March – May, 2021

India, Five State Assembly Elections and Various Local Elections

Elections in four Indian states (West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala) and one union territory (Puducherry) begin on March 27 and will conclude on May 2. These elections, involving 180 million voters, will be a key test for the national parties, but regional parties also play a big role. Meanwhile, farmers protests continue in and around New Delhi, and India is experiencing a massive COVID-19 outbreak.

In West Bengal, a former communist stronghold that has been led by Mamata Banerjee from the center-left Trinamool Congress party – currently the only female Indian state leader – for the last 10 years, a massive campaign push from Narendra Modi‘s BJP did not lead to a win. Banerjee will remain chief minister and Trinamool Congress won two-thirds of the seats. However, BJP jumped from three seats to 77 in the 294 seat legislature.

In Tamil Nadu, the leftist regional opposition party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) defeated BJP’s regional allies, the India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). The incoming chief minister is one M.K. Stalin (who was in fact named after Joseph Stalin). Meanwhile, in Puducherry, Congress Party (India’s main national opposition party) suffered its worst defeat in a long time, winning only two seats. BJP’s regional ally AINRC won the most seats and will form the government – the first time BJP allies have led Puducherry.

In the other two states, incumbents remain in power. In Assam, BJP held its majority. In Kerala, the leftist coalition will remain. More

April 4, 2021

Bulgaria Parliamentary Elections: Fragmented parliament, new elections possible

Bulgaria held parliamentary elections on April 4, 2021. PM Boyko Borissov’s center-right GERB won the most seats, but lost ground and failed to win a majority. New parties running against the establishment did surprisingly well – in fact,  a party called There Is Such a People, led by TV star Stanislav Trifonov, came in second and has ruled out forming a coalition with GERB. Trifonov’s main platform was anti-corruption – indeed, corruption was the biggest issue in the election. In total, six parties won seats, producing a fragmented parliament.

Borissov has taken himself out of the running to continue as prime minister. If none of the parties are able to form a government, the country will hold new elections. More

April 6, 2021

Greenland Snap Parliamentary Elections: Left-wing green opposition wins, on anti-mining platform

Greenland held snap parliamentary elections on April 6, 2021 after the government coalition fractured following disagreements over a China-backed rare earth minerals mining project at Kvanefjeld in the south. The long-dominant Siumut (Forward), which backed the project, lost to the left-wing green Inuit Ataqatigiit, which opposes the mine.

Greenland remains part of Denmark but has autonomy over domestic policy, although there is growing support for eventual independence. In these elections, pro-independence parties increased their vote share. More

April 7, 2021

South Korea Mayoral By-Elections in Seoul and Busan: Conservative opposition wins both cities, a year ahead of presidential polls

Both Seoul and Busan held special elections for mayor on April 7 because the former mayor of Seoul died and the former mayor of Busan stepped down in the face of sexual harassment allegations. The conservative opposition won the special mayoral elections in Seoul and Busan by a landslide, just a year after President Moon Jae-in‘s center-left Democratic Party (Minjoo Party) swept the legislature. The elections are a key test for the center-left government and conservative opposition ahead of next year’s presidential election.

April 9, 2021

Djibouti Presidential Election: Incumbent Guelleh wins amid opposition boycott

The strategically-important republic of Djibouti held a presidential election on April 9, 2021. Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, who has been president since 1999, won amid opposition boycotts and protests.

Djibouti’s strategic location on the Bab el-Mandeb – the strait linking the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea – make it prime real estate for military bases and ports. The United States, Japan, France, and Italy have had bases there for a long time, and now China has one as well (its first overseas base). Under Guelleh, Djibouti has been moving closer to China – in fact, China has acquired most of Djibouti’s sovereign debt.  More

Samoa Parliamentary Elections: Parliament is deadlocked, new elections possible

Samoa held parliamentary elections April 9, 2021, and the parliament remains deadlocked. A new opposition party, Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST, “Faith in the one true God”), won half of the seats, while the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), which has been in power since 1982, won the other half. The one independent MP decided to join FAST, breaking the tie, but then HRPP was given an additional seat in order to make sure it conformed to gender quotas. Thus the stalemate continues.

