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International Elections and Leaders: February 2019 Update

Latvia Krišjānis Kariņš
Latvia's new elected Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins gives a press conference at the Saeima parliament in Riga, Latvia, on January 23, 2019. Photo: ILMARS ZNOTINS/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

Surprisingly, no national elections took place in the month of January 2019. Check back in March for the first slate of 2019 elections.

New Leaders

Three new leaders took office in January. In Latvia, Krišjānis Kariņš was confirmed as the new prime minister on January 23rd. Latvia’s parliament has been in political deadlock since the election last October. Kariņš came to power through a coalition of five parties to exclude the pro-Russia Harmony party from governance. Kariņš, who was born and raised in Delaware, has promised to clean up corruption and to correct the financial system.

In Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina was sworn in as president on January 19th. Rajoelina’s tenure marks the first time that two presidents have switched power peacefully in the country’s history. The past decade on the island nation has seen violence and irregular removal of the elected leaders. With this exchange, Madagascar has set a precedent for peaceful politics going forward.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, opposition politician Felix Tshisekedi was sworn in as president on January 24th. Tshisekedi’s presidency is the first after a peaceful transfer of power since the DRC’s independence in the 1960s. However, his tenure begins in the shadow of alleged vote rigging by longtime former president Joseph Kabila on behalf of Tshisekedi to keep Kabila critic Martin Fayulu from assuming the post. Going forward, Tshisekedi will need to balance an angry opposition with the remaining ruling elite. Doing so won’t be easy, and it will be important to keep an eye on the political atmosphere that Tshisekedi finds himself operating in.

Elections to Watch in February

February will see the return of several important national election events across the globe. Moldova will hold its parliamentary elections on February 24th. Opposition parties have held protests in the lead-up to the election due to a controversial new law that changed Moldova’s electoral system to a mixed-list structure. Opposition politicians argue that the new electoral system will unduly benefit the Democratic Party and the Socialist Party, currently the two biggest parties in Moldovan politics.

Two elections are set to take place in Africa this month. Nigeria will hold its general elections on February 16th. Incumbent Muhammadu Buhari will face a strong challenge from Alhaji Abubakar, and the winner will need to address rising violence and crime in the country. Senegal will hold its presidential election on February 24th. Incumbent Macky Sall will face competition from four opposition politicians and will need to secure 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff round.

Finally, two elections are set to take place in Latin America. El Salvador already held its presidential election early on February 3rd. Nayib Bukele won the presidency with 53 percent of the vote, narrowly avoiding a runoff round. Bukele is the first third-party candidate to be elected to the presidency since the end of the civil war in 1992. Cuba will hold a constitutional referendum on February 24th. The referendum, if passed, would result in substantial changes to Cuba’s political system. While the Communist Party would remain the sole political entity in the nation, the referendum would formalize greater protections for political and civil rights while also legalizing private property. The reforms would also encourage greater foreign direct investment on the island, further rolling back decades of economic isolation in the region.

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