REIGN Dataset: December 2016 Updates

Michel Aaon returning from exile in 2005; photo by Rabih

The Rulers, Elections, and Irregular Governance (REIGN) Dataset describes political conditions in every country each and every month. The dataset is used to create CoupCast and other research projects. We regularly update the dataset and summarize recent changes. The newest version of REIGN is always available here.

New Leaders

Four countries completed leader transitions last month – all by very different processes. Two transitions occurred in unique political systems that are specifically designed to divide power among elites from different ethnic groups. Another leader fell as the result of a no confidence vote. The only transition caused by a direct popular election was marred by coup allegations.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is governed by the world’s only three-person presidency. Every four years citizens elect a Bosniak, Croat, and Serb to formally rotate the chairmanship of the presidency every eight months. This month, power shifted from Bakir Izerbegović (Bosniak) to Mladen Ivanić (Serb).  Ivanić, who is now serving as chairman of the presidency for the second time, is scheduled to hold power until July 2017.

Whereas the triumvirate in Bosnia and Herzegovina has remained stable for years, the power-sharing arrangement in Lebanon has been much more tumultuous. Maronite, Sunni, and Shia elites abide by an informal National Pact that assigns the country’s major political offices to members of specific groups. The legislature, which must be divided between Christians and Muslims at a 6:5 ratio, must elect a Maronite president with a two-thirds majority. The speaker must be a Shiite Muslim, but the prime minister must be Sunni. Predictably, this arrangement has generated extensive deadlock. The Lebanese parliament failed to elect a president more than forty times over a two-year period before finally agreeing on Michel Aoun, a former president and general.

Montenegro’s October election produced a new prime minister, but only after coup allegations and foreign interference undermined the vote. Incumbent Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, a strong supporter of Montenegrin membership in NATO and the European Union, accused Russian and Serbian assassins of plotting to undermine the election and drive the country into Russia’s sphere of influence. The ruling Democratic Party of Socialists held power and, after some coalition-building, was able to place Dusko Markovic in power. Markovic is a close ally of the outgoing prime minister.

Finally, in Estonia, Prime Minister Taavi Roivas was forced to resign after a no confidence vote at the beginning of November. His coalition was replaced by a new coalition supporting Juri Ratas of the Center Party, which the Western media have linked to Russia. Ratas was confirmed as the new Prime Minister on 23 November.

Election Events

November was an extremely busy month on the global election calendar. The presidential election in the United States (8 November) should prove to be the most consequential of these contests. The incumbent Democratic Party, represented by Hillary Clinton, suffered a surprising defeat. Republican Donald Trump will be inaugurated in January.

Incumbent presidents were reelected in presidential elections in Palau (1 November) and Nicaragua (6 November). Both contests featured unusual family dynamics. The president and vice president of Nicaragua will be husband and wife, respectively. Palau’s president held power by defeating his own brother-in-law.

Parliamentary elections in San Marino (20 November) gave the incumbent party another victory. The contest will not cause a leader change, as San Marino swore in its Captains Regent just last month.

We were able to add the results of Montenegro’s general elections (16 October) and Ivory Coast’s referendum on expanding presidential power (29 October). The incumbent parties prevailed in both contests.

Recent elections have also produced several developing situations that have yet to be resolved. The outcome of Iceland’s October election remains uncertain because the leading parties have failed to assemble a governing coalition. Somalia’s indirect presidential election (30 November) was delayed once again. It is now scheduled to occur sometime in December. Haiti’s long-delayed presidential election occurred on 20 November, but preliminary results have yet to be released.

Finally, we added two relevant referendums for December in Italy (4 December) and Kyrgyzstan (11 December). Italy’s referendum, if approved, would amend the constitution to strengthen the federal government and the executive. Kyrgyzstan’s referendum is explicitly aimed at strengthening the executive.


This month we thoroughly reviewed our coding of the Caribbean and added three leaders who were overlooked in the previous edition of the dataset. First, in Saint Lucia we added incumbent Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, who has held power since June 2016. We also added two leaders who very briefly served during transitional periods: Ramfis Trujillo immediately after his father’s assassination in the Dominican Republic (1961) and Paul Scoon during the short U.S. occupation of Grenada (1983).

We also removed Nigmatilla Yuldashev because he served in Uzbekistan for less than one week in September 2016. We replaced him with Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who has held power since early September.

And last, we removed two coups in Haiti from the coup list. After a careful reading of the cases, we decided that the events that led to the ousters of Paul Magloire (December 1956) and Jean-Claude Duvalier (February 1986) are better described as popular protests/uprisings.

Looking Ahead to December

We are continuing to watch coalition-building processes in Iceland and Bulgaria. Two long-delayed presidential elections should reach some resolution in Haiti and Somalia. In the first two weeks of the month we will see new elections and referendums in The Gambia, Uzbekistan, Italy, Ghana, Macedonia, and Kyrgyzstan.

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