Middle East This Week: April 27, 2021

April 27, 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 Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, Iraq, Shia Islam’s third holiest city (after Mecca and Medina). Iraq heads to the polls later this year. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Toushiro (Public Domain)

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

Nidal Al-mughrabi and Ali Sawafta, Reuters (April 27, 2021): Palestinian elections appear headed for delay amid Jerusalem dispute, Fatah infighting

Jacob Majid, Times of Israel (April 26, 2021): Israel not seeking to thwart Palestinian election, official tells EU envoys

Nicolaj Nielsen, EU Observer (April 23, 2021): Palestinian PM demands EU pressure Israel on elections

Henriette Chacar, +972 Magazine (April 22, 2021): Young Palestinians are fed up with their leaders. Can elections bring change?

Syria Presidential Election: May 26, 2021

Syria has scheduled its presidential election for May 26, 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

James Reinl, The National UAE (April 28, 2021): Syria’s election breaches UN rules, says envoy

Al Jazeera (April 27, 2021): Fearing reprisals, Syrian refugees wary to vote in election

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 Hirak, who continue to take to the streets and have decided to boycott the elections. The absence of the Hirak, who are mostly secular, from the elections has paved the way for Islamist parties to become the main opposition.

Lamine Chikhi, Reuters (April 21, 2021): Algerian Islamists eye first election win since civil war

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

Jason Rezaian, Washington Post (April 27, 2021): Opinion: Iran’s foreign minister is playing a precarious political game

Kasra Naji, BBC (April 27, 2021): Iran’s Zarif criticises Revolutionary Guards’ influence in leaked tape

Christiane Amanpour, CNN (April 27, 2021 – video): What FM Zarif’s leaked tape reveals about Iran

Najmeh Bozorgmehr, Financial Times (April 26, 2021): Iran’s hardliners pin election hopes on popular justice chief

Peter Kenyon, NPR (April 23, 2021): In Iran, Clubhouse Means Unfiltered Chats, Even With Top Officials. But For How Long?

Nicholas Carl, American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats (April 22, 2021): Iranian Presidential Election Tracker: Ghalibaf and allies move to take presidency and parliament

Pakistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir Elections: Due in 2021

Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), part of the Pakistan-administered portion of the disputed region of Kashmir, is due to hold legislative assembly elections soon. These follow elections in Gilgit-Baltistan, the other part of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The elections were originally due by April 2, 2021, but have been delayed. AJK’s election commission has said it hopes to hold the polls in June.

The region is a geopolitical hotspot. Tensions with India (India and Pakistan have fought three wars, including two over Kashmir) are growing and both sides are upping their military presence. Moreover, the area is a centerpiece of China’s Belt and Road, which further inflames Pakistan’s relations with India.

Tariq Naqash, Dawn (April 28, 2021): AJK EC prepares action plan for smooth conduct of polls

Geo News (April 27, 2021): PML-N warns government against rigging in AJK elections

Sumaira GH, Urdu Point (April 26, 2021): Free, Fair Polls In AJK To Boost Kashmir Liberation Struggle: AJK President

The Nation Pakistan (April 24, 2021): Chinese company to invest $2.4b in CPEC Kohala Hydel Project

Iraq Early Parliamentary Elections: October 10, 2021 (tentative) and Provincial Elections (due)

Iraq’s government had proposed holding snap parliamentary elections on June 6, 2021, one year early, following the demands of protesters. However, the tentative date has been pushed to October. 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

Arab Weekly (April 27, 2021): Sadr attempts political barter with Kadhimi ahead of Iraq’s elections

Sura Ali, Rudaw (April 23, 2021): Controversy as protest groups seek to form political alliance 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

Safa Alharathy, Libya Observer (April 28, 2021): Five major countries stress importance to stick to date of elections and withdrawing mercenaries from Libya

Al Jazeera (April 26, 2021): Libya: Armed Haftar supporters prevent PM’s first meeting in east

Sarah Vernhes, The Africa Report (April 26, 2021): Syria now a gateway for drugs and mercenaries to Libya

Lebanon Parliamentary Elections: May 2022 (due)

Lebanon is due to hold general elections in May 2022, although some parties have called for early elections. Lebanon has been in a political crisis and without a government since the port explosion in Beirut, in which 215 people died, 7,500 were injured, and 300,000 were left homeless. Moreover, the country is in an economic crisis.

Edward Gabriel, The Hill (April 27, 2021): Three reasons the US must help Lebanon avoid total collapse

Luna Safwan, Washington Post (April 26, 2021): Opinion: Lebanon is facing an identity crisis. Elections won’t solve it.

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.

Jennifer Hansler and Michael Conte, CNN (April 27, 2021): US orders drawdown of government employees from Afghanistan embassy

Emran Feroz, Foreign Policy (April 26, 2021): When Afghanistan Almost Worked

Antonio Giustozzi, RUSI (April 26, 2021): Afghanistan: The Taliban Seek a Negotiated Path to Power. Will It Work?

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

Natasha Turak, CNBC (April 28, 2021): Israel’s Netanyahu scrambles to form a government to prevent a fifth election in two years

Josh Hasten, Jewish News Syndicate (April 23, 2021): Amid ongoing political deadlock, is it time for Israel to consider electoral reform?

Haviv Rettig Gur, Times of Israel (April 23, 2021): Netanyahu’s direct election gambit changes the rules mid-race to ensure he wins

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