Looking Ahead: Elections to Watch in 2016

Dec. 8, 2015, 4:23 p.m.

Elections to Watch in 2016

Elections – be they presidential, parliamentary or for local offices – are complex undertakings. From consolidated democracies with stable democratic institutions, to transitional ones experiencing the vote for the first or second time, elections demand immense investments of financial and human resources, require intense planning and thoughtful administration, and ultimately rely upon equitable rules to ensure fair competition among contestants.

Elections are also markers of political development and social change. Given the stakes involved, elections are often very consequential and have long-lasting significance. When conducted efficiently and administered well, they demonstrate the power of the vote and provide a basis for accountable governance. When elections go badly, they foment distrust, disorder and conflict. Every election in any country is important in its own right, yet from a global perspective certain elections each year hold greater significance or influence. The following elections demand close watching in 2016.

Iran – February 26

Legislative elections to elect Representatives to the 290-seat Majlis (Islamic Consultative Assembly, or Parliament) and the Assembly of Experts are being held simultaneously for the first time. With the Assembly of Experts responsible for appointing the next Supreme Leader, and with the health of current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in doubt, these elections will be pivotal as hardliners and reformers alike seek political advantage.

Uganda – February 28

President Yoweri Museveni seeks reelection after 30 years in office, having been elected three times since coming to power in 1986. On February 28, voters will also choose Representatives to the 238-seat National Assembly. In a departure from past elections, Museveni faces opposition from a former National Resistance Movement party stalwart, Amama Mbabazi. Election watchers across the continent expect this contest to be even more contentious than the election battle fought in 2011.

Sri Lanka – March

Following early parliamentary and presidential elections in 2015, elections to 335 Local Councils are planned for March 2016. The two main parties of the National Unity Government (the United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party) are expected to contest separately. All local authorities are currently elected using the open list proportional representation system and discussions on electoral systems reform are currently underway.

Peru – April 10

On April 10, Peruvians go to the polls to elect a new President and Representatives to the 130-seat Congress. Incumbent President Ollanta Humala is ineligible to run due to constitutional term limits. Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, joins a list of other candidates including former President Alan Garcia and former Prime Minister Pedro Pablo Kucznyski vying for the presidency. If no candidate garners 50 percent plus one, a second round will take place.

Macedonia – April 24

Early parliamentary elections were brokered by the European Union to end the anti-government protests in May 2015. One hundred twenty-three seats in the National Assembly are up for a vote in a mixed-member electoral system. Amid ongoing political tension and challenges resulting from the global migrant crisis, allegations of fraud and corruption in past elections will put the spotlight on the integrity of the process.

Philippines – May 9

Elections for executive and legislative branches for national, provincial, and local levels of government are expected to take place on May 9 in the Philippines. Over 16,000 elected positions are up for grabs in the May polls. The positions of President and Vice President are elected separately, and the winning candidates may come from different political parties. President Benigno Aquino is barred from seeking another term due to term limits in this sixth presidential election since the 1986 revolution that overthrew the authoritarian regime of then-President Ferdinand Marcos.

Zambia – September 20

Zambians head to the polls for general elections on September 20 to elect the country's President, Members of Parliament, and Local Councilors. Incumbent President Edgar Lungu – elected in a closely fought election to complete the term of former President Michael Sata who died in late 2014 – is expected to face many of the challengers he competed against in January 2015. Given Zambians track record of voting governments out of office, this election bears watching closely.

Ghana – November 7

Voters go to the polls to elect a President in a two-round system and 275 Members of Parliament in single member, first-past-the-post voting. New reforms to the electoral laws – including transparent ballot boxes, the introduction of biometric voter registration and voter verification – will be put to the test on November 7. President John Mahama is widely expected to stand for a second term. Opposition from potential candidates includes Samia Nkrumah, the daughter of the first President of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah.

United States – November 8

American voters will elect a successor to two-term President Barack Obama in addition to 469 seats in Congress (34 Senators and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives). The prospect of electing the first women as President, from either party, makes this a potentially historic electoral cycle. Republicans will also defend control of both Houses of Congress.

Georgia – To be confirmed

Legislative elections for a unicameral Parliament consisting of 150 members – 77 elected by proportional representation and 73 in first-past-the-post, single-member constituencies – will take place late in the year. The ruling Georgian Dream coalition will be challenged by the United National Movement, and a new political party, the Free Democrats, formed by former members of the Georgian Dream coalition. A truly competitive multiparty election will continue to distinguish Georgia’s democracy from its regional neighbors.

Libya – To be confirmed

A constitutional referendum is to be held following publication of the country’s new constitution by the Constitutional Assembly, elected in February 2014. The ongoing conflict between four rival forces, supported by various regional powers, may likely derail plans to adopt a constitution, a step widely viewed as essential to putting Libya back on the path to unitary government.

Morocco – To be confirmed

In 2016, Moroccans will elect the second Parliament since King Mohamed VI announced a series of reforms in early 2011 that aim to transform Morocco into a constitutional monarchy. Three hundred ninety-five seats in the House of Representatives are up for election, with 305 from multi-member constituencies and 90 from a single nationwide constituency of which 60 are reserved for women and 30 for men under the age of 40. The King is obliged to appoint the Prime Minister from the party that wins the most seats.

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