An election-based 2019 year in review reveals that yes, it was a busy year in electoral politics – but probably not as busy as the one to follow.
From the southernmost reaches of Africa to Canada’s polar communities, people across the planet voted in crucial general elections throughout the year. We look back at some of the more noteworthy happenings in world elections in 2019.
2019 Year In Review: African Elections
ANC reduced below 60 percent in South African election for first time since free elections.
May 8, 2019
Electionarium’s Coverage: 2019 South African Election Results
Since South Africa ended Apartheid and brought about free elections in 1994, those votes have been dominated by the ANC. The late Nelson Mandela is long gone from the political scene, but his party continues to flourish in South African elections. However, for the first time in 25 years, the ANC failed to score over 60 percent of the popular vote, showing that the party’s slow erosion of support is ongoing.
South Africa uses proportional representation to elect its National Assembly, so the popular vote is for obvious reasons crucial. At 57.5 percent, the ANC won another thumping victory, but its smallest yet. Main opposition party Democratic Alliance lost a few seats but others, such as Economic Freedom Fighters, the Inkatha Freedom Party, and Freedom Front Plus, all gained.
Led now by Cyril Ramaphosa, the president, the ANC will not have to face the voters again until 2024. By then, they will have been in power uninterrupted for 30 years.
2019 Year In Review: Asian Elections
Israel has two elections, both inconclusive.
April 9 and September 17, 2019
Electionarium’s Coverage: September 2019 Israeli Election Results
When Israel held its April 2019 Knesset election, it was believed that Benjamin Netanyahu was in trouble. The prime minister and others, like American president Donald Trump, celebrated election results showing that Netanyahu’s Likud Party and its partners may have finished first, holding off a strong advance by the Blue & White. In the end, both Likud and Blue & White tied with 35 seats. As the incumbent, Netanyahu got first crack at being able to form a coalition, but all his past coalition partners did not get on board.
The Knesset dissolved, and another election was held in September. Both leading parties finished almost tied again, but this time, Blue & White had a one-seat advantage. After Netanyahu failed to form a coalition, Gantz made his first attempt at being able to lead Israel. He also failed in forming a government.1
Israel will have another election in 2020.
Narendra Modi, NDA wins majority in India.
Counted May 23, 2019
Electionarium’s Coverage: 2019 Indian Election Results
The alliance of Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, hit it big in the 2019 elections in the world’s largest democracy. It took weeks for the different regions and hundreds of millions of Indians to vote, but when all votes were counted, the right-leaning NDA (National Democratic Alliance) had won a large majority. The Congress Party, for a long while India’s ruling party, was reduced with its own alliance to under 100 seats. Between the 2014 and 2019 Indian elections, Congress has had its two worst showings ever since independence. Under Modi, and with a strong majority government, Indian politics is being remapped.
2019 Year In Review: European Elections
Spain also has two elections, both inconclusive.
April 28 and November 10, 2019
Electionarium’s Coverage: November 2019 Spanish Election Results
Spain has had a lot going on politically these last few years. First, there is a center-right government that found itself in the middle of a major scandal. Next, the opposition gangs up on the government and, for the first time ever, installs a new prime minister after a no-confidence vote. After that, the new prime minister takes his message to the country. While he, Pedro Sanchez of the Socialists, won the most seats in the April poll, he could not put together a stable coalition government.
In unprecedented fashion, just like in Israel, the country had an electoral do-over. Like in April, the November vote saw Sanchez’s PSOE win the most seats again, but the right-leaning opposition coalesced strength while the centrists declined. As of the end of 2019, a government still has not been formed in Spain, and there will be difficulties including Catalonia that may slow it down further in 2020.2
Volodymyr Zelenskyy elected president of Ukraine.
