Middle East

November 5, 2019

Each day, 21votes gathers election news, analysis, and opinions from a different region of the world. We explore the greater Middle East and North Africa on Tuesdays. Click the map pins.

Algeria Presidential – December 12, 2019

Freedom House Rating: Not Free 
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 41.7 million

Algerian politics are dominated by Le Pouvoir, a small group of elite from the military and the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) party. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, aged 82 and unable to walk or talk, was going to run for a fifth term in the election originally scheduled for April, but tens of thousands of Algerians protested for two months, and Bouteflika resigned.

The election was moved to July 4, but then the Constitutional Council cancelled the vote. Months later, the interim government set a date of December 12. Protests continue. Protesters are demanding assurances that any new elections will be free and fair, and that the rest of the ruling elite resign before any vote takes place.

Egypt Local – Early 2020 (tentative)

Freedom House Rating: Not Free 
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 99.4 million

Egypt’s first local elections in over 10 years are supposed to happen this year, but a date has not been set. The country has not had elected local government since 2011. Last year’s presidential election, which saw President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi re-elected for a second term, was neither free nor fair, and took place in an environment of harassment and intimidation of the opposition. 

Iran Parliamentary – February 2020 and Presidential – May or June 2021

Freedom House Rating: Not Free 
Government Type: Theocratic Republic
Population: 83 million

Some analysts argue that “moderates” or “reformers” won Iran’s 2016 parliamentary elections, but the country’s opaque politics make it difficult to know for sure how to characterize the results. All candidates must be approved by the Guardian Council, which rejected thousands during the 2016 elections. Parliament is less powerful than the Supreme Leader and other institutions such as the Guardian Council, the judiciary, and the security services. The elections are happening in the context of escalating tensions with the United States.

Iran also has several exile opposition groups that seek regime change. Most prominently, the controversial MEK, a secretive group, operates out of a compound in Albania and is sometimes called a cult with a bizarre pastiche of Marxist and Islamist ideas, but nevertheless has ties with numerous high-level American and European officials. Exiled monarchists want to restore the Shah, who was removed in the 1979 Islamic revolution that brought the ayatollahs to power.

Iraq Provincial – April 20, 2020 (snap parliamentary possible)

Freedom House Rating: Not Free
Government Type: Federal Parliamentary Republic
Population: 40.2 million

Date tentative – election commission has set it as their preferred date. Originally scheduled for December 2018, but delayed multiple times following controversial national elections in May 2018 (the first since the defeat of ISIS). Snap parliamentary elections possible following widespread protests calling for the resignation of the government and new polls.

Qatar Consultative Assembly (proposed)

Freedom House Rating: Not Free
Government Type: Absolute Monarchy 
Population: 2.4 million

Qatar remains an absolute monarchy, and the Majlis al-Shura (legislature) operates in an advisory capacity, with no actual legislative power, which is why Qatar’s elections aren’t on our big map or calendar.

Tunisia Presidential Second Round – October 13, 2019 (first round was September 15, 2019 and parliamentary elections were October 6, 2019)

Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 11.5 million

Tunisia began transitioning to democracy in 2011, amid the Arab Spring protests, and this year, the country will hold the third national elections since the fall of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Under Tunisia’s semi-presidential system, the president has broad authority over foreign and defense policy while the prime minister oversees domestic policy. Ennadha, which presents itself as a moderate, pro-democracy Islamist party but holds some retrograde views, won the first post-Ben Ali elections, but in the 2014 parliamentary elections, the secularist Nidaa Tounes won the most seats. In 2018, Tunisia held long-delayed municipal elections, which saw independent candidates win the most seats, followed by Ennadha.

Twenty-six candidates ran for president this year and the election was highly competitive, and the results shocked the political establishment. Two political outsiders will advance to the second round: law professor Kais Saied and jailed media mogul Nabil Karoui. Both could be considered populists, but in very different ways. Karoui has argued for a stronger presidency, while Saied supports decentralization. However, Saied is a social conservative, and has the backing of Ennadha.

