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International Elections and Leaders: April 2019 Update

comoros election 2019
Comoros Incumbent President Azali Assoumani won a controversial election. Photo: Gianluigi Guercia/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

Five elections to determine the new executive occurred in March. In Africa, Comoros concluded its presidential election on March 24th. Incumbent Azali Assoumani was declared the winner after receiving 60.7 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff round. The election was controversial for several reasons. A 2018 constitutional referendum dismantled Comoros’s fragile power-sharing framework between the three main islands that make up the country. It also gave Azali Assoumani the ability to extend his term for an additional five years past what was previously allowable under the legal framework governing political office. The referendum easily won after opposition parties decided to boycott the vote. Moving to the March 2019 vote, opposition parties have again accused Assoumani of corruption and vote rigging by calling his victory into question. Popular unrest has resulted in clashes between opposition protesters and security forces leading to post-election violence and potential political suppression. Keep an eye on Comoros as an already fragile system is tested further.

In Europe, Estonia held its parliamentary election on March 3rd. The center-right Reform Party led by Kaja Kallas won the most individual seats after gaining 28.9 percent of the vote. Kallas was in line to potentially become the first female prime minister in Estonia’s political history, but coalition talks broke down quickly with the rival center-left Centre Party and with two other further-right parties. Kallas will be given two weeks to form a coalition, but political maneuvering by incumbent PM Jüri Ratas of the Centre Party has nearly secured a 51-member coalition necessary to form a new government and to retain his leadership. Regardless, the outcome is not a certainty, and we won’t know who will take over as leader for another two weeks at least.

Three elections took place in the Asia-Pacific. Micronesia held its parliamentary election on March 5th. Incumbent president Peter Christian lost a bid for reelection and will not be eligible for another term as president, paving the way for the congress to choose a new president and vice president in the coming weeks. North Korea held its legislative election on March 10th. The election for the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) generally has no bearing on leadership change but is used as a showcase of regime validation and as a census for the country. An interesting change in this year’s election regards the fact that Kim Jong-un decided not to participate as a candidate for the SPA as has been traditionally done by his father and grandfather before him. Finally, Thailand held its legislative election on March 24th. This is the first election since the 2014 coup saw former general and coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha become acting prime minister in a transitional military junta. The Pheu Thai Party, supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, won 137 seats, while Prayut Chan-o-cha’s Palang Pracharat Party won 116 seats and the overall popular vote. As of April 4th, the results are not expected to be officially certified until May. It is not clear whether opposition parties can form a coalition in the coming weeks, or whether incumbent Prayut Chan-o-cha will be able to utilize favorable constitutional and political capital to retain his leadership. It would be a good idea to keep an eye on Thailand going forward as the new political landscape is heavily tested from both sides.

New Leaders

Two new leaders took office over the last month. In Kazakhstan, longtime leader Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned as president after nearly 30 years of almost unopposed rule. Nazarbayev had slowly implemented reforms over the last decade that would diversify Kazakhstan’s economy while promoting competitive multiparty government and increasing power sharing between the presidency and the country’s legislative body. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the speaker of parliament, has been sworn in as interim president until the next presidential election.

In another resignation, Algeria also saw a longtime incumbent leave office. Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned from the presidency following intense political protests and increasingly high pressure from the country’s military leadership. Bouteflika had originally stated that he would resign by April 28th, giving him time to appoint transition officials who would oversee the next election. Military leaders, namely, General Ahmed Gaid Salah, held a meeting to disavow the transition plan as unconstitutional while refusing to recognize Bouteflika’s authority going forward. The dual pressure of unrelenting opposition protests and the military’s choice to actively oppose Bouteflika forced him to resign early on April 2nd. As of right now, senate president Abdelkader Bensalah has been tasked with serving as acting president for a maximum term of 90 days as new presidential elections are planned in the coming months. Keep an eye on Algeria, though. Opposition protesters continue to demand additional resignations, and it remains unclear what the role of the military will be going forward and whether they will continue to take a more active role in the political process.

Elections to Watch in April

April is slated to hold four elections for new leadership. Andorra will hold a parliamentary election on April 7th. Finland will hold a parliamentary election on April 14th. Indonesia will hold a general election on April 17th. Finally, the Solomon Islands will hold a general election on April 3rd.

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