REIGN Dataset: February 2017 Updates

Newly Elected President Adama Barrow Returns to Gambia - Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

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

January had an empty election calendar and we recorded no new elections or referendums. However, we saw multiple long-running political crises resolve this month.

The Gambia went through its first peaceful democratic leader transition. A new coalition formed in Iceland after months of talks.  Finally, official presidential election results were announced in Haiti after an almost two year-long electoral process.  

However, uncertainty still looms large in Macedonia and Bulgaria, both of which are governed by interim prime ministers. We are also continuing to watch Somalia, which postponed its presidential election for the fifth time.

A couple of other countries also appeared on our radar this month. We coded the announcement of a constitutional referendum in Turkey and a leadership change in Mauritius. Turkey’s referendum is set to significantly strengthen the president and effectively transform its governance from a parliamentary to a presidential system.  

Crises Resolved

In The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh stepped down after 22 years as president, marking the country’s first peaceful transition of power. In a December election that shocked the world, Jammeh lost the presidential bid to Adama Barrow, but initially refused to concede and transfer power. Following weeks of negotiations led by the Economic Community of West African States’ leaders and the deployment of West African troops on The Gambia’s territory, Jammeh announced his resignation on January 20.

Adama Barrow, a former businessman who won more than 43% of the vote, was inaugurated at a Gambian embassy in Senegal a day before Jammeh announced his resignation. He returned to The Gambia on January 26 and the army has pledged allegiance to the new president, abating fears of instability and armed violence.

In Haiti, the electoral commission announced long-awaited official election results. Jovenel Moise was confirmed as winner with 55.6% of the vote, well ahead of the second runner-up Jude Celestin, with 19.5%.  Moise’s inauguration is scheduled for February 7.

The transfer of power will complete an electoral cycle, which started in 2015, when a first round of the presidential elections did not produce a winner.  The second round was postponed multiple times, until a new election was eventually held in November 2016.  

Iceland announced a three-party coalition government between the Independence Party, the Regeneration Party, and the Bright Future Party after months of talks since the October parliamentary election. The coalition will hold a slim majority in parliament. The new government started on January 11 with Bjarni Benediktsson as prime minister.

Unfolding

Coalition-building has run into roadblocks in Macedonia after an early election in December. The leader of the winning incumbent conservative party and former prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, has failed to form a coalition with ethnic Albanian parties, needed to form a majority in parliament. It is now up to the president to either pass the mandate for coalition-building to the second runner-up, Zoran Zaev from the Social Democratic Party, or to call another early election.

Bulgaria is heading for an early election on March 26.  Conservative Prime Minister Boyko Borissov resigned after his party’s candidate suffered a defeat to Rumen Radev, a pro-Russian general, in the November presidential election. Radev was inaugurated in January.  He set the date for an early election and appointed Ognyan Gerdzhikov as an interim prime minister to serve until that time.

In Somalia, the presidential election was postponed once again to February 8. However, this time around, Somalia’s electoral body started registering candidates, giving observers hope that the election will proceed as planned.

Somalia just elected members of its federal parliament through an indirect vote by over 10,000 delegates. The parliament, in turn, is set to elect the president. The completion of the electoral process would be a significant breakthrough for the country, which has not had an effective central government since 1991.

New Developments

In Turkey, the parliament voted to approve 18 proposed changes to the constitution. The bill is now up for a referendum, which has to be held by the third week of April. If the public votes “yes,” the office of the prime minister will be eliminated, significantly strengthening the authority of the president.

In Mauritius, a new prime minister, Pravind Jugnauth, has taken office. He replaced his father Anerood Jugnauth, who resigned on January 21 after two years as PM.

Corrections

We added Chancellor Kern in Austria, who assumed office in May 2016.

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