The results indicated a rejection of the main political parties and post-Ben Ali political ideologies (Islamism and secular liberalism). However, some concerns lingered about the democratic process. Because Karoui remained in jail, he was unable to speak directly to voters for most of the campaign, a fact with which even Saied himself has expressed discomfort. However, he was released a few days before the vote, and the two candidates did face off in a televised debate.

Afghanistan Presidential – September 28, 2019

Freedom House Rating: Not Free
Government Type: Presidential Islamic Republic
Population: 35 million

Afghanistan held long-delayed parliamentary elections in October 2018, marred by violence and administrative problems. In order to fix problems from the legislative elections, the presidential election has been delayed twice. President Ashraf Ghani’s term ended on May 22, 2019, but he has remained in office, despite calls for a caretaker government, infuriating some. Ghani became president in 2014 in a power sharing deal with his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, following a flawed election.

The election took place amid attacks by the Taliban, which had ordered Aghans not to vote, although the violence was less severe than had been feared. Turnout was low. Both major candidates – incumbent Ghani and main challenger Abdullah, claimed victory right after the election, but official preliminary vote counts are not yet available. Final results expected in early November but could be delayed.

Israel Snap Parliamentary – September 17, 2019

Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Democracy
Population: 8.4 million

Israel – nicknamed the “startup nation” – is a vibrant democracy. In September, Israelis head to the polls again in an unprecedented do-over of parliamentary elections after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s center-right Likud was unable to form a coalition following April’s elections. Netanyahu dissolved the Knesset and called for new elections rather than giving former IDF chief Benny Gantz and his newly-formed centrist Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) the chance to try to form a government.

September’s recent election produced an equally inconclusive result. Israel’s president invited Netanyahu to make the first attempt to form a government, but his success is far from assured. If Netanyahu fails to form a government by October 25 (and if President Reuven Rivlin does not then give him an extension), either Gantz could form one or the country hold yet another election, the third in a year.

Turkey Local – March 31, 2019 (Istanbul mayoral re-run June 23, 2019)

Freedom House Rating: Not Free (downgraded from Party Free in 2018)
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 81.3 million

Turkey held local elections on March 31, but invalidated the results of the Istanbul mayoral election after Ekrem Imamoglu from the opposition Republican Party (CHP) won by a small margin. They re-ran the election on June 23 after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) alleged fraud. The move did not pay off – Imamoglu defeated AKP’s Binali Yildirim once again, by an even bigger margin. The election took place in the context of Turkey’s slide into authoritarianism.

Although Turkey is not due for general elections until 2023, there have been rumors of possible snap elections. The two biggest parties competing would likely be the conservative and increasingly populist and authoritarian AKP,  and center-left secularist CHP, which was founded by Atatürk himself. Other contenders will include the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP); ultranationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), currently AKP’s junior coalition partner; and center-right İyi (Good) Party, which favors a return to a parliamentary system and courts conservative voters who oppose Erdogan.

In August 2019, the Turkish government removed three mayors from Kurdish-majority provinces. The mayors had won in landslides in the March local elections, and their removal – on accusations of terrorism – sparked fury among the opposition and among certain groups within AKP. Notably, Ahmet Davutoğlu, a former prime minister, and Abdullah Gül, a former president – both of AKP – criticized the move.

Palestinian Authority Legislative – Long Overdue (date could be set soon)

Freedom House Rating: Not Free (in both Gaza and West Bank
Population: West Bank – 2.8 million; 1.8 million (Gaza)

Elections are long overdue. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is currently in year 14 of a four-year term. Legislative Council elections are similarly long overdue – the last took place in 2006. Islamist fundamentalist Hamas won in a landslide. Municipal elections – boycotted by Hamas – have happened three times – in 2004-2005 in both Gaza and the West Bank and in 2012 and 2017 in the West Bank. In December 2018, the Ramallah-based Constitutional Court issued a ruling dissolving the Legislative Council (which had not met since 2007) and ordering elections within six months, but the elections are on hold indefinitely in the midst of a deadlocked conflict between the Gaza-baed Hamas and Abbas’s secularist Fatah, based in the West Bank.

