International Elections and Leaders: March 2019 Update

International Elections and Leaders
Nayib Bukele of the Great National Alliance (GANA) participates in a meeting with members of the National Civil Police union in San Salvador, El Salvador, on January 13, 2019. Marvin Recinos/AFP/Getty Images

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

International Elections

February saw five elections take place. In Latin America, Cuba held its first constitutional referendum since 1976 on February 24th. The referendum passed with 84.4 percent of the vote and introduces several economic reforms, including the legalization of private property and the promotion of foreign investment into the island nation. The referendum also reintroduces the position of prime minister; places term limits on the presidency; bans discrimination based on identity; and restores due process, the right to legal counsel, and the right to sue the government for damages. While the reforms do not change Cuba’s single-party system, the referendum is a substantial step away from authoritarianism.

El Salvador held its presidential election on February 3rd. Nayib Bukele won the presidency with 53.1 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff round. Bukele, once a member of the incumbent Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, was expelled from his previous party following accusations of dissent and breach of ethics. Bukele utilized a successful social media campaign as a populist reformer in the lead-up to his electoral victory against his former party.

Africa also experienced two elections during February. Senegal held its presidential election on February 24th. Incumbent Macky Sall won reelection with 58 percent of the vote and avoided a runoff round in the process. Nigeria held its general election on February 23rd. The election was originally scheduled for February 16th but was delayed in the early morning due to concerns of logistical challenges and electoral violence. On election day, incumbent Muhammadu Buhari won reelection with 55.6 percent of the vote. Controversy came immediately following the result as runner-up candidate Atiku Abubakar accused the authorities of engaging in electoral fraud. The election also broke a record for the lowest turnout (35.6 percent) in Nigeria’s twenty-year history as a democracy.

Finally, Moldova experienced Europe’s only election during the month of February. No party was able to establish a majority, and the parties must engage in coalition dialogues as a result. The opposition Socialist Party (35 seats) and the ruling Democratic Party (30 seats) now have 45 days to form a government. If the parties are unable to form a coalitional government within that time frame, new elections will be held.

New Leaders

Only one new leader took office during February. In Comoros, Moustadroine Abdou took over as acting president on February 13th. Constitutional rules require that incumbents who run for president must step down a month before the election to avoid potential interference in the electoral process. Incumbent Azali Assoumani will now have to win March’s presidential election to resume his role.

Elections to Watch in March

Seven elections are expected to happen in March. Estonia will hold its parliamentary election on March 3rd. Micronesia will hold a parliamentary election on March 5th. North Korea will hold an election for the Supreme People’s Assembly on March 10th. Comoros will hold a presidential election on March 24th, while Thailand will hold a general election on the same date. Ukraine will hold its general election on March 31st. Finally, Tuvalu is expected to hold a general election in March, but the exact date is not currently known.

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