Election roundup time

One national election this weekend, and an advance look at four others.

Albania

Albanians vote tomorrow in a general election that is tipped to bring the opposition Socialist Party to power. The previous election, in 2009, left parliament evenly divided; the incumbent centre-right Democratic Party of prime minister Sali Berisha was able to retain office by doing a deal with the Socialist Movement for Integration, a small breakaway party from the Socialists.

Voting is by proportional representation in twelve multi-member constituencies of varying sizes, for a total of 140 MPs. Past elections have been marred by violence and corruption, so Albania desperately needs a clean and credible poll this time to further its application for European Union membership.

The Financial Times report on the election is particularly good; you can also read about it at AFP and the Washington Post. As the latter remarks, “surveys are not generally considered reliable in Albania,” but there seems to be a general view that Socialist leader Edi Rama is better placed. Results of some sort are expected on Monday.

Mongolia

Mongolia holds its presidential election on Wednesday, with centre-right incumbent Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj being challenged by two other candidates – one from the centre-left opposition and one from the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, which improbably enough is a junior coalition partner of the centre-right.

Mongolia has a parliamentary system so the president’s role is mostly ceremonial, but elections are nonetheless keenly contested. Turnout last time was 73.6%. Elbegdorj is favored to win a second term.

Kuwait

Kuwait is heading to the polls on 25 July, its sixth parliamentary election in seven years. The previous election, in December, was boycotted by the opposition in protest against a new voting system that it said worked against it. The Constitutional Court last week rejected a challenge to the new electoral law, but confusingly invalidated the elections held under it. It’s reported that at least some of the opposition forces will boycott this election as well.

As in other Arab monarchies, Kuwait’s rulers are trying to liberalise enough to forestall revolution but without giving up real power. The emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, is in theory a constitutional monarch, but his family hold most of the key positions in government.

Mali

Following the successful French intervention earlier this year against fundamentalist rebels in the country’s north, Mali’s government has signed a peace deal with Tuareg separatists that is supposed to pave the way for elections on 28 July. The separatists and the fundamentalists started as allies but fell out last year.

The deal allows government forces to return to Kidal, the main separatist town, but otherwise does little to address the issues dividing the two sides. The Tuaregs want independence or at least autonomy for the north, which they call “Azawad”. The fate of that project will have to be addressed by the new democratic government.

Zimbabwe

President Robert Mugabe earlier this week set Zimbabwe’s election for Wednesday 31 July, the deadline given by the Constitutional Court. But he’s now changed his mind, and asked the court to agree to a two week extension, to 14 August.

Prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai had complained that the earlier decision was unconstitutional and that Zimbabwe needs more time to put revised election procedures in place – particularly with regard to access to the state broadcaster, which has a history of favoring Mugabe’s party. Zimbabwe’s neighbors had echoed his concerns and also called for a postponement. Unusually for him, the president seems to have listened.

Mugabe, who is running for re-election, is 89; it is reasonable to think that this will be the final episode in the long-running duel between him and Tsvangirai. Their power-sharing accord, implemented following the 2008 election, has held up better than most people expected and has at least kept Zimbabwe solvent and relatively peaceful, but the two remain bitter enemies.

It’s generally thought that Tsvangirai would win a fair election; despite the delay and the approval of a new constitution, it is by no means clear that this year’s will fit that description.

 

 

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