These elections happened in the context of controversy over proposed changes to the county’s constitutional framework and judiciary, involving questions of Samoan identity. Similar to other Pacific nations, China has sought to ramp up its presence and influence in Samoa. This increased presence poses risks for democracies in the region. More

April 10, 2021

Maldives Local Elections: April 10, 2021: Incumbent MDP wins a majority of seats but loses Malé mayorship

Maldives held local elections for April 10, 2021, following a delay due to COVID-19. Voters will elect island, atoll, and city councils to three-year terms. The country was under a brutal dictatorship for decades, but began a remarkable transition to democracy in 2008. The road to democracy has been somewhat rocky, but Maldivian democrats persevere. The current governing party, the center-right Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which led the pro-democracy movement, won the most seats, but lost the mayoral election in the capital, Malé – usually an MDP stronghold.

Maldives occupies a strategic location in the Indian Ocean. As such, it has become a flashpoint for Sino-Indian competition. MDP favors closer relations with India, while the opposition PPM sought to move closer to China when it was in power (including incurring significant debt to China). Meanwhile, the United States is deepening its involvement, both militarily and politically. More

April 11, 2021 – “Super Sunday”

Peru General Elections: Right-wing populist Keiko Fujimori will face socialist Pedro Castillo in June runoff amid widespread discontent

Peru held general elections for April 11, 2021. These elections are coming on the heels of snap legislative elections that took place on January 26, 2020, and in the context of political turmoil – including the impeachment of President Martín Vizcarra and the subsequent “week of three presidents” – and an economic crisis brought on by COVID-19. 

The presidential runoff on June 6 will pit socialist Pedro Castillo against right-wing populist Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, who is currently in prison for various crimes (Keiko is also currently facing criminal charges). Castillo came out of nowhere to win the first round. However, none of the 18 candidates received more votes than the number of blank ballots cast – a sign of voters’ deep frustration.  More

Moreover, due to the turmoil, Peru’s Freedom House rating declined from Free to Partly Free in 2021. More

Ecuador Presidential Runoff: Conservative Lasso pulls out a surprise victory, defeating left-wing populist Correa’s protege

Ecuador held a presidential runoff on April 11, 2021. Conservative Guillermo Lasso, who edged out indigenous activist Yaku Pérez for a spot in the runoff, surprised many by decisively defeating left-wing economist Andrés Arauz, a protege of former president Rafael Correa (himself barred from running after being convicted of corruption). More

Correa was a fiery left-wing populist who governed in an authoritarian manner, and it was not until 2017 that his successor, Lenin Moreno, set the country on a more democratic path. Arauz promised to return to Correa’s populist policies, whereas Lasso called for strengthening liberal democracy and implementing market reforms. More

Bolivia Local Election Runoffs: Evo Morales’s Socialists lose ground

Bolivia held regional and municipal elections on March 7, 2021, plus four gubernatorial runoffs on April 11.

These elections followed a rerun of the 2019 annulled general elections that took place on October 18, 2020 in which socialist Luis Arce won the presidency. Leftist firebrand Evo Morales has returned to the country to lead his party, although apparently not every member of his party loves him.

In this year’s elections, opposition candidates won the mayoral elections in 8 out of 10 of Bolivia’s biggest cities in the first round. Moreover, opposition candidates won all four runoffs on April 11 – a major blow to Morales and the Socialists. These elections happened amid political tension over the arrest of former interim president Jeanine Anez. More

Chad Presidential Election

Chad held a presidential election on April 11, 2021. President Idriss Déby, seized power in a rebellion in 1990, won a sixth term. However, on April 20, hours after being officially declared the winner of the latest election, he was killed by rebels.

Although the country holds elections, there has never been a change in power by a free or fair vote. Long-delayed long-delayed parliamentary elections had been set for October 24, 2021 and local elections for April 2022. Originally due in 2015, the legislative elections have been delayed multiple times. However, the military has said it plans to rule the country for 18 months, and it dissolved parliament and the civilian government. Some have said these moves effectively amount to a coupMore

Benin Presidential Election

Benin held a presidential election on April 11, 2021. Incumbent Patrice Talon won a second term after largely keeping the opposition off the ballot. Previously a model democracy in the region,  Benin has seen democratic decline since Talon’s election in 2016. 

