Hundreds of millions of people around the world will be called to make mayor decisions at the ballot box this autumn. After a contested start in Africa, focus will shift to elections and referendum in Europe next month before reaching countries in the Pacific Ocean late in the year. Our preview.
The start of the second half of the 2017 electoral year felt like a step backwards. In Rwanda on August 4, the incumbent president Paul Kagame won virtually all the votes, according to the (not independent) National Election Commission. To gather 98% of the vote, Kagame, after 17 years in power, first had to abolish the constitution´s two-term limit.
Much more competitive were the super-elections in the neighbouring and much larger country of Kenya on August 8. There the sitting president Uhuru Kenyatta was re-elected in the first round by 54% of the vote´ result contested by opposition candidate Raila Odinga and followed by violent clashes. The (independent) Kenyan Election Commission for the first time used digital technology to administer these popular votes, which included elections to the national parliament and many provincial governments.
In the next few weeks and months, the electoral focus will shift north to Europe. National parliament elections are scheduled in Norway (Sep 11), unsuccessful popular votes , by changing the rules: instead of a regular popular vote under the Australian Election Commission Turnbull and his majority has initiated an ad-hoc postal plebiscite under the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
New Citizens’ initiative in Uruguay
Finally, we must not neglect the Americas, where - one year after the shock-election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency - a series of elections and referendums will take place in Argentina (Oct 22), Chile (Nov 19) and Honduras (Nov 26). In the United States on November 7 citizens will be called in nine states to make decisions on 27 different issues. Additionally hundreds of local issues will be decided across the United States this November - including a local referendum in the City of Lawrence in Massachusetts , where voters will be asked if the commercial sale of Marijuana should be banned, again.
Modern (direct) democracy is exercised not only at the ballot box. Across the world active citizens are using initiative rights to put the issues of their choice on the political agenda. In Uruguay, one of the most developed countries worldwide when it comes to initiative and referendum rights, business associations are currently gathering signatures against policies that discourage the use of cash´effectively creating a cashless society. In Europe, citizens currently are able to sign nine transnational initiatives that are currently circulating at the EU level, while Swiss voters are able to sign ten different nationwide constitutional citizens´ initiatives. And those Swiss initiatives could bring even more popular votes in the years to come.