Pakistan General – July 25, 2018

Freedom House Rating: Partly Free 
Government Type: Federal Parliamentary Republic
Population: 207.9 million

Following the 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.

Lebanon Parliamentary – May 6, 2018

Freedom House Rating: Partly Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 6.1 million

Lebanon’s complex “confessional democracy” ensures representation for each of its religious denomination. Seats in parliament are allocated among the 18 religious groups, and the prime minister is always a Sunni Muslim, the president is always a Maronite Christian, and the speaker of the parliament is always a Shiite Muslim.

The country held long-delayed parliamentary elections in May 2018, and nine months later finally formed a government, giving Prime Minister Saad Hariri a third term. The Shiite party and militant group Hezbollah increased its seat share to 53 percent. Christian parties also gained seats, while Hariri’s Future Movement lost seats.

Corruption has been a long-standing problem. The Berlin-based NGO Transparency International, which ranks Lebanon 138 out of 180 countries on its Corruption Perception Index, notes: “Partly due to political instability, the country has not established the necessary integrity structures nor are there indications of a strong political will to fight corruption. Lebanon’s confessional power-sharing arrangements fuels patronage networks and clientelism, which undermines further the country’s governance system.”

An unprecedented protest movement has been raging since October 17, calling for new elections and a complete restructuring of the country’s political system.

Upcoming Middle East Elections
Algeria Presidential – December 12, 2019
Freedom House Rating: Not Free 
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 41.7 million

Algerian politics are dominated by Le Pouvoir, a small group of elite from the military and the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) party. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, aged 82 and unable to walk or talk, was going to run for a fifth term in the election originally scheduled for April, but tens of thousands of Algerians protested for two months, and Bouteflika resigned.

The election was moved to July 4, but then the Constitutional Council cancelled the vote. Months later, the interim government set a date of December 12. Protests continue. Protesters are demanding assurances that any new elections will be free and fair, and that the rest of the ruling elite resign before any vote takes place.

Reuters: “Five candidates will run in Algeria’s presidential election next month, including two former prime ministers, the head of the election authority said on Saturday [November 2], amid mass protests rejecting the vote.”

Mourad Kamel, The Africa Report: “Algerian political leaders and parties are divided whether to support the forthcoming presidential elections scheduled for 12 December, or to boycott them altogether.”

Lamine Chikhi, Reuters: “Riad Mostefai has marched through the capital of Algeria every Friday since February to demand a purge of the ruling hierarchy, an end to corruption and the army’s withdrawal from politics. Though some of his demands have been met, Mostefai plans to keep on marching each week along with tens of thousands of others who don’t believe an election in December will change anything, as long as an opaque ruling elite remains in charge.”

Amel Boubekeur, European Council on Foreign Relations: “Listen to the street: The new Algerian transition….In the absence of concrete proposals from the army, and with the collapse of the institutions of the state, the Hirak has become the only forum for discussing the nature of change in Algeria. It is now the driving force in the country’s political life.”

AP: “Judges, prosecutors and lawyers have staged an unusual protest at Algeria’s Supreme Court to demand more judicial independence, amid resurgent tensions in the country’s 9-month-old political crisis.”

Egypt Local – Early 2020 (tentative)
Freedom House Rating: Not Free 
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 99.4 million

Egypt’s first local elections in over 10 years are supposed to happen this year, but a date has not been set. The country has not had elected local government since 2011. Last year’s presidential election, which saw President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi re-elected for a second term, was neither free nor fair, and took place in an environment of harassment and intimidation of the opposition. 

Hossam Rabie, Al-Monitor: “Egypt plans to reinstate municipal oversight councils….Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal said Oct. 1 during the first meeting of the fifth parliament session that substantial reforms will be carried out and local council elections will be held, the first since 2008. Mohammed Salah Abu Hamila, a member of parliament’s Local Administration Committee, told Al-Monitor parliament will discuss the local administration bill within the next 60 days, and once the bill is adopted, local council elections will be scheduled, probably in early 2020.”

Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post: “Egypt expands its crackdown to target foreigners, journalists and even children”

Iran Parliamentary – February 2020 and Presidential – May or June 2021
Freedom House Rating: Not Free 
Government Type: Theocratic Republic
Population: 83 million

Some analysts argue that “moderates” or “reformers” won Iran’s 2016 parliamentary elections, but the country’s opaque politics make it difficult to know for sure how to characterize the results. All candidates must be approved by the Guardian Council, which rejected thousands during the 2016 elections. Parliament is less powerful than the Supreme Leader and other institutions such as the Guardian Council, the judiciary, and the security services. The elections are happening in the context of escalating tensions with the United States.

Iran also has several exile opposition groups that seek regime change. Most prominently, the controversial MEK, a secretive group, operates out of a compound in Albania and is sometimes called a cult with a bizarre pastiche of Marxist and Islamist ideas, but nevertheless has ties with numerous high-level American and European officials. Exiled monarchists want to restore the Shah, who was removed in the 1979 Islamic revolution that brought the ayatollahs to power.

RFE/RL’s Radio Farda: “Less than four months before Iran’s Parliamentary elections, the government appears to be more concerned about suspicious funds in electioneering rather than a legitimacy crisis as a result of low turnout.”

RFE/RL’s Radio Farda: “Iran Hardliners Try Appeasement Ahead Of Elections, As Protests Rage In Region”

Alex Vatanka, Foreign Policy: “This is not the first time that Rouhani has attacked Khamenei’s powers, but he has a habit of becoming concerned about the legitimacy of the regime only at election time, which are highly regulated events in Iran. The country is due to hold parliamentary elections in early 2020, and a boycott by the voters is both a possibility and would be a huge embarrassment to the regime.”

Iraq Provincial – April 20, 2020 (snap parliamentary possible)
Freedom House Rating: Not Free
Government Type: Federal Parliamentary Republic
Population: 40.2 million

Date tentative – election commission has set it as their preferred date. Originally scheduled for December 2018, but delayed multiple times following controversial national elections in May 2018 (the first since the defeat of ISIS). Snap parliamentary elections possible following widespread protests calling for the resignation of the government and new polls.

Hamdi Alkhshali and Sharif Paget, CNN: “One of Iraq’s leading Shiite clerics and powerful politicians has called on other parties to back him in removing Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi after weeks of protests. Muqtada al-Sadr, who leads the largest political block in parliament, invited Iraq’s second largest party on Tuesday [October 29] to cooperate with him in ‘immediately’ holding a vote of no confidence in Mahdi.”

Mustafa Salim and Erin Cunningham, Washington Post: “Iraq’s president pledged Thursday [October 31] that his office would draft a new electoral law and overhaul the country’s election commission — moves aimed at mollifying anti-government demonstrators clamoring for sweeping changes to the political order.”

Samir Sumaidaie (former Iraqi ambassador to the U.S.), Atlantic Council’s New Atlanticist: “The Iraqi government, as it is constituted now and despite all past and present promises and claims to the contrary, does not have the political will or the capacity to deliver good governance. That is why the first demand of the protesters is for the government to step aside and be replaced—hopefully peacefully by constitutional steps—by an emergency administration that is mandated to reform the system and start building a state that will function without corruption and foreign influence and deliver for its people.

Chloe Cornish, Financial Times: “In Lebanon and Iraq, protesters have been out in force and the scalps they have claimed are significant…But for many involved in the protests, merely bringing down the governments of the day is not enough. They want to topple the systems that put them there.”

Palestinian Authority Legislative – Long Overdue (date could be set soon)
Freedom House Rating: Not Free (in both Gaza and West Bank
Population: West Bank – 2.8 million; 1.8 million (Gaza)

Elections are long overdue. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is currently in year 14 of a four-year term. Legislative Council elections are similarly long overdue – the last took place in 2006. Islamist fundamentalist Hamas won in a landslide. Municipal elections – boycotted by Hamas – have happened three times – in 2004-2005 in both Gaza and the West Bank and in 2012 and 2017 in the West Bank. In December 2018, the Ramallah-based Constitutional Court issued a ruling dissolving the Legislative Council (which had not met since 2007) and ordering elections within six months, but the elections are on hold indefinitely in the midst of a deadlocked conflict between the Gaza-baed Hamas and Abbas’s secularist Fatah, based in the West Bank.

