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International Elections and Leaders: October 2019 Update

Gantz and Israeli Elections
Benny Gantz, Blue and White leader gives a statement at Blue and White Party post-election meeting on September 19, 2019 in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Photo by Amir Levy/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.

This update provides a quick overview of electoral and leadership changes for the previous month.

International Elections

Four elections to determine the new chief executive took place in September.

Asia

Afghanistan held its presidential election on September 28th. The electoral contest took place in the backdrop of a breakdown in the peace talks between the United States and the Taliban. Violence has perennially plagued Afghan elections. Taliban policy is to reject elections outright and turnout for this year’s vote was a historical low of just 25 percent.  Low turnout was attributed to a fear of violence and the closing of thousands of voting stations due to violence or threats of violence. Adding to the confusion, front runners Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah have both claimed a first-round victory even though an official outcome will not be announced until mid-October. Keep an eye on Afghanistan over the next two weeks as the electoral commission makes its final certification.

Tuvalu held a general election on September 9th. Incumbent prime minister Enele Sopoaga retained his constituent seat but lost the prime ministership to Kausea Natano following a parliamentary vote. The result will be of interest to those looking at geo-political issues in the Asia-Pacific region when it comes to Taiwan. Taiwan’s historical partnerships with small island nations has been recently tested and there is a sense that Natano may not follow in his predecessor’s footsteps when it comes to recognition of Taiwan over China.

Middle East and North Africa

Tunisia held a much-anticipated presidential election on September 15th. No candidate won enough to achieve a first-round victory, but the results were surprising. The religious Ennahda Movement fielded a presidential candidate for the first time but was unable to reach the second round. Kais Saied, a lawyer and professor, came in first with 18 percent of the vote while populist candidate and businessman Nabil Karoui came in second with 15 percent of the vote. Both candidates achieved success by directly confronting what they see as the entrenched political elite. Regardless, the election’s second round will also likely prove to be controversial. Saied is widely expected to beat Karoui, but Karoui and his supporters have vowed to contest a Saied victory. Karoui, who is currently held in jail on tax evasion charges, has alleged unfair treatment and the narrative coming from his supporters has become increasingly militant. It will be important to keep an eye on Tunisia as the second round approaches this month.

Israel held a second legislative election on September 17th following an inconclusive election earlier this year. However, this election has done little to solve the political deadlock between incumbent Netanyahu’s Likud party and opposition challengers Kahol Lavan (Blue-White). Netanyahu, who faces a potential criminal indictment, was given the first attempt to form a coalition government. Netanyahu is unlikely to achieve his mandate though and has even come under increasing pressure from his own party. Benny Gantz, the leader of Kahol Lavan has also become increasingly vocal about their ability to form a liberal unity government and has begun to publicly challenge Netanyahu during his mandate period.

A third election is seen as unpalatable across both the electorate and MK members alike, but if the current state of negotiations hold it may result in having to hold a third contest to form a government in Israel.

Europe

Austria held a snap legislative election on September 29th.  The election is the first held since the “Ibiza affair” scandal that rocked the Austrian political landscape. The results of the election were damning for the far-right Freedom Party of Austria as their vote share fell 10 percent resulting in a third place position behind the center-right Austrian People’s Party (37 percent) and the center-left Social Democratic Party (21 percent). Former chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the People’s Party is set to regain his chancellorship but will still need to form a coalition government. Who the potential coalition partner(s) will be is difficult to predict, as Kurz has expressed a desire to try and work with every major party. However, it is unlikely that he partners with the Freedom Party again as far-right leaders have indicated a desire to sit with the opposition this time around.

New Leaders

Two new leaders took power in the month of September.

As indicated above, Kausea Natano replaced incumbent prime minister Enele Sopoaga as leader of Tuvalu following their general election.

A leadership change also took place in Georgia. Giorgi Gakharia took over the prime ministership on September 8th following the voluntary resignation of Mamuka Bakhtadze. Gakharia is a controversial figure in Georgian politics due to his close ties to Russia and a recent crackdown on anti-Russia protesters in the capital Tbilisi. Opposition members have called for Gakharia’s resignation and have accused the ruling Georgian Dream party of being too soft on Russian interference in the nation’s political landscape.

Elections to Watch in October

October is set to be a busy month for national elections around the globe. Elections will take place in the following countries: Kosovo (Oct 6), Argentina (Oct 27), Bolivia (Oct 20), Botswana (Oct 23), Canada (Oct 21), Mozambique (Oct 15), Switzerland (Oct 20), Tunisia (Oct 13) and Uruguay (Oct 27).


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