Benin: Legislative elections were scheduled to take place March 19. Results will be reported in our next issue.
Bulgaria: The third postcommunist parliamentary election occurred on December 18. Bulgaria’s ex-communists, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), regained a majority by winning 125 out of 240 seats (a gain of 19) with 43.5 percent of the vote. BSP leader Zhan Videnov has promised market-oriented reforms to improve Bulgaria’s worsening economic situation. The anticommunist Union of Democratic Forces garnered only 24 percent of the vote and 69 seats (a loss of 41). Three smaller parties divided the remaining 46 seats. The People’s Union won 18 seats, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (the Turkish minority’s party) took 15 seats, and the Bulgarian Business Bloc won 13 seats.
Estonia: Elections for the 101-member parliament were held on March 5. Preliminary results indicate that the Safe Haven coalition, a group containing many members of the old Soviet-era nomenklatura and led by former prime minister Tiit Vahi, won 32.4 percent of the vote and went from 17 to 41 seats. The Estonian Reform Party-Liberals garnered 19 seats with 16.3 percent of the vote. Closely following was the Estonian Center Party with 16 seats and 14.1 percent of the vote. The remaining 24 seats were divided among four other parties, including President Lennart Meri’s Pro Patria party (8 seats and 7.6 percent of the vote, down from 29 seats and 20.7 percent in 1992). Lacking an outright majority, Safe Haven will in all likelihood seek to organize a coalition government.
Kyrgyzstan: On February 5 and 19, there occurred the first legislative elections since President Askar Akayev’s 1994 dismissal of the old 350-member, Soviet-style legislature. A thousand candidates ran for seats in the new 105-seat parliament, comprising a full-time, 35-seat Legislative Assembly and a 70-seat People’s Assembly that meets twice a year. Only one out of every five candidates belonged to any of Kyrgyzstan’s 12 registered parties. In the first round, only 13 aspirants topped the 50 percent threshold needed for victory. Sixty more came out of the second round (in which voter turnout reached 61.4 percent); the remaining 32 races remained undecided as of this writing.
Mexico: In state elections in Jalisco on February 13, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, Mexico’s ruling party for the last 66 years, accepted a gubernatorial defeat. National Action Party (PAN) candidate Alberto Cardenas Jimenez was recognized as the new governor. The PAN also won in most of Jalisco’s big cities (including Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city) and in the state legislature. By conceding these results, President Ernesto Zedillo appeared to be upholding his promise of a more democratic, multiparty Mexico.
Micronesia: Legislative elections were scheduled for March 7. Results will be reported in our next issue.
Niger: In legislative elections on January 12, four opposition parties, led by the National Movement for Social Development (founded by authoritarian President Ali Saibou in 1988), won a combined total of 42 of the 83 seats. Five parties supporting President Mahamane Ousmane of the Democratic and Social Convention-Rahama party won 40 seats. An independent party won the remaining seat.
Uzbekistan: The ex-communist People’s Democratic Party (PDP) retained control of the 250-seat legislature after two rounds of voting, December 25 and January 22. The PDP won 205 seats in the first round alone; official figures for the second round remained fragmentary at the time of this writing. Three other parties took part in the election, but none of them clearly opposes the PDP. The new legislature is expected to be loyal to the incumbent, President Islam Karimov.
Election Watch provides reports of recently decided and upcoming elections in postcommunist and developing countries. Elections in nondemocratic nations are included when they exhibit a significant element of genuine competition or, in the case of upcoming elections, when they represent an important test of progress toward democracy. This information is current as we go to press; however, election dates are often moved due to changing circumstances. The data in Election Watch are provided by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), a private, nonprofit education and research foundation that assists in monitoring, supporting, and strengthening the mechanics of the electoral process worldwide. For additional information, contact: IFES, 1620 1 Street, N.W., Suite 611, Washington, DC 20006; (202) 828-8507.