Ahmad Melhem, Al-Monitor: “Many questions surround possible Palestinian elections: President Mahmoud Abbas’ high-profile announcement that elections will be held in all the Palestinian territories has spurred conflicting opinions on whether his Fatah party will unwaveringly stick with Abbas as its sole candidate, and whether Abbas really intends to hold elections at all.”

Yousef Alhelou, TRT World: “How close are we to another Palestinian election? Rival Palestinian factions are meeting in attempt to facilitate long-overdue elections in Palestinian territories, but ordinary Palestinians view it with scepticism.”

Qatar Consultative Assembly (proposed)
Freedom House Rating: Not Free  
Government Type: Absolute Monarchy 
Population: 2.4 million

Qatar remains an absolute monarchy, and the Majlis al-Shura (legislature) operates in an advisory capacity, with no actual legislative power, which is why Qatar’s elections aren’t on our big map or calendar.

Reuters: “Qatar’s ruling emir has ordered that a committee be established to organize the first ever elections to the Shura Council that advises the government of the wealthy Gulf state, state news agency QNA reported.”

Simone Foxman and Abbas Al Lawati, Bloomberg: “Qatar Prepares for Legislative Elections After 15-Year Delay”

Past Middle East Elections
Tunisia Presidential Second Round – October 13, 2019 (first round was September 15, 2019 and parliamentary elections were October 6, 2019)
Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 11.5 million

Tunisia began transitioning to democracy in 2011, amid the Arab Spring protests, and this year, the country will hold the third national elections since the fall of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Under Tunisia’s semi-presidential system, the president has broad authority over foreign and defense policy while the prime minister oversees domestic policy. Ennadha, which presents itself as a moderate, pro-democracy Islamist party but holds some retrograde views, won the first post-Ben Ali elections, but in the 2014 parliamentary elections, the secularist Nidaa Tounes won the most seats. In 2018, Tunisia held long-delayed municipal elections, which saw independent candidates win the most seats, followed by Ennadha.

Twenty-six candidates ran for president this year and the election was highly competitive, and the results shocked the political establishment. Two political outsiders will advance to the second round: law professor Kais Saied and jailed media mogul Nabil Karoui. Both could be considered populists, but in very different ways. Karoui has argued for a stronger presidency, while Saied supports decentralization. However, Saied is a social conservative, and has the backing of Ennadha.

The results indicated a rejection of the main political parties and post-Ben Ali political ideologies (Islamism and secular liberalism). However, some concerns lingered about the democratic process. Because Karoui remained in jail, he was unable to speak directly to voters for most of the campaign, a fact with which even Saied himself has expressed discomfort. However, he was released a few days before the vote, and the two candidates did face off in a televised debate.

Amel al-Hilali, Al-Monitor: “Tunisia’s new low-profile president defies definition”

Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post: “In a world of crisis, Tunisia’s democracy marches on”

Afghanistan Presidential – September 28, 2019
Freedom House Rating: Not Free
Government Type: Presidential Islamic Republic
Population: 35 million

Afghanistan held long-delayed parliamentary elections in October 2018, marred by violence and administrative problems. In order to fix problems from the legislative elections, the presidential election has been delayed twice. President Ashraf Ghani’s term ended on May 22, 2019, but he has remained in office, despite calls for a caretaker government, infuriating some. Ghani became president in 2014 in a power sharing deal with his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, following a flawed election.

The election took place amid attacks by the Taliban, which had ordered Aghans not to vote, although the violence was less severe than had been feared. Turnout was low. Both major candidates – incumbent Ghani and main challenger Abdullah, claimed victory right after the election, but official preliminary vote counts are not yet available. Final results expected in early November but could be delayed.

Anisa Shaheed, TOLO News: “Election Commission to Start Recounting Votes: The IEC said that the vote recount will start on Monday [November 4], but there is controversy over some votes recently deemed invalid by the biometrics company Dermalog.”

