Middle East This Week: March 30, 2021

March 30, 2021

Your weekly roundup of news and analysis of elections in the greater Middle East and North Africa, usually posted on Tuesdays and occasionally updated throughout the week. For a full electoral calendar and interactive map, click here.

The Milad Tower in Tehran, the tallest tower in Iran and the sixth-tallest telecommunications tower in the world. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Dara Zarbaf (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Upcoming Middle East Elections

Palestinian Authority Legislative Elections: May 22, 2021 and Presidential Election: July 31, 2021

The Palestinian Authority has scheduled long overdue elections for the legislature and president for May 22 and July 31, respectively. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is currently in year 14 of a four-year term. Similarly, the last Legislative Council elections took place in 2006. More

Qais Abu Samra, Andalou Agency (March 31, 2021): 28 electoral lists apply to run in Palestinian polls

AP (March 31, 2021): Imprisoned Palestinian uprising leader submits independent list for parliamentary elections in a blow to President Abbas

Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post (March 31, 2021): Palestinian elections: Turmoil hits Abbas’s Fatah ahead of elections

Hazem Balousha, Arab News (March 30, 2021): Left-wing Palestinian factions fail to agree on unified list for May 22 vote

Daoud Kuttab, Al-Monitor (March 28, 2021): Palestinian elections: What is happening?

Syria Presidential Election: April or May 2021

Syria is due to hold a presidential election between April 16 and May 16, 2021. The election comes in the context of Syria’s ongoing civil war and humanitarian crisis. Elections under the regime of Bashar al-Assad are widely considered to be a sham. More

Enab Baladi (March 30, 2021): Borrell to Enab Baladi: Presidential elections will not lead to international normalization with Damascus

Khaled al-Khateb, Al-Monitor (March 27, 2021): Tribes in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor back Assad in upcoming elections

Algeria Snap Legislative Elections: June 12, 2021, followed by local elections

Algeria will hold snap elections on June 12, 2021, following more than two years of protests by the Hirak movement. However, the government’s election plan has not actually satisfied the protesters, who continue to take to the streets.

AFP (March 29, 2021): Algeria jails journalist for ‘defamation’

IJasper Hamann, Morocco World News (March 27, 2021): Algeria: Hirak protesters In Algiers reject upcoming elections

AFP (March 26, 2021): Protesters arrested at Algiers pro-democracy demonstration

Thomas Lancaster, Global Risk Insights (March 26, 2021): The precarious balancing act of President Tebboune

Iran Presidential and Local Elections: June 18, 2021

Iran has scheduled its next presidential election for June 18, 2021, with concurrent local elections. While Iran is far from a free country, and the elections are largely rigged, voters do have a degree of choice. More

Holly Dagres, Atlantic Council (March 30, 2021): An Iranian cleric, rights activist, and hacker entered a room—on Clubhouse

Kourosh Ziabari, Asia Times (March 29, 2021): Iran’s next hardline president coming into view

John Limbert, Atlantic Council (March 29, 2021): Why would anyone—including Mohammad Javad Zarif—want to be Iran’s president?

Nahal Toosi, Politico (March 29, 2021): U.S. tries to break Iran nuclear deadlock with new proposal for Tehran

Sune Engel Rasmussen and Aresu Eqbali, Wall Street Journal (March 26, 2021): Iranian politicians divided on return to nuclear talks with the U.S.

Syed Zafar Mehdi, Andalou Agency (March 25, 2021): Surprise candidates enter fray in Iran’s presidential polls

Iraq Early Parliamentary Elections: June 6, 2021 (tentative) and Provincial Elections (due)

Iraq’s government has proposed holding snap parliamentary elections on June 6, 2021, one year early, following the demands of protesters. However, parliament still has to pass a new electoral law and allocate a budget for the elections in order for them to actually happen. Therefore, the date remains tentative. Iraq is also due to hold provincial (sometimes called governorate) elections. Preparations are taking place in the context of widespread protest and political instability. More

Hiwa Shilani, Kurdistan24 (March 30, 2021): Iraqi parliament to vote on controversial 2021 budget on Wednesday

Khazan Jangiz, Rudaw (March 27, 2021): Elections will be held on time: PM Kadhimi

Jordan Local Elections: By September 2021 (due)

