Middle East This Week: January 24, 2023

January 24, 2023

A weekly review of news and analysis of elections in the greater Middle East and North Africa, usually posted on Tuesdays and occasionally updated throughout the week.

The Maiden’s Tower in Istanbul, Turkey, a Byzantine tower in the Bosporus. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Matti Blume (CC BY-SA)

Ongoing Middle East Elections

Lebanon Indirect Presidential Election (by parliament): Continuing

Lebanon’s fractious parliament is in the process of selecting a president. As part of Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system, the president is always a Maronite Christian (and conversely, a Sunni serves as prime minister and a Shi’ite as speaker of the parliament). 

The last parliamentary elections took place in May 2022 in the context of a political and economic crisis exacerbated by the August 2020 explosion in the port of Beirut. In those elections, Hezbollah and its allies lost their majority in parliament, and a number of independents won seats. 

The fragmented parliament has not been able to pick a new president, leaving a vacuum following the end of Michel Aoun’s term in October 2022. Aoun was a strong ally of Hezbollah. Michel Moawad, an anti-Hezbollah candidate, has won the most votes on several ballots, but not a majority. Voting will continue until someone can break the stalemate. 

BBC (January 20, 2023): Lebanon MPs sit in as 11th vote for president fails

Jamie Prentis, The National UAE (January 18, 2023): What next for Lebanon’s opposition in presidential race, Michel Moawad or Plan B?

Upcoming Middle East Elections

Tunisia Legislative Runoffs: January 29, 2023

Tunisia began transitioning to democracy in 2011, amid the Arab Spring protests, and in 2019, held the third national elections since the fall of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.  Political outsider and populist Kais Saied won the presidency. The results indicated a rejection of the main political parties and post-Ben Ali political ideologies (Islamism and secular liberalism). However, Saied took the country down an authoritarian path and took actions that his opponents said subvert democracy. As a result, protests have been taking place. 

Adel Al Thabiti, Anadolu Agency (January 22, 2023): Ennahda leader calls for restoring democracy in Tunisia

AFP (January 21, 2023): Tunisia Detains Critic of President, Says Lawyer

Turkey General Elections: May 14, 2023

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been in power since 2003, and although the party initially ran on a reformist platform, it has become increasingly authoritarian. A 2017 constitutional change, with passed very narrowly in a referendum, replaced the parliamentary system with a presidential system, and gave the presidency new powers.

While Turkey remains a member of NATO, it has in recent years moved closer to Russia and other authoritarian countries.

AP (January 22, 2023): Erdogan: Turkey Elections to Be Held May 14

Stratfor (January 20, 2023): As Elections Near, Turkey Will Still Block Sweden and Finland’s NATO Aspirations

Selcan Hacaoglu, Bloomberg (January 20, 2023): Erdogan Warns Greece to Beware ‘Crazy Turks’ to Fire Up Crowd

Nikhil Kumar, GRID (January 19, 2023): What an Erdogan loss in Turkey’s presidential election would mean for the country and the world

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal (January 18, 2023): Erdogan Targets a Political Rival in Turkey: A prosecutor seeks to dissolve the second largest opposition party.

Pakistan General Elections: October 12, 2023 (due – snap elections possible and increasingly likely)

Following Pakistan’s turbulent 2018 general election, former cricket star Imran Khan – seen as the military’s preferred candidate – became prime minister when his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) won the most seats. However, Khan was ousted in an April 2022 vote of no confidence and former opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif became prime minister.

Since then, Khan has sought to force early elections in various ways.

PTI (January 24, 2023): Pakistan govt wary of IMF-mandated ‘tough decisions’ in election year

Michael Kugelman, East Asia Forum (January 21, 2023): Pakistan still treading water in 2023

Arifa Noor, Dawn (January 18, 2023): Opinion: After the dissolution of Punjab assembly, early elections in Pakistan seem near inevitable

Jibran Ahmad, Reuters (January 18, 2023): Ex-PM Khan pushes for early Pakistan election by dissolving second provincial govt

Kamran Haider, Bloomberg (January 18, 2023): Another Imran Khan-Backed Pakistan Province Calls Early Election

Algeria Presidential Election: December 2024 (due)

Mass protests in 2019 ended the 20-year rule of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, but former PM Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who was close to Bouteflika, won the subsequent presidential election. Protesters from the Hirak movement have pushed for greater political reform, but the country’s traditional power centers have largely held.

AFP (January 18, 2023): Algeria frees opposition figure after vow to quit politics

Egypt Elections: 2025 (due)

Nosmot Gbadamosi, Foreign Policy (January 18, 2023): Why China and Egypt Are Growing Closer

Past Middle East Elections

Israel Snap Parliamentary Elections: November 1, 2022

Israel has held five sets of general elections over the past four years. The most recent returned Bibi Netanyahu to power, this time heading the country’s most right-wing government to date.

Gwen Ackerman and Mohammad Tayseer, Bloomberg (January 24, 2023): Netanyahu Meets With Jordan’s King After Tensions Over Holy Site

Yoni Ben Menachem, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (January 23, 2023): What are the Prospects for Normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel?

Jonathan Schachter, The Hill (January 18, 2023): Netanyahu’s agenda and Biden’s opportunity

Reuters (January 18, 2023): Analysis: Hamas sees West Bank as battleground with new Israel gov’t

Kuwait Snap Parliamentary Elections: September 29, 2022

Although the monarchy appoints the government, Kuwait has one of the most powerful parliaments in the Gulf.

AP notes: “In September, voters sent conservative Islamist figures and two women to the assembly in the second election in less than two years. The election results were seen as a mandate for change amid a prolonged period of gridlock between the Cabinet and the 50-member assembly.”

AP (January 23, 2023): Kuwait’s government resigns amid struggle with assembly

Iran Presidential Election: June 18, 2021

Daphne Psaledakis and Gabriela Baczynska, Reuters (January 23, 2023): U.S., EU, UK impose new sanctions on Iran over protest crackdown

Jomana Karadsheh, Tamara Qiblawi and Artemis Moshtaghian, CNN (January 23, 2023): Iran’s regime is trying to execute its way out of trouble

Euronews with AFP (January 22, 2023): ‘Signs of cracks’ within Iran’s government as protests endure

Suzanne Kianpour, Politico (January 22, 2023): The Women of Iran Are Not Backing Down

Middle East Elections Coming Up in 2023

Turkey and Pakistan are due to hold elections that determine who runs the government. In addition, long-overdue elections in the Palestinian Authority and Libya could take place in 2023, but don’t hold your breath.

Tunisia Legislative Runoffs: January 29, 2023

Lebanon Indirect Presidential Election (by parliament): continues in January 2023

Turkey Presidential and Legislative Elections: May 14, 2023

Lebanon Local Elections: May 31, 2023 (postponed from 2022 – additional delays possible)

Tunisia Local Elections: May 2023 (due)

Kurdistan (Iraq) Presidential and Parliamentary Elections: September 2023 (due – delayed from 2022)

Pakistan General Elections: October 12, 2023 (due – snap elections possible)

Israel Local Elections: October 2023 (due)

Oman Consultative Assembly Elections (advisory body with limited power): October 2023 (due)

United Arab Emirates Federal National Council Elections (indirect elections, advisory body with limited powers): October 2023 (due)

Iraq Regional Elections: December 2023 (due)

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