International Elections and Leaders: March 2017 Update

Somali Elections
Guests at the inauguration ceremony for Somalia's newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo. AMISOM Photo/Ilyas Ahmed

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.”

After a quiet January, international elections are starting to ramp up around the world. This month, Somalia held its most extensive democratic election in the country’s history. Turkmenistan reelected a long-time ruler of the country with almost 100% of the official vote and voter turnout. The election in Ecuador did not yield a decisive victory for a leftist candidate and will go to a second round in April.

In addition, four elections will take place in March: East Timor, Bulgaria, Netherlands, and Micronesia. Another early election is also possible in Macedonia, where president Ivanov just refused to grant the newly-formed coalition a mandate to form a government. An opposition government coalition was formed between Social Democrats and ethnic Albanian parties after months of talks.

International elections in February

The long-anticipated Somalia election was held after months of delays on February 8. The election took place despite threats of disruption by al-Shebab and clan politics. For many Somalis, the election brought renewed hope for peace and better governance. 

Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, a former prime minister and dual Somali-American citizen, won 55% in an indirect vote by members of parliament. A direct one person-one vote system did not take place due to security concerns. However, the election produced a credible result and a peaceful transfer of power. The new president is supported across different clans. He has vowed to rebuild Somalia’s security forces, unify the country, and tackle corruption.

A much less noticed presidential election was held in Turkmenistan on February 12. According to official results, over 97% of voters went to the polls. The incumbent president Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov won with over 97% of the vote.  Berdymuhamedov has been in power since the death of former president Niyazov in 2007 and has maintained his predecessor’s authoritarian government.

The election was absent from the news headlines, mainly due to the predictability of electoral results.  Last year, a constitutional change extended the term of the president to seven years from five and also removed the age cap on the president, allowing Berdymuhamedov to rule until 2024 and, potentially, for many more terms in the future.

The presidential election in Ecuador will go to a second round in April. The leading candidate Lenin Moreno came under 1% short of the required 40% of votes. Endorsed by the current socialist president Correa, Moreno won 39.21% versus a candidate from the right, Guillermo Lasso with 28.34%.

In the second round the combined opposition votes could tip the victory toward the former career banker Guillermo Lasso, ending a decade of a leftist government in the country. Right-wing leaders have been recently winning elections in Latin America, including in Peru, Brazil, and Argentina.

Looking Ahead to International Elections in March

A total of four elections are scheduled to take place in March. Legislative elections will be held in Bulgaria, Netherlands, and Micronesia. A presidential election will be held in East Timor.

An early election in Bulgaria will determine the composition of the parliament and the country’s prime minister. The new leader will replace an interim PM, appointed by the president in January. The previous prime minister, Boyko Borissov, resigned last year after a candidate from his party lost the presidential election.

Micronesia will elect its 14-member parliament, which will then elect the president of the country for the next two years.

Voters in the Netherlands will elect 150 members of parliament on March 15. The far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) and its leader Geert Wilders currently lead in the polls.

The first round of the presidential election in East-Timor will be held on March 20. A second round is possible in April due to the country’s two-round electoral system, similar to that of Ecuador.

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