Space & Innovation

Not Just the US: 2016 Elections Around the World

The U.S. presidential election may be the biggest ticket in town, but other countries are hosting elections worth watching.

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The eyes of the nation and arguably the rest of the world will be on Iowa today, a statement that only ever makes sense in the context of a presidential election year. The Iowa caucuses mark the first leg of what will be a long road to November, paved with dozens of primaries, hundreds of campaign events, thousands of party delegates, millions of votes and billions of dollars in fundraising. When it comes to elections, the United States puts on quite a show compared with other players on the global stage. Though the U.S. presidential election is the biggest ticket on the political calendar this year, other countries are also holding elections worth watching.

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One of this year's most significant elections already transpired in Taiwan back in January, with 56 percent of the island's voters casting their ballots for Tsai Ing-wen, leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who will become Taiwan's first female president. Tsai offered a conciliatory tone with China, with whom Taiwan has long had tense relations over the issue of Taiwanese independence, which Tsai's DPP favors. But her election likely won't sit well in Beijing, which has already expressed concern through official statements and editorials carried by China's Xinhua news agency. China considers Taiwan a wayward province subject to military intervention if necessary, and

called the idea of Taiwanese independence a "hallucination

."

Video: Why China and Taiwan Hate Each Other

After 30 years in power, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni is looking for another five years in office when voters in his nation head to the polls on Feb. 18, when the country holds presidential and parliamentary elections. Although there are eight other candidates in the race, only two of them, Kizza Besigye and Amama Mbabazi, are mounting a major challenge to Museveni. Besigye, running on an anti-corruption platform, is the leader of Uganda's main opposition party and ran against Musevani in the past three elections. Mbabazi served in Museveni's government for two decades and served as prime minister before Museveni forced him out. Although the nation is democratic, clashes between government and opposition party supporters threaten the integrity of the fragile voting process. Political dissident have often been met with harassment, arbitrary arrest, seizure of property or even death,

NYR Daily explains

. Uganda is a major American ally in the region, providing military support to combat Nigeria's Boko Haram, Central Africa's Lord's Resistance Army, and Somalia's Al-Shabbab, which is why its anti-democratic tendencies often get overlooked in the West. Although international election observers will be on hand at the polls, they are unlikely to be able to prevent rigging and other irregularities that will influence the final outcome.

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The Azadi Tower, built to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire, is one of Tehran's most iconic landmarks. On Feb. 26, Iran will hold elections concerning two different government bodies. The first is the Islamic Consultative Assembly is Iran's Parliament, the members of which will shape the outcome of the agenda for the remaining two years in office of reform president Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani's diplomatic efforts helped make possible the landmark nuclear deal reached with the United States and other global powers. How sanctions relief made possible by the deal affect voting will prove a major vote of confidence for Rouhani,

The Guardian reports

. The second government entity subject to the Feb. 26 vote is the Assembly of Experts, which is responsible for appointing the Supreme Leader, monitoring his performance and removing him from office if he is deemed incapable of performing his duties,

according to BBC News

. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is 76 years old and has held onto power for more than a quarter century, has been rumored to be in poor health for years now, and when the time comes, his successor could change Iran's political fortunes in the future.

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New Zealand is about to hold a contest in March where there can be no winners or losers. The nation is voting to decide whether the silver fern design seen in this photo should replace the current version which features the Union Jack and has flown for more than a century. Voters in 2015 picked the silver fern design among a selection of other potential alternatives. Other options included different color variations on the design above, as well as more outlandish entries, such as one depiction of a Kiwi bird shooting lasers out of its eyes. Supporters of the effort to change the flag call the current design an anachronism,

according to CNN

, and not representative of New Zealand. Opponents of the effort take issue not so much with the designs as the effort and expense of the changes, expected to cost $25.7 million over two years,

according to government estimates

.

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For a study in contrasts with the seemingly neverending production that is the U.S. presidential election, look no further than Iceland. Compared to the race in the United States, the Nordic nation holds a decidedly low-key contest. Speculation surrounding who would run for president arguably began as soon as the 2012 race came to a conclusion, and candidates declared their intentions to be their party's nominee early last year. In Iceland, on the other hand, the first candidate for the presidential race, Þorgrímur Þráinsson, declared his intention to run last November. Iceland's current president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, announced in a New Year's speech that he wouldn't seek reelection to a sixth term. Two other candidates have also announced their intentions to run. The election is scheduled for June. The president of the United States is not only the head of the executive branch of a government responsible to over 300 million people, but also described as the leader of the free world. Iceland's president, a political office in a nation of just above 300,000 people, fills a largely ceremonial role.

Video: Why is Iceland Building a Temple to Thor?

Like Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Peru's Keiko Fujimori is running to be president after first serving as first lady in the 1990s. Her father was Alberto Fujimori, a controversial politician in prison for crimes related to corruption and human rights violations. Fujimori is currently ahead of the pack of other candidates to win the April 10 election, but needs a majority of the vote in order to avoid a second-round run-off. An Ipsos poll conducted in December showed Fujimori winning the votes of 33 percent of those surveyed, more than twice the support of second-place Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a former prime minister,

reports Voice of America

.

Peru Creates Huge National Park in Amazon Basin

With tensions high in the South China sea, as evidenced most recently by

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou's visit to the contested Spratly Islands

and

U.S. Navy maneuvers around the Paracel Islands

last week, the race to replace incumbent Benigno Aquino III as president of the Philippines will be closely watched both in the United States and China. Aquino endorsed former Interior Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II as his replacement as the Liberal Party candidate, rather than his vice president. In the Philippines, the president and vice president are elected separately and can belong to separate political parties, as is the case currently. The endorsement hasn't translated into significant electoral support so far, as Vice President and United National Alliance candidate Jejomar Binay (shown here) is leading in the polls ahead of the May 9 vote. Although Aquino brought the Philippines closer to the United States during his time in office, Binay has indicated a willingness to work alongside China for a "joint venture" in the South China Sea, saying in an interview, "

China has money; we need capital

."

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Russian President Vladimir Putin isn't up for reelection for another two years, but members of Putin's party, United Russia, will be running for seats in the Duma, Russia's parliament. This election could prove a test of United Russia support among voters amidst domestic concerns, particularly a weakening economy in the face of falling oil prices and international sanctions, and aggressive foreign policy. Last year, the government approved a proposal to move Duma elections from December to September, a move largely seen benefiting United Russia,

the Wall Street Journal reports

. The process for electing members of the Duma also recently changed, from a party-line proportional system, to half of the seats being directly elected by the voters. Recent Russian elections have also been

criticized over widespread fraud

, casting a shadow on the credibility of ballot counts.

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One day before Americans cast their ballots in November, voters in Ghana will pick their next president. Once hailed as a model of political and economic stability in West Africa, a region lacking in both, Ghana beginning in 2013 suffered a number of blows to its economy, including a growing public deficit, weakening currency and high inflation,

according to BBC News

. Last year, the African republic received a nearly $1-billion bailout deal from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in exchange for austerity measures. Given the economic woes, President John Mahama will have his work cut out for him in order to stay in office. Though candidates have yet to announce their decision to run, Mahama is expected to face Nana Akufo-Addo, the narrowly defeated challenger of the 2012 election, and Samia Nkrumah, the first woman to head a major political party in Ghana, among others.

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