Elections are a test to see if democracy works. This year, The Athenaeum has compiled the 10 most interesting elections of 2017 to remind ourselves of the importance of the democratic process. They are in descending order:
Nova Scotia Provincial Election: May 2017
This was definitely not a nail-biter, but it was fascinating to see how the political climate in Nova Scotia has changed. Stephen McNeil’s Liberals were the favourites going into the election, which was held on May 30. His majority was reduced to 27/51 seats for the Liberal Party, with the Progressive Conservatives gaining 7 seats for a total of 17 and the NDP gaining a total of 2 seats for a total of 7 in the legislature. Major issues surrounding the election included health care, Nova Scotian exports, primary and secondary education, and job creation. This election was notable because of the low university student turnout, due in part because of its timing after the academic year.
United Kingdom General Election: June 2017
Prime Minister Theresa May called this election to strengthen her hand for upcoming Brexit negotiations, which ultimately backfired spectacularly. It was, as our Features Editor would say, a “flaming dumpster fire” for the Conservative Party as they lost their majority and were forced into a minority government, only staying in power with the support of the DUP, a right-wing anti-abortion Northern Irish party. Major issues in the election included Brexit and the UK’s role in the European Union, university tuition, the recent Grenfell Tower fire, and social security.
German Federal Election: September 2017
This election, much like the one in France, was seen as a test against rising populism and nationalism in Europe. Chancellor Angela Merkel was successful in her run for a fourth term, one of the only in Germany history, and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) was able to secure a plurality of seats in September of 2017. Major issues in this campaign included immigration and Germany’s place in the EU. Run using of Mixed Member Proportional Representation the CDU was unable to secure a majority, and recently talks between smaller parties and the CDU have collapsed, leaving Merkel’s fate as Chancellor of Germany uncertain.
British Columbia Provincial Election: May 2017
Notable for the election of the first Green caucus in North America, British Columbia’s election in May 2017 was a nail biter. The BC Liberal Party, a centre-right wing free enterprise party led by Christy Clark, was reduced to a minority by a surge from the NDP and Greens in metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island, respectively. Clark tried to maintain the confidence of the House but the government fell after she visited the Lieutenant Governor, who then called upon NDP leader John Horgan to become the next Premier of British Columbia. Major issues in this election included transit, the construction of the Site C Dam in Northern BC, and affordability of housing.
French Presidential Election: May 2017
Seen as a litmus test for the wave of xenophobia hitting North America and Europe, the French Presidential election was dramatic. Former Prime Minister of France Francois Fillion was embroiled in a scandal early on, and the introduction of the young former Minister of Economy Emmanuel Macron and his centrist En Marche! movement changed the French political landscape. Neither of the two strongest parties in French history, the Socialists and Republicans, made it into the run-off where Macron faced off against Front Nationale xenophobe Marine Le Pen. Macron won with 66% of the national vote in the run-off, with only two Départments in northern France (Aisne and Pas-de-Calais) voting for Le Pen.
Japanese General Election: October 2017
In the midst of the North Korean Missile Crisis, Japan held a general election that resulted in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe being the first Prime Minister to win three consecutive elections since 1953. One of the major issues in this election was the controversy surrounding Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which forever renounces war as a tool by the Japanese people. Abe is looking to revise the Constitution for Japan to properly defend itself and with the support of his Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, a socially conservative Japanese nationalist party.
Gambian Parliamentary Election: April 2017
The Gambia’s parliamentary elections were the first held since the inauguration of Adama Barrow as President and seen as a test for democracy in Western Africa. Of the 58 available seats, the centre-left United Democratic Party took 31. The UDP were one of 7 coalition parties to back Barrow, who challenged former President/dictator Jammeh, who was forced from office after contesting the results of an election that Barrow won. This achieves the #4 spot because of its House of Cards-esque drama and its potential for positive change in West Africa.
Iranian Presidential Election: May 2017
Incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, who has been described as a political moderate compared to his predecessor, was re-elected with 57% of the vote. It is important to note that this is a country that Freedom House classifies as Not Free “due to the role of the hard-line Guardian Council, which disqualifies all candidates deemed insufficiently loyal to the clerical establishment”. This election was important because it reflected Iran’s desire to stay the course in a world where Donald Trump is part of international politics. Iran makes it to #3 because under Rouhani’s leadership it will undoubtedly play a much larger role as a regional power, especially in Syria and Yemen.
Venezuelan Constituent Assembly Election: July 2017
Since the death of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, his successor Nicolas Maduro has been in trouble. Massive inflation, a result of declining oil prices, has put massive pressure on the heavily socialist government to do something. In March 2017 the Supreme Court took over the powers of the opposition-led legislature, but quickly rescinded their decision after massive public backlash. This led for calls to create a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the Constitution in Maduro’s favour, which passed with flying colours. Now Maduro has the authority to eliminate all democratic institutions in Venezuela, to the condemnation of much of the international community. This reaches #2 because it will set Venezuela on a course that will draw much attention and have heavy ramifications on neighbouring countries in Latin America.
Kenyan General Election: August/November 2017
Our #1 spot goes to Kenya this year. In August 2017 the presidential election was contested between incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and challenger Raila Odinga. Kenyatta won in August with 54% of the vote, but Odinga contested the results in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court annulled the results and called for fresh elections in October, but Odinga withdrew his candidacy citing the lack of preparation made by the electoral commission. This gains our #1 spot as it was a test for democracy in eastern Africa, and indicative of the strengthened institutions that Kenya has worked for many decades towards.