Jordan is due to hold local elections by September 2021. These follow parliamentary elections, which happened on November 10, 2020. Turnout was low, and both women and Islamist candidates saw poor resultsMore

Rana Husseini, Jordan Times (April 1, 2021): Cabinet dissolves local, municipality councils ahead of elections

Libya Parliamentary and Presidential Elections: December 24, 2021 (tentative)

Libya’s national elections are overdue and have been postponed indefinitely due to the political crisis and civil war. However, in November 2020, Libyan stakeholders participating in UN-sponsored talks proposed December 24, 2021 for presidential and parliamentary elections. More

Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post (March 31, 2021): All aboard Bus 70: Traveling a local Libyan route from war to hope and renewal

Reuters (March 31, 2021): Libya force frees prisoners in reconciliation gesture

Sami Laptia, Libya Herald (March 31, 2021): Blinken underscores importance of December Libya elections, need for foreign forces to depart and full support for UNSMIL

David Coffey, RFI (March 31, 2021): France pushes for Libya peace and a roadmap for December elections

Safa Alharathy, Libya Observer (March 29, 2021): Italy offers to help Libya construct elections next December

Abdulkader Assad, Libya Observer (March 28, 2021): Libyan Interior Ministry says ready to secure upcoming elections

Human Rights Watch (March 25, 2021): Libya: New government should put rights first

Afghanistan Parliamentary Elections: October 2023 and Presidential Election: September 2024 (due – early elections possible)

Afghanistan is due to hold its next presidential election in September 2024, but an early election is possible. Elections tend to be marred by violence, administrative problems, and lengthy delays. The current president, Ashraf Ghani, ultimately won re-election in a very tense vote and a tense four months in between the election and the final declaration of results. The election took place amid attacks by the Taliban, which had ordered Afghans not to vote.

Abdul Qadir Sediqi and Charlotte Greenfield, Reuters (March 30, 2021): Afghan president promises to step aside if election is held

Nishank Motwani, Lowy Institute’s The Interpreter (March 29, 2021): An interim government would bring ruin to Afghanistan

Michael E. O’Hanlon and Omar Sharifi, Brookings Institution (March 29, 2021): The Hail Mary of power-sharing in Afghanistan

Susannah George, Washington Post (March 27, 2021): With U.S. withdrawal delay likely, and new peace proposal on the table, Taliban faces inevitable crossroads

Lebanon Parliamentary By-Elections: Overdue

Lebanon is due to hold by-elections for 10 parliamentary seats that are currently vacant due to resignations in the wake of last year’s Beirut port explosion or deaths. Meanwhile, the Lebanese Forces, a major Christian political party, has called for early general elections. Lebanon has been in a political crisis and without a government since the port explosion.

Reuters (March 31, 2021): Hezbollah: Time to end deadlock and agree new Lebanese government

David Gardner, Financial Times (March 30, 2021): Lebanon is held hostage by its politicians

Past Middle East Elections

Israel Parliamentary Elections, Take 4: March 23, 2021

On March 23, 2021, Israel held its fourth general election in two years after the collapse of the unity government of Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz. Neither Netanyahu’s allies nor his opponents won a majority, so if anyone wants to form a government, they will need to get creative. More

Laurie Kellman, AP (March 31, 2021): Israel’s president calls for new alliances to solve yet another election deadlock

John Strawson, The Conversation (March 30, 2021): Israeli election: Mansour Abbas emerges as possible first Arab kingmaker in nation’s history

CNN (March 29, 2021 – video): Former Knesset Member: The last thing Israel needs is a fifth election

Tara Kavaler, The Media Line (March 25, 2021): Record number of women win on Israel’s election day, but progress remains elusive

Anshel Pfeffer and Dahlia Scheindlin, Haaretz (March 25, 2021 – podcast): Israel election results: It isn’t over yet for Bibi, and we may meet here again

Tunisia Presidential and Legislative Elections: September/October 2019

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. 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.

Larbi Sadiki, openDemocracy (March 31, 2021): Tunisia’s revolution under siege: When the IMF calls the shots

BBC (March 30, 2021 – video): Tunisia protests: Why are young Tunisians protesting?

AFP (March 30, 2021): Tunisia jails ‘conman’ rapper Swagg Man

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