This is a big weekend for elections.
For lots of curated news and views, plus retweets from people on the ground in Ukraine, Japan, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, and Belize, follow us on Twitter.
If you just one to read one article about each of the elections taking place this weekend, here are our picks.
Ukraine Parliamentary – Amy Mackinnon and Robbie Gramer, Foreign Policy: “Once Again, Ukraine Steps Into the Unknown”
Japan Upper House – Jada Nagumo, Nikkei Asian Review: “Five things to know about Japan’s upper house election”
Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa partial provincial (in the areas that used to be the FATA) – The Economist: “Pakistan’s borderlands at last win a say in their own administration”
Papua New Guinea Local – Radio New Zealand: “PNG MPs urged to show leadership during local elections” (for overall political context) and AFP: “Papua New Guinea to boost security after mass killing escalates tribal war” (recent developments)
Belize Village Councils – Wellington C. Ramos, Caribbean News Now: “Commentary: Village council, town board and city council elections in Belize without autonomy and local government reform has no real significance”
Freedom House Rating: Partly Free – Government Type: Federal Parliamentary Republic
Twenty-one seats out of total 145 seats in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Provincial Assembly are up for election on July 20. The seats are for constituencies that were previously part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which merged with KP in 2018 (KP was called the Northwest Frontier Province until 2010). Since FATA did not have a provincial assembly, this marks the first time that voters in those areas will vote for provincial representatives.
Freedom House Rating: Free – Government Type: Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy
124 out of the 245 seats in the House of Councillors, the upper house of the bicameral National Diet, are up for election, for six-year terms. Shinzo Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) seeks to gain a two-thirds majority in the upper house (which it already holds in the lower house with coalition partner Komeito, a Buddhist religious party) in order to revisit and possibly amend Japan’s pacifist constitution. Some had speculated that Abe would also call a snap election to the lower house to be held concurrently (otherwise, lower house elections are not due until 2021), but that Abe dismissed the idea. Nationwide local elections in April saw low turnout and little competition – more than 20 percent of seats were uncontested. Provincial gubernatorial elections are also happening throughout the year. Recent concerns over Japan’s pension systems looked set to threaten Abe’s grip on power, but his government won a no-confidence motion in the lower house and currently looks stable.
Freedom House Rating: Free – Government Type: Parliamentary Democracy under a Constitutional Monarchy (a Commonwealth realm)
Belize is dominated by two parties: Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s center-right United Democratic Party, which has been in government since 2008, and the center-left People’s United Party (PUP), which played a major role in negotiating Belize’s independence and dominated politics until the 1980s. Belize has general elections coming up in November 2020.
Freedom House Rating: Partly Free – Government Type: Semi-Presidential Republic
Actor and comedian Volodymyr Zelensky beat incumbent Petro Poroshenko in the March presidential election. Zelensky dissolved the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) and called for snap elections (parliamentary elections were originally supposed to take place in October this year). In addition to entrenched corruption and economic difficulties, Ukraine remains at war with Russian-backed separatists in the east. Policy debate largely centers on Russia, which has been ramping up aggression.
Zelensky is new to politics, so his Servant of the People party does not currently have any seats in the Rada, but will be running candidates in the parliamentary polls with a hope of securing a majority. He is running a list exclusively of candidates who have never served in the Rada before. Poroshenko’s bloc won the most seats in the 2014 parliamentary elections, judged by observers to be competitive and credible, but because elections could not take place in Crimea and parts of Donbas, only 423 out of 450 seats were filled. The pro-Russian Opposition Bloc only won 29 seats, and support for pro-Moscow politicians has declined in the face of Russian aggression.
Freedom House Rating: Partly Free – Government Type: Parliamentary Democracy under a Constitutional Monarchy (a Commonwealth realm)
Papua New Guinea’s politics are chaotic, and no single party has ever commanded a majority in parliament. Coalitions shift frequently. James Marape became prime minister in May 2018 when former prime minister Peter O’Neill lost a no-confidence vote after being in power for eight years. It is unclear whether Marape will effectively address Papua New Guinea’s continuing problems of corruption and mismanagement of the economy. For the local elections, voters will elect representatives to 29 urban and 302 rural local level government assemblies.
Ballot boxes in Kyiv during Ukraine’s 2014 parliamentary elections.
Photo credit: Flickr/OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (CC BY-SA 2.0)