April 21, 2019
Ukraine deals with Russia and it deals with its own internal corruption. Both of those were central issues in the 2019 presidential campaign, one in which television comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyy promised change. No big fan of the Russian government, either, Zelenskyy ran on an anti-corruption platform and subsequently won in a landslide.3
However, his first year in office will not be remembered for major legislative achievements or foreign policy breakthroughs. Rather, it will be known for him getting dragged into the middle of the Donald Trump impeachment drama. He would probably like to never hear the names “Donald Trump” or “Hunter Biden” again.
Greece swings to right as ND wins majority.
July 7, 2019
Electionarium’s Coverage: 2019 Greek Election Results
For the better part of four years, Greece was led by an anti-austerity, left-wing government under SYRIZA. Yet, when the 2019 elections came around, Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s prime minister, found himself in electoral trouble. Trailing in the opinion polls for an extended period, it was widely expected that center-right New Democracy would vault back into power. They did, as Kyriakos Mitsotakis won a majority government with ND.
Tories win UK election with biggest majority since Thatcher.
December 12, 2019
Electionarium’s Coverage: 2019 British Election Results
Britain’s political scene has been nothing if not chaotic since the 2015 general election. Brexit passed in 2016, Theresa May lost an election gamble in 2017, and her Brexit deal could not get through in 2018 or 2019. So, enter Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, who becomes prime minister in the summer and also fails to get Brexit legislation passed. Boris Johnson decided he had had enough of his House of Commons and deep hung parliament situation. He gambled that he could get the majority government that Theresa May could not.
Johnson did, posting the Conservatives’ best election result since the 1980s. Opinion polls predicted his win along with a horrible night for Labour and the Brexit Party as a potential spoiler. 2019 was a transformative election for the UK, who will now see Brexit carried out in short order and a Tory government until at least the mid-2020s. When that happens, both Labour and the Lib Dems will have new leaders, and Scotland may have found the exit, if First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has her way.4
2019 Year In Review: North American Elections
Justin Trudeau re-elected in Canada but Liberals lose majority.
October 21, 2019
Electionarium’s Coverage: 2019 Canadian Election Results
The Liberal Party won a majority in Canada’s 2015 election, but Justin Trudeau, the new prime minister with a well-known family history, had bumps along the way in his first term. His first four years were on occasion met by blunders, mistteps, and scandal. The opposition Conservative Party, who had been in power for almost a decade prior to Trudeau, attempted to capitalize. Up until the eve of the election, it appeared the Tories could pull even with the Liberals and make a Liberal minority government short and unpleasant.
Though the Conservatives did gain seats and limit the Liberals to a minority, the Liberals still finished well ahead of the Tories. While Quebec and the West did not deliver for the prime minister, Ontario did. This disappointing result cost Andrew Scheer his leadership, but Trudeau’s second term could still be rocky with Liberals not in full control of the House of Commons. The Conservatives will select a new leader late in 2020.5
Democrats gain governorship in Kentucky.
November 5, 2019
Electionarium’s Coverage: 2019 Kentucky Governor Election Results
Since a night of overall gains for Democrats in 2018 midterm congressional elections, the party kept up pressure on Donald Trump and the Republicans. Their hope, as a prelude to the 2020 presidential election, was to score more victories in the three gubernatorial elections in November 2019. While the Republicans held Mississippi, Democrats held Louisiana and gained Kentucky.
Incumbent Republican Matt Bevin, a fierce conservative with job approval rating issues6, was in for a tough race from the start against Andy Beshear, the Democratic attorney general and son of the governor that Bevin succeeded. In a narrow outcome, the Democrats flipped Kentucky, with a margin of victory for Beshear under one percentage point. Democratic governors in Kentucky are not rare, but their party nevertheless celebrated the victory in a state Trump won handily in 2016.
2019 Year In Review: Oceanian Elections
Coalition returned in Australia in huge upset victory.
May 18, 2019
Electionarium’s Coverage: 2019 Australian Election Results
Of all the elections we covered in 2019, none was more shocking than the 2019 Australian federal election.