Although 20 potential candidates sought ballot access for the presidential election, Talon only faced two challengers: Alassane Soumano from FCBE (the only opposition party that did not boycott the 2020 local elections) and independent candidate Corentin Kohoue. Opposition figures alleged that the vote was rigged heavily in favor of Talon. Meanwhile, a crackdown on online media further reduced the political space. More

Kyrgyzstan Local Elections and Constitutional Referendum

Kyrgyzstan held local elections on April 11, along with a constitutional referendum, following political turmoil in October 2020 and a snap presidential election in January 2021. The new constitution, which passed, grants the president vastly expanded powers. Its critics have dubbed it the “Khanstitution.” The political climate was tense heading into the October 2020 parliamentary elections. It subsequently exploded following said elections. More

Bangladesh Local Elections, Phase 5

Bangladesh has been holding municipal elections in phases for the past few months. The fifth and final phase happened April 11. The country held general elections to the Jatiya Sangsad (parliament) in December 2018 amid political violence and harassment of the opposition. The Awami League (AL) has been in power since 2009 and is becoming increasingly authoritarian. More

Tibet Government-in-Exile Presidential Runoff: April 11, 2021

Tibetans in exile around the world cast their ballots for Sikyong, the president of the Central Tibetan Administration (the formal name of the government-in-exile), which is headquartered in Dharamshala, India. The first round, with eight candidates, was in January, alongside legislative elections. In the second round, former speaker of the Tibetan government-in-exile Penpa Tsering defeated Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang, the Dalai Lama’s representative to North America.

Tibet itself is currently ruled by China and is among the least free countries in the world. However, Tibetans have been developing a democratic system in exile.

 

April 12, 2021

Canada, Yukon Territorial Elections

Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories all hold provincial and municipal elections at different times. Yukon held territorial elections on April 12, following a rather turbulent Newfoundland and Labrador provincial election in March. The Yukon elections resulted in a tie, and the incumbent Liberals and left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP) reached an agreement to govern together (although they stopped short of a formal coalition), thus averting a new election.

Moreover, snap federal elections are possible if the opposition manages to oust PM Justin Trudeau’s Liberal minority government in a vote of no confidence. More

April 14, 2021

Cayman Islands Parliamentary Elections

The Cayman Islands – an autonomous British Overseas Territory – holds parliamentary elections on April 14. The two major parties are the center-left Progressives and the center-right Cayman Islands People’s Party. These elections happened a month early, which is somewhat controversial.

April 18, 2021

Cabo Verde Parliamentary Elections

Cabo Verde, a stable democracy with regular elections and peaceful transfers of power, held parliamentary elections on April 18, 2021 and a presidential election on October 17, 2021. These follow local elections, which took place on October 25, 2020. 

The incumbent center-right Movement for Democracy (MpD) defeated the main opposition socialist African Party of Independence of Cabo Verde (PAICV). PAICV ran the country as a one-party state until 1990, but since then, both PAICV and MpD have won elections. While PAICV advocates closer links with China, and has a party-to-party relationship with the Chinese Communist Party, MpD has sought to move the country closer to the U.S., Europe, and NATO. More

April 25, 2021

Albania Parliamentary Elections

Albania held parliamentary elections on April 25, 2021 amid tension and polarization. The incumbent Socialist Party defeated the main opposition center-right Democratic Party in a tight vote, giving Prime Minister Edi Rama a third term in office. These elections happened in the context of Albania’s bid to join the EU, to which it applied in 2009 (while joining NATO). It was not until March 2020 that formal accession negotiations got a formal greenlight, and talks continue. More

Bhutan Local Elections: April 28, 2021

Bhutan held local elections in the capital, Thimphu, as well as the towns of Gelegphu and Phuentsholing, on April 28, 2021. These were the country’s third set of local elections (called Thromde elections). While Bhutan remains a constitutional monarchy, it has made progress toward greater democratization in recent years. Meanwhile, Bhutan vaccinated nearly all of its adult population against COVID-19 in under two weeks with AstraZeneca doses received from India.

Voting in Kyrgyzstan. Photo credit: Flickr/OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Updated May 4, 2021

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