Stratfor: “Afghanistan: Presidential Election Results to Be Announced Nov. 14”

Andrew Watkins, War on the Rocks: “Afghanistan on the Edge: Elections, Elites, and Ethnic Tensions”

Emran Feroz, Foreign Policy: “Afghanistan’s Last Jew Gets Ready for the Taliban—Again: Zabulon Simentov has seen it all, and now, like all Afghans, he must embrace a future filled with uncertainty and violence.”

Israel Snap Parliamentary – September 17, 2019
Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Democracy
Population: 8.4 million

Israel – nicknamed the “startup nation” – is a vibrant democracy. In September, Israelis head to the polls again in an unprecedented do-over of parliamentary elections after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s center-right Likud was unable to form a coalition following April’s elections. Netanyahu dissolved the Knesset and called for new elections rather than giving former IDF chief Benny Gantz and his newly-formed centrist Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) the chance to try to form a government.

September’s recent election produced an equally inconclusive result. Israel’s president invited Netanyahu to make the first attempt to form a government, but his success is far from assured. If Netanyahu fails to form a government by October 25 (and if President Reuven Rivlin does not then give him an extension), either Gantz could form one or the country hold yet another election, the third in a year.

David M. Halbfinger, New York Times: “With Israel in Limbo, Benny Gantz Vows to Seek a ‘Peace Within’ As he tries to form a government, the would-be prime minister has focused on healing divisions inside his country, even more than on building bridges with the outside world.”

Eetta Prince-Gibson, Foreign Policy: “Amid Political Chaos, a Chance for Israel’s Arab Minority: Seeking to form a government, Benny Gantz is meeting with the Arab Joint List. What does that mean for the political future of its constituency?”

Nissim Mashaal, Jerusalem Post: “While efforts to form a government are continuing, there is growing concern that the State of Israel is heading towards a third election campaign. A survey conducted by Prof. Yitzhak Katz for 103 fm shows that most Israelis blame Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the wind of elections blowing in the air.”

Michael Oren (former Israeli ambassador to the U.S.), The Atlantic: “The Coming Middle East Conflagration: Israel is bracing itself for war with Iranian proxies, as Tehran escalates its provocations. But what will the United States do if conflict comes?”

Turkey Local – March 31, 2019 (Istanbul mayoral re-run June 23, 2019)
Freedom House Rating: Not Free (downgraded from Party Free in 2018)
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 81.3 million

Turkey held local elections on March 31, but invalidated the results of the Istanbul mayoral election after Ekrem Imamoglu from the opposition Republican Party (CHP) won by a small margin. They re-ran the election on June 23 after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) alleged fraud. The move did not pay off – Imamoglu defeated AKP’s Binali Yildirim once again, by an even bigger margin. The election took place in the context of Turkey’s slide into authoritarianism.

Although Turkey is not due for general elections until 2023, there have been rumors of possible snap elections. The two biggest parties competing would likely be the conservative and increasingly populist and authoritarian AKP,  and center-left secularist CHP, which was founded by Atatürk himself. Other contenders will include the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP); ultranationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), currently AKP’s junior coalition partner; and center-right İyi (Good) Party, which favors a return to a parliamentary system and courts conservative voters who oppose Erdogan.

In August 2019, the Turkish government removed three mayors from Kurdish-majority provinces. The mayors had won in landslides in the March local elections, and their removal – on accusations of terrorism – sparked fury among the opposition and among certain groups within AKP. Notably, Ahmet Davutoğlu, a former prime minister, and Abdullah Gül, a former president – both of AKP – criticized the move.

Karwan Faidhi Dri, Rudaw: “15 HDP mayors removed, dozens put behind bars since Turkish local elections in March: rights group: Fifteen democratically elected mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) have been removed from their positions due to alleged links to Kurdish rebels in Turkey, according to a report by a local human rights monitor, while dozens more have faced arrest and detention.”