Since 2013, Australia has been governed by the center-right Liberal-National Coalition. They were re-elected in 2016 with a sharply-reduced majority. Conventional wisdom held that with more Liberal leadership turmoil and another new prime minister, Scott Morrison, that Labor, the center-left opposition, would win the 2019 election.
In fact, it was more than just “conventional wisdom.” What makes this result all the more surprising is that opinion polls prior to the election were in unanimous agreement that Labor would win.7 There was hardly a hint that the Coalition would come back, though even we pulled back our Labor seat predictions to a more modest victory in the campaign’s last days based on a narrowing in the polls. Regardless, Labor still led.
When the election night returns rolled in, what we saw was far from Labor charting a course for victory. Coalition gains in Tasmania and Queensland more than offset mild losses to Labor in Victoria. Having lost their House of Representatives majority during the prior parliament, the 2019 election allowed the Coalition to gain it back. This allowed for a jubilant Coalition and an Australian Labor Party in complete disarray.
2019 Year In Review: South American Elections
Evo Morales driven from office after Bolivian election.
Election on October 20, 2019
Bolivia’s president, left-winger Evo Morales, stood at the top of his nation’s politics since 2006. He sought for, and apparently won, a fourth term in October 20, but that victory was immediately denounced over allegations of vote fraud.8 Protests mounted and Morales fled the country.
An interim president holds the reins at this time, and new elections have been promised for 2020. The unrest in Bolivia is unlikely to end with the election of a new president, so long as the specter of Morales is cast over the country.
Peronists return to power in Argentina.
October 27, 2019
Electionarium’s Coverage: 2019 Argentine Election Results
Four years ago, Argentina was fed up with the ruling Justicialist Party and experimented with a new political direction. Enter Mauricio Macri, then the mayor of Buenos Aires and head of the right-leaning Republican Proposal (PRO). Macri became president in what was at the time a stunning victory, but in 2019, with his job approval sinking, Argentina decided to go back to what they know.
Alberto Fernandez of the Justicialist Party was elected in an October victory. Notably, riding back into office with him was Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the former president who is now back as vice president.
What Comes Next in 2020?
Electionarium has already laid out the most major polls the world will be watching in 2020. Never let it be said that we’re not on top of things.
1: BBC News, “Benny Gantz unable to form Israel coalition government,” BBC News, November 20, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-50486647
2: Rodrigo Orihuela and Stephanie Bodoni, “Spain’s Coalition Talks on Hold as Court Ruling Sows Disarray,” Bloomberg, December 19, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-12-19/eu-court-says-jailed-catalan-mep-has-parliamentary-immunity
3: John Haltiwanger, “Meet Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s comedian turned president who’s at the center of the scandal threatening Trump’s presidency,” Business Insider, September 26, 2019, https://www.businessinsider.com/who-is-volodymyr-zelensky-ukraine-president-central-to-trump-scandal-2019-9
4: Severin Carrell, “Sturgeon demands Scottish independence referendum powers after SNP landslide,” The Guardian, December 13, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/dec/13/nicola-sturgeon-to-demand-powers-for-scottish-independence-referendum
5: Graeme Gordon, “Conservative Party convention postponed until November 2020, Scheer to stay on in interim,” The Post Millennial, December 22, 2019, https://www.thepostmillennial.com/conservative-party-convention-postponed-until-november-2020-scheer-to-stay-on-in-interim/
6: Taylor Weiter, “Matt Bevin’s approval rating rises, no longer least popular governor in US,” WHAS-TV, October 21, 2019, https://www.whas11.com/article/news/politics/bevin-approval-rises-morning-consult/417-f28cdda3-40c4-4686-9cc7-98cc10e2800c
7: The New York Times, “Morrison Wins in Australian Election, Confounding Pollsters,” New York Times, May 17, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/17/world/australia/election-day.html
8: Raul Penaranda, “Opinion: O, How Bolivia’s Mighty Morales Has Fallen,” NPR, December 3, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/12/03/784181101/opinion-o-how-bolivias-mighty-morales-has-fallen