International Elections and Leaders: May 2018 Update

Serzh Sargsyan resigns following mass protests against his transition from president to prime minister of Armenia following a controversial 2015 referendum that changed the governing structure of that country’s political system.

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 also provide monthly election coverage and track leadership changes in a series of updates called “International Elections and Leaders.”

International Elections

In Costa Rica, the conclusion of a run-off election round resulted in a victory for Carlos Alvarado Quesada. The contest between the center-left candidate and the conservative Fabricio Alvarado was characterized by a focus on how Costa Rica should move forward with a social policy concerning same-sex marriage rights. Quesada’s victory means that the Citizen’s Action Party will retain incumbency over Costa Rica’s highest office. In South America, Paraguay concluded their general election in one round. Mario Abdo Benitez of the conservative Colorado party secured his first term as president. Like his Costa Rican counter-part, Benitez’s victory keeps his party in control of the executive branch.

In Europe, Hungary concluded their parliamentary election with a victory for the incumbent Fidesz-KDNP alliance led by Viktor Orban, who retains his position as prime minister. Orban’s victory has come under some scrutiny from western democracies due to allegations surrounding the unfair use of governmental power to reshape electoral politics in Hungary. In Azerbaijan, a presidential election held on April 11th resulted in the reelection of incumbent Ilham Aliyev. Aliyev’s focus on stability and steady economic growth made him a popular political figure in Azerbaijan, and likely assured his eventual electoral victory.

New Leaders

In Africa, three new leaders took the helm of their respective political systems. In Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi was sworn in as the fifth president of Botswana. Masisi’s ascension followed the retirement of incumbent president Ian Khama and may have important impacts on domestic economic and social policy. In Ethiopia, a resolution to resignation of incumbent Hailemariam Desalegn’s resignation has taken place. Abiye Ahmed was elected as Ethiopia’s new prime minister following a nomination by the country’s ruling coalition. While it is early to speculate on the changes that Ahmed will bring, his mixed-religious heritage and reputation as a reformer may help to reshape the political landscape of his country. In Sierra Leone, Julius Maada Bio has begun his first term as president. Bio, who defeated the Samura Kamara and the ruling All People’s Congress, was once part of a military coup that arrested power from Valentine Strasser. Bio led the country under a military junta in 1996 before stepping down for an elected leader.  He has since apologized for his role for his participation in past coups, and now returns as a freely elected leader.

In Europe, San Marino has chosen its pair of Captains Regent for the next six months. Stefano Palmieri and Matteo Ciacci will serve as twin executives for the political enclave until two new regents are chosen in October of this year. In Eurasia, Armenia experienced a sudden resignation of incumbent leader Serzh Sargsyan. This came after massive protests against the continuation of Sargsyan’s rule as he transitioned from president to prime minister. Following Sargsyan’s presidency and the passage of a controversial constitutional referendum in 2015, the country transitioned from a semi-presidential system to a parliamentary republic. Sargsyan was guaranteed the prime minister post following the electoral victory of his Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) in the 2017 parliamentary elections. Opposition leaders accused him and the RPA of attempting to retain one-party control over Armenia and of attempting to bypass term-limits. Now that Sargsyan has resigned, Karen Karapetyan re-assumes his position as prime minister, albeit with significantly more power than during his previous tenure.

Events to Watch in May

Five elections are expected to take place in the month of May. Barbados is scheduled to host its general election in this month, but has yet to set a date for polling day. Colombia will hold its presidential election on May 27th, with incumbent Juan Manuel Santos ineligible to run due to term limits. If no candidate receives a majority of votes in the first round, a second round between the top two contenders will take place on June 17th. In Iraq, a parliamentary election will take place on May 12th. Originally scheduled for September of last year, Iraq’s election was delayed due to events surrounding the conclusion of the Iraqi Civil War and the battle against ISIS.  In Lebanon, a general election is scheduled to take place on May 6th.  It was scheduled to take place in 2013, but has been delayed a number of times due to political deadlock concerning domestic politics and the Syrian civil war.

Looking ahead, two events are worth keeping an eye on. First, Italy has yet to choose a new prime minister. The Eurosceptic Five Star Movement and a coalition of right-wing parties have failed to agree on a power sharing agreement. The center-right alliance has accused the Five Star Movement of attempting to exploit fault lines in the relationship between the far-right Lega Nord and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party. In Turkey, president Erdogan announced an early schedule for both parliamentary and presidential elections. As a result, elections will take place almost a year before they were originally planned. Opposition critics have accused Erdogan of attempting to use the snap election announcement as a way to consolidate power for his ruling AK party.   


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