Reuters: “A lawmaker in Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party said on Wednesday he was leaving the party at the president’s request after criticizing its policies. Mustafa Yeneroglu, a rare critical voice within the party, is the first parliamentarian to resign from the AK Party since it secured a narrow majority with a nationalist movement in an election last year.”

David Gauthier-Villars, Wall Street Journal: “Turkish Leader’s Political Star Rebounds With Syria Invasion: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s sagging domestic fortunes are lifted by Turkey’s fight against a Kurdish militia in Syria, even as it is condemned abroad.”

Pakistan General – July 25, 2018
Freedom House Rating: Partly Free 
Government Type: Federal Parliamentary Republic
Population: 207.9 million

Following the 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.

Asad Hashim, Al Jazeera: “Thousands gather for Pakistan anti-government march in Islamabad: Led by firebrand political leader, protesters rally demanding PM’s exit over rising inflation and alleged vote rigging.”

Shamil Shams, DW: “Protests against Pakistan’s Imran Khan: Right-wing vs. right-wing Thousands of Islamist protesters determined to topple Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government have gathered near Islamabad. They are being led by a cleric who is ready to storm into the capital if Khan doesn’t step down.”

AFP: “A Pakistani Islamist leader who led thousands of supporters into the capital and demanded Imran Khan’s resignation vowed to continue his protest Monday [November 4], after the prime minister ignored his 48-hour deadline. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a firebrand cleric who heads one of the country’s largest Islamist parties, has accused Khan of taking power last year with the help of the military, which has ruled Pakistan for roughly half its history.”

Lebanon Parliamentary – May 6, 2018
Freedom House Rating: Partly Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 6.1 million

Lebanon’s complex “confessional democracy” ensures representation for each of its religious denomination. Seats in parliament are allocated among the 18 religious groups, and the prime minister is always a Sunni Muslim, the president is always a Maronite Christian, and the speaker of the parliament is always a Shiite Muslim.

The country held long-delayed parliamentary elections in May 2018, and nine months later finally formed a government, giving Prime Minister Saad Hariri a third term. The Shiite party and militant group Hezbollah increased its seat share to 53 percent. Christian parties also gained seats, while Hariri’s Future Movement lost seats.

Corruption has been a long-standing problem. The Berlin-based NGO Transparency International, which ranks Lebanon 138 out of 180 countries on its Corruption Perception Index, notes: “Partly due to political instability, the country has not established the necessary integrity structures nor are there indications of a strong political will to fight corruption. Lebanon’s confessional power-sharing arrangements fuels patronage networks and clientelism, which undermines further the country’s governance system.”

An unprecedented protest movement has been raging since October 17, calling for new elections and a complete restructuring of the country’s political system.

Rebecca Collard, Time: “Lebanon’s Saad Hariri Has Resigned. But Protesters Still Aren’t Content.”

Joseph Krauss, AP: “Lebanese protesters went back to blocking roads and thousands packed into public squares on Thursday [October 31], insisting their revolution was far from over despite the resignation of the prime minister earlier this week.”

AFP: “Lebanese demonstrators hit the streets again on Tuesday evening [November 5] to demand a new government, facing off in some areas with security forces attempting to re-open blockaded roads. An unprecedented protest movement has gripped Lebanon since October 17, demanding an overhaul of a political class that has remained largely unchanged since the end of the country’s 1975-1990 civil war.”

Kareem Chehayeb and Abby Sewell, Foreign Policy: “Why Protesters in Lebanon Are Taking to the Streets: The protests combine political and economic grievances and could bring down the country’s sect-based political order.”

The Year Ahead: Middle East Elections
Egypt local (due 2019 – date not set – delays likely); Libya (international community wants presidential or legislative elections this year – highly unlikely to happen given ongoing civil war); Algeria presidential (December 12); Iran parliamentary (February); Iraq provincial (April 20); Palestinian Authority legislative (elections overdue – new government says they aim to hold elections but no date set)


A 2013 counter-demonstration in Iraq supporting the government, in response to anti-government protests. Photo credit: Voice of America (public domain)

 

21votes does not necessarily endorse all of the views in all of the linked articles or publications. More on our approach here.

 

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