International Elections and Leaders: December 2019 Update

People wait outside a polling station in Bissau early on November 24, 2019, as part of the presidential election in Guinea-Bissau. Photo by JOHN WESSELS/AFP via 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

Seven elections to determine the new chief executive took place in November.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Mauritius held its general election on November 7. Incumbent prime minister Pravind Jugnauth won a second five-year term after his Militant Socialist Movement party won over 60 percent of seats in parliament. Jugnauth will use this mandate to continue reforms that aim to strengthen social welfare policies and improve Mauritius’s role as an economic bridge between Africa and Asia.

Namibia held its general election on November 27. Incumbent president Hage Geingob secured a second term after receiving 56 percent of the vote. Geingob’s SWAPO Party retained his ruling majority in parliament as well but lost supermajority status needed to amend the constitution. SWAPO will need to address growing corruption and inequality, or it may face even stronger opposition showings in future elections.

Guinea-Bissau held its first-round presidential election on November 24. As no candidate reached the 51 percent threshold, top two candidates Domingos Simões Pereira (PAIGC) and Umaro Sissoco Embaló (Madem G-15) will face off in a second round on December 29. The first round was notable for two reasons.

First, the election was declared to be orderly and peaceful. This was a welcome development given the ongoing constitutional crisis leading up to the election. Second, incumbent president José Mário Vaz failed to reach the second round of voting. Given that Vaz was the source of a number of political conflicts over the past two years, his absence from politics may provide a pathway toward resolving some of the outstanding constitutional questions the country faces.


Sri Lanka held its presidential election on November 16. Gotabaya Rajapaksa won a five-year term after receiving 52 percent of the vote. The election took place in the backdrop of a high-profile Islamic State attack, and the discourse was largely dominated by security issues.

The Marshall Islands held its general election on November 18. The results are not yet known, but the election may significantly shape Marshallese foreign policy as the United States and China vie for political influence in the island nation.


Romania held its second-round presidential election on November 24. Incumbent president Klaus Iohannis won a second five-year term after receiving 66 percent of the vote. Iohannis, a pro-EU politician, is expected to continue enacting reforms that strengthen the rule of law and judicial independence in the country while also taking on organized crime and corruption.


Uruguay held its second-round presidential election on November 24. Conservative candidate Luis Lacalle Pou won the election after narrowly edging out left-wing opponent Daniel Martínez by little more than one percentage point. Lacalle will lead the first conservative government in Uruguay in 15 years and will likely need to navigate tough political opposition if he wants to implement public spending cuts and austerity.

New Leaders

Two new leaders took power in the month of November.

Ion Chicu took over as prime minister of Moldova after Maia Sandu’s government fell to a vote of no confidence earlier in the month. Chicu will need to address an ongoing economic crisis while also navigating Russian and EU influence as Moldova seeks to find its place in the European political landscape.

As stated above, Gotabaya Rajapaksa took over as president of Sri Lanka this month. Rajapaksa’s election marks a continuation of the policies enacted by his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who led the state’s defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebellion in 2009. Observers point out that the Rajapaksas’ return to governance has the potential to open old sectarian wounds, something that was clear in the voting demographics.

While the Sinhalese majority overwhelmingly voted for Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious minorities voted for his political rival. Rajapaksa has already made controversial decisions as well. He has appointed his brother as prime minister and has prorogued parliament until January, giving him the ability to rule without opposition interference.

Given these outcomes, it is likely that Sri Lanka will see another period of strongman rule with the potential for political repression against journalists and opposition politicians.

Elections to Watch in December

December will see three national electoral events regarding leadership or political change.

Papua New Guinea concluded its Bougainville independence referendum on December 7. The United Kingdom will hold a parliamentary election on December 12. And Guinea-Bissau will hold a second-round presidential election on December 29.

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

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