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.”
May proved to be a packed month for elections and featured victories for several parties outside of their respective political status quos. In the Americas, three major elections took place. In Barbados, the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) achieved a landslide victory by winning all thirty seats in parliament. Mia Mottley, the leader of the BLP, subsequently made history by becoming Barbados’s first female prime minister. In Colombia, no candidate achieved the necessary majority to become president. A runoff round will be held on June 17 and will be contested by conservative Ivan Duque and former leftist militant Gustavo Petro. Finally, Venezuela held its snap presidential election on May 20. As expected, incumbent Nicolas Maduro won reelection in what has been described as a further consolidation of power for the ruling socialist party.
In the Middle East, two long-awaited elections resulted in potentially major shifts in the regional political landscape. In Iraq, parliamentary elections were held on May 12 after a six-month delay due to events that took place in the final months of the civil war with the Islamic State. Surprising many, Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition won only twenty-five seats, while the far-left Saairun alliance led by Muqtada al-Sadr won fifty-four. While it is too early to predict exactly what the next government will look like, al-Sadr’s rise to political prominence with his “Iraq First” message has the potential to reshape domestic politics and weaken Iran’s influence on Iraqi foreign policy. On May 6, Lebanon held parliamentary elections for the first time since 2009. Like Iraq, the Lebanese election was a blow to the political status quo. The Loyalty and Hope alliance led by Hezbollah and Amal gained twenty-six of twenty-seven parliamentary seats set aside for Shiites. The Sunni-dominated Future Movement (FM) party lost six seats to Sunni pro-Hezbollah candidates in Beirut. While Saad Hairi, the leader of the FM party, is expected to retain his position as prime minister, he will face a tough battle negotiating a unified government in the context of a strengthened Loyalty and Hope alliance.
In Southeast Asia, Malaysia held its general election on May 9. Opposition candidate and former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad led his Pakatan Harapan coalition to electoral victory after winning 121 seats at the expense of the incumbent Barsian Nasional party. In Africa, Burundi voted for a controversial constitutional referendum that would reinstate the position of prime minister while simultaneously increasing the presidential term from five to seven years. Incumbent president Pierre Nkurunziza championed the referendum as a necessary political reform, while opposition parties have accused him of perpetuating political turmoil in an effort to increase his own political longevity.
In Europe, Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella named Carlo Cattorelli interim prime minister after refusing to accept Paolo Savona, the finance minister of Giuseppe Conte’s government. Mattarella’s veto of the appointment of Savona caused the proposed government to collapse and plunged the country into further political chaos. The new government may face fresh elections as early as August.
In Eurasia, Armenia elected opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan prime minister to replace acting prime minister Karen Karapetyan. The successful election of Pashinyan amounts to a peaceful revolution and has earned him comparisons to other great revolutionaries of history, though his party’s specific policies are still unclear.
In Central America, Costa Rica swore in its forty-eighth president, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, a member of the center-left Citizens’ Action Party. Alvarado previously served as the minister of labor and social security during the presidency of Solís Rivera.
In the Caribbean, the eighth prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, joined an exclusive group of women to have led governments in their respective countries. Mottley has been involved in politics since 1991, and she has been a trailblazer in a number of positions. She was the first woman to be appointed attorney general and minister of home affairs in 2001, the youngest ever queen’s counsel in Barbados, and the first female opposition leader in 2008.
Events to Watch in June
June will feature three important contests. Colombia will conclude its presidential election process with a runoff round on June 17. Taking place more than a year early, Turkey will hold general elections on June 24. The snap election will determine both the president and parliamentary makeup for the Turkish government and has been characterized as an attempt to consolidate power for Recep Erdogan and his AK party. Finally, Slovenia will hold a parliamentary election on June 3 following the resignation of incumbent prime minister Miro Cerar.