently made significant gains across Europe. The Alternative for Germany party became the first far-right party to join the Bundestag in six decades following the September 2017 election. In the Netherlands, the far-right Party for Freedom, headed by Geert Wilders, came in second in a March 2017 parliamentary vote. Far-right Marine Le Penn was the second runner-up in the French election. Austria’s new likely coalition that includes the Freedom Party would score another win for the anti-immigration forces in the EU.

A populist candidate and second-richest man in the country, Andrej Babis, won a parliamentary election with his ANO party in the Czech Republic. The party won 78 seats in a 200-seat parliament, the rest of which will be occupied by eight other parties. Coalition-building over the next month will determine whether Babis will align himself with right, left or centrist parties. Far-right parties made significant gains in this election. However, it is not clear if ANO will pursue this path in coalition building.

A presidential election was held in Liberia on October 10. The election will go to a second round on November 7 since neither of the candidates reached the required 50% threshold to win the presidency. Former soccer player George Weah won 38% of the vote. Joseph Boakai, the current vice president, won 28%. Incumbent president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first elected female head of state in Africa, has served two terms in office and can no longer run for reelection. 

A presidential election also took place in the Kyrgyz Republic on October 15. Incumbent president Almazbek Atambayev did not contest the election in accordance to a constitutional limit of one six-year term for presidents. Sooronbay Jeebekov, former Prime Minister backed by the current president, won the election with over 54% of the vote. His opponent, also a former PM, Omurbek Babanov, won 34%.

This will be the first peaceful transfer of power between two presidents in Kyrgyzstan since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. However, last year Kyrgyzstan passed a constitutional referendum that increased the powers of the prime minister at the expense of the president, causing speculations that Atambayev is looking to continue ruling as prime minister in the next government.

Japan held a snap election on October 22. The ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe maintained its absolute majority in parliament. Shinzo Abe called an early election in order to strengthen his mandate to address security threats from North Korea. The vote will provide an opportunity for the parliament to revise its pacifist constitution.

A second snap election in a year was held in Iceland on October 28. The government collapsed in September following a scandal surrounding Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson’s attempts to cover up his father’s support of a convicted child sex offender. Benediktsson’s center right Independence Party lost its majority in parliament, paving a way for a potential left coalition. With eight parties in parliament, coalition talks are expected to be complicated.

New Leaders

Jacinda Ardern will become the new Prime Minister of New Zealand following a parliamentary election held in September. The Labour Party led by the new PM won 36% of the vote and formed a new government with the New Zealand First party and the Greens. The new government has vowed to introduce many socially progressive policies, such as reducing economic inequality, lifting wages, as well as supporting sustainable economic development.

Events to Watch in November

A presidential election will be held in Chile on November 19. Every election since 1999 has gone to a run off. If neither of the candidates wins an absolute majority, the second round will be held on December 17.

Honduras will hold a presidential election on November 26. Incumbent president Juan Orlando Hernandez is running for a second term after the Supreme Court overruled a constitutional ban on one term in office for presidents in 2015.

Nepal will hold a parliamentary election in two phases this fall: on November 26 and December 7. A parliament must be formed by the end of January 2018 in accordance with the new constitution adopted in 2015 after the end of the civil war in the country.

As mentioned above, Liberia will hold its run off presidential election on November 7. Additionally, coalition building over the next couple of months in Iceland will determine who will replace Bjarni Benediktsson as prime minister.

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