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International Elections and Leaders: September 2017 Update

Kenya Elections
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga waves at supporters as he leaves the Supreme Court September 1, 2017. Photo credit: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

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

This month, for the first time in Africa, a court voided an election of a sitting leader. In Kenya, results of a contentious presidential vote that was won by Uhuru Kenyatta, a sitting president with 54% of the vote, were annulled by the Supreme Court. A new election has to be held within 60 days, giving long-standing opposition leader Raila Odinga another chance at the presidency.

Elections also took place in Rwanda and Angola. Paul Kagame was reelected for a third term in Rwanda. The election in Angola brought to power Joao Lourenco, who is likely to continue in the footsteps of the previous president Jose Eduardo Dos Santos. Dos Santos resigned after 38 years in power but remained the leader of the ruling MPLA party.

In September, we will be watching how events unfold during elections in Norway and New Zealand, as well as continuing to monitor coalition-building in Kosovo.

International Elections

In a presidential election in Rwanda, incumbent Paul Kagame won 99% of the vote with a turnout of 98.2%. A constitutional amendment approved by 98% of the voters in 2016 removed presidential term limitations, allowing Kagame to run for a third seven-year term in this election, as well as potentially stay in power for many more years.

The election has been predictable from the start. The current administration has long stiffed the political opposition, resulting in a lack of other viable candidates in the election. Kagame also remains extremely popular among large swaths of the population, as someone who transformed Rwanda  “from the post-genocide depths into a beacon of African prosperity and stability.”

A much more contentious race took place in Kenya. According to official results, incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta defeated Raila Odinga by winning 54% of the vote. However, in an unprecedented turn of events, the Supreme Court invalidated the election after Odinga formally challenged the results, claiming the vote was rigged. Election violence and opposition protests erupted throughout the country, resulting in the death of at least 25 people. The court will release the full written ruling within 60 days explaining its decision. It is suggested that the decision was made based on the discrepancies between manual and electronic count results.  New elections have to be held within 60 days.

A parliamentary election took place in Angola as well. According to the constitution, the winning party gets to choose the president of the country. The MPLA party headed by Dos Santos retained its absolute majority in parliament. However, incumbent Dos Santos did not run in the election after 38 years in power. The MPLA’s president-elect, Joao Lourenco, will be inaugurated on September 21.

Said to be one of the only Angolan politicians not involved in any corruption allegations or scandals, Laurenco has announced a fight against corruption in Angola. However, his ability to execute on this promise has been put into question. Dos Santos will remain the head of the MPLA party, meaning that Lourenco’s independent decision making authority might be compromised. Despite a formal change in presidential leadership, Joao Lourenco is likely to be a president of continuity.

New Leaders

A new Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, has been elected by parliament in Pakistan.  Previous Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigned at the end of July following a decision by the country's Supreme Court to disqualify him from office over corruption allegations. However, Abbasi is not expected to stay in office for long. He will likely be replaced by Sharif’s chosen successor as leader of the Pakistan Muslim League Party.

Peter O’Neill was reelected to be the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea in parliament after a parliamentary election in June and July brought his party to victory.

Events to Watch in September

Kosovo remains without a government since the snap election in June. The parliament must first elect a speaker, at which point the president can give the winning party a mandate to form a government. However, speaker selection has failed for five times in a row. The winning PDK-led coalition has secured 60 out of 120 votes in parliament, and needs at least one more supporter to be able to elect a speaker and move forward with a formation of government.

Two parliamentary elections are set to take place in September. Norway will go to the polls on September 11 and New Zealand on September 23. Current polls suggest a win for the conservatives in Norway. For New Zealand, the election will be a test of confidence in Bill English, who was selected to be Prime Minister by his party in 2016 after John Key resigned from his post.

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